Europe is paying the second installment on the debt for its indifference to the slow-motion disaster in Syria. The first installment was (and will continue to be) an increase in the threat of domestic terrorism. The second installment is the mass migration of Syrians and other Middle Easterners into Europe.
According to Johannes Hahn, the EU Commissioner for European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiation (we’ll know the U.S. has hit bottom when we have such a commissioner and we’re not far from having one, in effect), 20 million refugees are waiting on the doorstep of Europe. David Pryce-Jones points out that not all of them are genuine refugees in flight from civil war and tyranny. Some are riding the coattails of true victims. But the number of genuine refugees is staggering and tragic.
The overwhelming majority of the 20 million are Muslim. Their presence would, according to Pryce-Jones, at least double the number of Muslims already in Europe.
Viktor Orban, the Hungarian prime minister, says: “What is at stake is Europe, the lifestyle of European citizens, European values, the survival or disappearance of European nations.” Is he exaggerating? Probably. But his underlying concern seems well-founded. Naturally, Orban is widely denounced.
In utilitarian terms, one can view the issue through the prism of this question: Should a nation’s policy be intended to produce the greatest good for the greatest number or should it be intended to produce the greatest good for the greatest number of the nation’s citizens? Under the former view, a nation would tend to let in large numbers of refugees; under the latter view, it would tend to turn them away.
If one accepts the concept of the nation state, then a nation’s elected leaders should (unless they announce in advance that they will not) opt for policies that produce the greatest good for the greatest number of citizens, with some allowances for humanitarian and other telling concerns. Private citizens are free to argue for either version of utilitarianism.
The existence of the EU adds a new wrinkle. Are members obligated to maximize the good of the Union or the good of their state? The two will rarely be identical.
To no one’s surprise, the EU states are trying to maximize their individual interests. Germany is the most attractive destination for the current wave of immigrants. Therefore, in accordance with German popular opinion, Chancellor Merkel wants to impose refugee quotas on other countries.
Naturally, Merkel faces strong resistance from EU members, and not just Hungary:
Nazi and then Soviet occupation in living memory gave Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania Poland, Romania, Slovakia, and Slovenia a strong sense of nationality, and these EU member states are not about to weaken it by introducing a Muslim population.
Islamic terrorism has driven the Spanish government to reject the idea of quotas.
Wherever the refugees end up, this is unlikely to end well for Europe. In the short-term, there will be intense human suffering, plenty of disruption and strain on resources, and tons of bad press. In the long term, Europe will be transformed, very likely for the worse. On the other hand, many refugees will find a better life in Europe.
It should be plain by now that Europe’s stake in a stable Middle East is, if anything, greater than America’s. Unfortunately, with a few honorable exceptions, the Europeans failed to act accordingly.
JOHN adds: This is a huge topic on which we will have much more to say in the months and years to come. For now, just a few observations: 1) Viktor Orban is not wrong, as his critics will learn in the years to come. 2) This will not end well for Europe. 3) Barack Obama’s idea that America is the source of most of the world’s troubles, and therefore all we need to do is withdraw, is insane.