A little over a decade after East German writer Bertolt Brecht suggested his government dissolve the people and elect another, US politicians followed his advice, contributing to the ethnic cleansing of my old Brooklyn neighborhood.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel, raised in the same “workers’ paradise” that Brecht once championed, seems to be following along similar lines. She enthusiastically invited what is expected to be millions of refugees from the Islamic world to populate her country. But Merkel and her union of leading “Christian” denominated parties still retain majority support. Quite unlike the 1960s Democrats in my Ridgewood-Bushwick blue collar neighborhood!
Before the “white flight” that had demographically changed that area from about 95% European descendents to about 5%, the once dominant Brooklyn Democrats were steadily losing ground to the newly-established Conservative Party. The largely Third World newcomers quickly restored the Democrats’ old dominance. There was more than just partisan advantage behind the “election” of a new people by the politicians, of course. Some of the Washington Democrats who pushed through the 1965 immigration act were ideologically motivated in their effort to replace the old melting pot model with a nationwide multicultural ideal. Most probably saw no reason why they should be different than past immigrant waves.
Merkel had no domestic political need to elect a new people. She declared Germany’s own multiculturalism anathema a few years ago. Presumably, like the social engineers who redesigned the US population, she’s confident that the millions of newcomers from an alien religious-shaped culture will be able to cling to their beliefs while being integrated into Germany’s dominant culture.
Europe has already been plagued with problems related to both integration and diversity. Yet Merkel and many of Europe’s leaders see the only challenge as how and where to settle the refugees and how the project can be financed. To the extent that they thought about consequences at all, it’s been about image and impact on future elections, not how their enticement of millions to immigrate might change the very civilization whose “European values” they tirelessly vaunt.
The masses of young people who show up in welcoming demonstrations don’t do consequences. They’re having too much fun feeling good about their perceived worldliness and tolerance for such tedious reflection. While Germans were celebrating the 25th anniversary of their East-West reunification October 3rd, tens of thousands gathered for a free “Voices for Refugees” solidarity concert on Vienna’s Heldenplatz, the same plaza where failed artist Adolph Hitler announced Austria’s 1938 “Anschluss,” or unification with Germany. The cabaret artists on stage this time essentially pleaded for an “Anschluss” with the Islamic world, with regions of the globe currently driving millions to Europe. Refugees themselves, an important part of the festivities that began with a march from a railroad station, assured the crowds how important they were for Austria’s future. The country’s famous singing transvestite and excerpts from postrucuralist Nobel Prize playwright Elfriede Jelinek contributed to the entertainment. The irony again went over participants heads that heads of such artists would be the first to roll if Islamic extremists gathering in Europe could have their way.
The fanatics are a small percentage, of course. But they grow with overall numbers. Indeed, Sunday evening media reports cited German officials as having nearly doubled their estimates of refugee arrivals this year to 1.5 million. The report allegedly claims that each granted refugee status would bring in an average of four to eight family members over time.
World and local leaders were lampooned for not doing enough for the refugees and resignations of government ministers were demanded. Austria’s president nevertheless joined in via video feed, warning that policies of politicians handling emergency should not be politicized. Most European presidents, having limited governing responsibilities, piously pontificate like popes and monarchs these days. Germany’s President Gauck moved a bit towards pragmatism recently in stating the obvious: there is a limit to how many refugees his country can absorb. It’s an axiom that Merkel and her Austrian counterpart have strenuously avoided thus far. The latter’s foreign minister, despite his youth, alienated demonstrators by showing more wisdom that many of his west European counterparts combined. The 29-year-old Sebastian Kurz, whose appointment two years ago prompted a British daily to announce “It’s a boy!” has taken a much tougher stance on mass refugee inflows and was one of the first in the West to advocate working with Russia, Iran and Syrian leader Assad to tackle the source of the problem.
A weekend article on the refugee drama by a generally Arab-friendly Middle East specialist pointed to a hormone impact among the refugees, 80% males aged 17 to 30. They come with dreams of status increasingly difficult to attain in their impoverished homelands. Most are religious Muslims for whom status is essential for marriage, the only sanctioned way to realize their sexuality in traditional societies. The propensity for violence among underemployed, testosterone-laden young men is always higher on average, especially with fewer outlets for their frustration. Police unions and feminist groups in Germany are already accusing Federal authorities of downplaying levels of rape and violence among the recently arrived refugees.
Anecdotes abound about refugee hostility to integration. Parents refusing children permission to play with non-Muslims or an imam, on religious grounds, refusing to shake the hand of deputy chairwoman of German’s largest political party visiting a refugee facility. The imam’s clear preference for diversity over cultural integration would presumably be OK with EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini. For her there is no contradiction between the two, diversity being a European value and a “core principal of the European integration process.” But for Germany’s police union leaders and politicians trying to cope with violent diversity-related conflicts within refugee facilities, separation of the religious factions rather than integration has become the favored solution.
