Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Euro Follies

The cause of the refugee crises can be laid right at the feet of Europe.

Our European friends are freaking out right now, and for good cause.   Just as the Moors (or the Moops, according to Seinfeld) over-ran parts of Europe in the past, today, a new Islamic invasion is taking place.

Millions of refugees from Islamic countries are now flooding into Europe, which is alarming a number of folks for very good reason.   The economic cost of supporting and resettling these refugees is staggering.   In addition, there is the "cultural shock" which occurs when a group of people with alien values and habits suddenly appears in your community - often ending up, as in France, living in perpetual slum areas or ethnic enclaves, either unwilling or unable to assimilate into the local culture.

And the local cultures are already under attack.  The idea of what it means to be French, Spanish, German, Italian, or British is eroding over the years due to multicultural influences and of course, our voracious American culture which devours everything in its path.   Mosques and McDonald's - the twin threats to what it means to be European (Although the latter serves hamburgers, a foodstuff named after a city in Germany).

Why are these refugees flocking to Europe?   There are a number of reasons, and the major fault for this crises lies with the Europeans themselves.   Yes, there would be no ISIS if George Bush hadn't invaded Iraq.   But the refugees from Syria represent only a portion of the overall total.   Many are coming from Africa.  And most refugees are not seeking asylum from war and violence but a better economic way of life.   And this migration has been going on for decades as well - the Algerian ghettos ringing Paris have been around a long, long time, and Germany's "foreign workers" from Turkey were actually invited in and now are being not-so-politely invited back out.

The problem for Europe is twofold.   First, with their cradle-to-grave Socialism, they have created a honey-pot attractant.   If you are starving in some third-world country and are told tales of how in Europe, you will receive a "guaranteed basic income", a free place to live, and free food on your table, you might be inclined to think that Europe is a swell place to go to.  And in the past, many have moved to Europe and were able to live well - often writing back to friends at home saying how nice it was.

European countries are actually taking out ads in Arab newspapers trying to quell this myth - pointing out that benefits in the Socialist State are not as great as some make them out to be.   Some countries will even buy you a plane ticket back home, hoping you will go away.   But so long as this "honey pot" exists, people will die trying to cross the border to get there.   And I can say this as we have the same situation in the US - people dying every day to get from Latin America through Mexico and into the US, where life is far better than in their home country.

With the downturn in the economy and stricter immigration policies (as well as improving economic conditions in Mexico) we actually saw a negative migration of Mexicans for a while (and an increase in those from more poverty-stricken Latin American countries).   So if the honey-pot is shut down or at least curtailed, fewer people will make the journey.

The second factor that caused this crises was the unwillingness of Europe to intervene in the Middle East.    The US gets routinely bashed for acting as "World Police" which in effect we are.  As the world's strongest economy, we spend 1/3 of our budget on the military, which is more than the next ten largest militaries in the world combined.   While some on the Right like to make noises about China and Russia, we have a far larger military machine.   China struggles to build its first aircraft carrier from a half-completed hand-me-down from Russia.  We already have at least 10.

The war in Syria has gone on for so long because few countries want to intervene in any significant way.  No one wants to put "Boots on the ground" and over-run the estimated 25,000 terrorists that comprise ISIS.   Germany could do it in a week, if it chose to.  So instead we take pot-shots from drones and get criticized for killing civilians, while at the same time, ISIS slaughters civilians.

I am not advocating for "boots on the ground" or ratcheting up the war, just pointing out that so long as this low-level conflict festers in the region, the refugee crises will continue unabated.
Europeans love to play the safe game of sitting on the sidelines, watching America make mistakes (and we've made a lot) and then smugly saying, "I told you so!" when it goes wrong.   When it goes right, of course, no one gives us accolades.   And it goes without saying that while Europe will offer criticism, they rarely will offer to participate in any significant amount.

The war in Syria could have been ended in ten days, if all of Europe had participated in strength.   This in turn would have put an end to the refugee crises, at least from Syria.  Instead, we have this smoldering terror war, where a tiny army of fanatics is allowed to run rampant over Iraq and Syria, being blasted by the occasional drone.  They will eventually be annihilated, of course, but it has taken years instead of months or even weeks to do so.

