By Eugène de Savoie
Just over two years ago, in September of 2015, as Europe was struggling to contain hordes of migrants pouring into European countries from the Middle East, I sent a brief letter to a number of publications. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the letter wasn’t published. For the global community, the crisis began with the appearance of a photograph of a dead boy washed up on a beach (although the real crisis had begun earlier, of course). The ultraliberal bien-pensants had found yet another cause célèbre to exploit – political correctness meets Instagram – while I found myself on the wrong side of the debate, with the predictable result that my missive never found a home.
As paragons of ultraliberalism promote and defend the opening of borders to migrants from civilizations that clearly menace the West and its way of life, this topic will be treated at length in this blog, particularly as global events make it a subject that is, alas, simply impossible to avoid.
The letter dating back to September of 2015 is faithfully reproduced below.
The Migrant Crisis: Beware the Clarion of Morality
By now, anyone following the news will have seen or heard about the photograph of the dead Syrian boy washed up on a beach. The dreadful image is credited with having shifted public opinion on the plight of Europe-bound migrants and the response of European policy makers to the migrant question, with the result that a geopolitical and humanitarian crisis has evolved into a moral one. That it was allowed to do so is a dangerous mistake.
Without question, the people embarking on the perilous voyage to Europe are seeking to escape suffering and deserve everyone’s empathy. Without question, morality must have its place in public policy and should not be marked down. But morality is only a cousin of good government, and oftentimes a distant one at that, especially when driven by excess emotion. Emotions are fluid and more of a short-term phenomenon; public policy should be guided by reason and focused on the long term. In the current debate surrounding the migrant crisis, there are plenty of emotions and not enough reason, which has made it possible for appeals to morality to occlude a simple truth: European acceptance of hundreds of thousands of migrants, en masse, is a recipe for disaster.
Most of the migrants come from the Islamic world. Experience has already shown the challenge of integrating large numbers of Muslim immigrants into European life. Xenophobia in Europe has been rising and, with the deteriorating economic situation, far-right parties are on the march. The wealthier countries in Europe have been struggling to absorb their Muslim minorities, with no clear solution in sight. To take in hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of asylum seekers from a region that has become a hotbed of terrorism and violence is a dubious way of addressing current problems. Aside from introducing further security concerns and placing an additional strain on government budgets, this could, in the long run, escalate the existing tension between Europe’s host cultures and their growing Muslim minorities, and eventually lead to anomy on the continent.
The political unrest in the Middle East at the heart of the migrant crisis is in no small measure due to ill-advised intervention and meddling on the part of some Western nations in regional affairs, frequently inspired by questionable motives or lofty but ultimately misguided ideals. It is unlikely, for example, that ISIS could have become what it became had it not been for the power vacuum left behind in the wake of the US invasion of Iraq. The frequently myopic foreign policy of the West has fuelled radical Islam and the explosion of sectarian violence in the region. It is unclear why a number of European countries, which have had neither say nor participation in much of the foreign policy that got the Middle East to where it is today, are now being asked to pay for the results at the expense of their own local stability and social cohesion.
“Because the EU is peaceful and prosperous,” one might be tempted to reply; but that answer rings hollow. For much of the year, the world has been treated to an ignoble spectacle as EU bureaucrats wrangled with the Greeks, seemingly over every contentious comma, and the EU’s Hellenic member appeared to be hours away from some kind of Rubicon crossing. Whatever the Greeks’ responsibility in their economic debacle, Greece was admitted into the EU and is therefore a member of the European family. It is hard to reconcile the recalcitrance of European (read: German) leaders to bail out Greece with the apparent eagerness of German authorities to take in hundreds of thousands of migrants from the Middle East. Charity is virtuous, but it should start at home.
Giving the migrant crisis a moral dimension is dangerous because it undermines serious debate. Those who want Europe to take in more migrants are perceived to be more tolerant and open, the obvious corollary being that those against are intolerant, heartless, or both. Instead of rationally analyzing whether the countries they govern can afford to take in more refugees, European (and western) politicians now have to wonder if their decisions will pass a crowd-pleasing, jerry-built morality test. Instead of asking why the Arab-Muslim GCC states – in a more advantageous position, culturally and geographically, to take in asylum seekers from the region – have done almost nothing to help (the GCC states have approved less than fifty – that’s fifty –UN-sponsored Syrian asylum applications since 2011), we are stifling rational debate in western societies and blacklisting those who dare to voice opinions at odds with the prevailing mood (just ask Canada’s PM Stephen Harper). The argument that Europe will somehow betray its values by turning migrants away turns the question upside down: if Europe’s demographic landscape is irrevocably changed, fifty years from now there may not be many European values to speak of at all.