Similarly, the situation in Libya continues to smolder with no one apparently in charge and civil war raging.   President Obama calls our lack of response in Libya the greatest mistake of his Presidency.   But Libya is a neighbor of Europe, not the USA - and Europe gets a lot of its oil from Libya.   Where were they in all this mess?

Across the Middle East, we've propped up dictators, tyrants, and military juntas.  We were criticized by our European friends for this, even though the lines on the map and many of these governments were originally installed by them.  Remember it was the French who got us into Vietnam in the first place.  America, one of Europe's colonies, pays the price for European colonialism.

Over the years, we've stood by as one dictator after another was toppled, only to be replaced by an even worse sort of government - or no government at all.   In retrospect, are the excesses of the Shah any worse than the excesses of the current Iranian regime?   A government that marched children across mine fields to clear them?   A government than hangs people from tow trucks for even petty crimes?   All we've done is trade one horrific form of government which was stable for another horrific form of government that isn't.

So when Mubarak was overthrown, we were horrified when the Muslim Brotherhood took over.   When a new military junta took back power, we sort of whistled to ourselves and walked away.   We decried the excesses of the Assad regime in Syria, but today would probably accept the return of the entire country to his control without too much protest.  Better a friendly strongman than an unfriendly one.  And as both Iraq and Afghanistan have demonstrated, Islamic countries are not ready for, and may never be ready for, Democracy.  If they ever are, it has to come from within and cannot be imposed from without.  Probably the best thing that ever happened to Afghanistan was the Soviet Invasion and we put the kibosh on that.

So what does this all mean?   Well, once again, on a national level we see the same lessons that apply on a personal level.   While it is nice to be humanitarian and want to "help people", if you create a socialist State where no one has to work but gets paid anyway, you've created a honey pot or "bug light" which acts as an attractant for vagrants and refugees.   We see this even here in the States.    Places like New York State offer many benefits to the poor.   If you don't want to work another day in your life, move to Ithaca, New York.   In addition to Federally-mandated benefits, the State and County offer a plethora of additional ones.   And not surprisingly, people move there just to collect benefits.

You don't want to move to States that have work requirements for food stamps - they will make you get a job!  And oddly enough, in States where the work requirement was re-enacted, the number of people working increased and the number collecting food stamps (and amount) went down.

It is the same on a personal level.   A relative or friend hits you up for money.  If you give it to them, they will hit you up again and again (and perhaps other relatives or friends will start tapping you as well).   And so long as you give them money, they won't bother looking for a job.   This is particularly true if the relative in question is your child, and you are coddling them in the basement well into their 30's.

And similarly, interventions - like invasions - are fraught with peril.   Trying to go and clean up a hoarder's home, or straighten out a drug addict's life is a process that is likely to fail, because as soon as you leave, they will go right back to their old way of living.   And if you don't have the manpower or the authority to take control of their lives for them (for example, institutionalization) they will defy all of your attempts to help them.   Which is why interventions are often a really bad idea.

And the same is true of invasions.  Yes, our European friends are right - the Iraq war was a bad idea.   As stupid and belligerent (but relatively harmless, to us) as Saddam Hussein was, he did have Iraq in a relatively stable mode.   And by playing off regional animosities (Iran versus Iraq, Sunni versus Shiite) it was possible to have a modicum of stability in the Middle East.  "Democracy" in Iraq has ended up being anarchy.  People who believe in Sharia law will never accept things like the Bill of Rights.   We might as well realize that and move on.

But it is too late to unwind that mess.   When it came to Syria, we supported "rebels" trying to overthrow the government without really understanding who these rebels were.  They were not a homogeneous group, and they were quickly infiltrated and overrun by religious fanatics and folks with an economic and military agenda.  Years later, hundreds of thousands killed, millions more as refugees, entire cities destroyed, and the best available option seems to be to put the mean old dictator back into power.