Mogherini had been fending off an Aljazeera TV interviewer’s attempt to get her to denounce Hungary’s Prime Minister Orban for his unwelcoming stance toward mass Muslim immigration. Talk show hosts such as BBC’s Steven Sacur or Germany’s Anne Will (32-37m marks) have repeatedly badgered Orban’s ministers to explain why their government opposed such mass immigration. They might have been merely attempting to elicit a politically incorrect sound bite. But Will especially, with her “I don’t understand” sincerity, seemed genuinely stumped as to what the answer could possibly be. “If you need to ask that question,” a candid viewer might have asked, “you couldn’t possibly understand the answer.” Part of the answer could be found in a short documentary that I had alluded to in a previous article, a report by another state-owned German network better known for promoting the multicultural ideology. The uncharacteristically critical look at migrants rejecting their host society’s culture can be viewed with English subtitles now. A quick browse through Google would provide equally credible but far more dramatic accounts of cultural clashes in European cities. Fear of importing more sectarian violence into Europe is also not unreasonable.
The sanctimony that so frequently smothers refugee hospitality includes denunciation of Hungary’s use of barbed wire and tear gas against rock throwing young men trying to break in to the country. The presence nearby of children led to accusations of gassing babies. Not a single death resulted from Hungary’s resolute tactics, however. Yet how many drowned crossing the seas to take advantage of hopes aroused through welcoming policies and rhetoric?
Reality is that Europe’s government and media establishment has been deluding itself and its people into believing the “invasion” can be resolved without use of force. The word “invasion” itself is taboo, even in the Webster sense of “the incoming or spread of something usually hurtful.” The Establishment talks condescendingly about the need to “understand” the fears of the common people, then tries to reassure them with rosy predictions about how, over the long run, the purported skill-packed immigrant masses will help enrich Europe’s culture and pocket books.
Measures are discussed to reduce the “pull factor” of generous welfare and permanent residence, the latter implied by integration talk alone, not just current policies. The Danes have halved refugee welfare payments to about $1,000 per person, excluding free medical care, the amount currently paid to its students. Danish officials claim their advertising in Lebanese media of these drastic new “disincentives” has modestly reduced refugee numbers and led some to seek better deals in neighboring countries. And Austria wants to review refugee residence entitlement after three years. As in the US, the fact remains that relatively few immigrants get deported. The two young men from Cameroon I photographed upon their arrival from Hungary en route to Germany knew that. They were among the throngs of Syrians who would automatically qualify for refugee status. They were “Syrians for a day,” until crossing the German border where their personal refugee claims would almost certainly be rejected. And they are just a vanguard fraction of those hoping to flee chaos, conflict and population explosions that will not be stopped by attempts alone to lessen the “pull factor.”
The inescapable application of force to secure the EU’s outer borders will require measures with which Europe is poorly equipped to handle logistically and psychologically. The most difficult to rectify is the garnering of political will. Russia’s latest military involvement in Syria offers an opportunity to tackle part of the problem. It is rare in history that nearly all the global and regional powers see a common enemy. The EU knows it can no longer be a bystander in the conflict causing the refuge invasion that it still prefers to call by other names. Russia’s intervention means that France, like the US and Turkey, will now have to abandon the failed policy of treating Syrian President Assad’s ouster of as an end in itself. Turkish leaders have been pressing for security zones inside Syria for anti-ISIS Sunni Arabs. They would like to move their 2 million Syrian refugees into such zones. The EU now has a greater incentive than ever to support such a project.
Turkey’s President Erdogan, campaigning for upcoming elections among his dual- citizenship constituents in Europe, is also throwing his weight around with EU leaders. He’s magnanimously offering to take back some of the EU’s recent refugees from Syria who arrived via Turkey if the EU takes in more Turks by eliminating visa requirements. Long a proselytizer for Islamic expansion, Erdogan would nevertheless be happier with Syrians in Europe than inside his own country. His feelings about Europe seem to verge on contempt, seeing it as both weak and decadent. If Europe is to have significant influence in stemming the anarchy that is driving so many of the refugees its way, leaders and an increasingly pacifist public will have to undergo a Damascene conversion regarding the willingness to apply military force.
ISIS, Iraqi Kurds and other opponents of Assad have already redrawn the borders created in historical Mesopotamian by Europe’s WWI victors. Preparing for a post ISIS Middle East with borders that more rationally reflect ethnic and religious loyalties will be a herculean task. But the economic power alone of a Europe shaken from its lethargy could be enormously influential in forging cooperation among recalcitrant regional Sunni states. Active combatants like Russia and Iran could also further modify the already diminished ambitions of Assad’s supporters. Talks among these key global and regional players would not have to produce agreement on finalizing new borders. But their firm commitment to provide a sizable, economically viable portion of the war-torn region for Sunnis to run their own affairs would help enormously if they are to eventually cooperate with ground forces ultimately needed to destroy ISIS and other fanatic forces.
If the EU and others are willing to take a leading military role in ending the conflict, the US will not be able to walk away. Much of the instability in the region has been caused by US military intervention. That is an argument used by many in Europe for the US to take a larger share of the refugee burden. The musical chairs approach to refugee allocation has not worked within the EU, and shipping more off to the US will not resolve the problem either. Both continents need to get back to the basics and focus their military on protecting their borders. That might include provisionally controlling anarchic areas beyond those borders that serve as staging grounds for refugee invasions. If Europe accepts such a role, and succeeds in coalition with the other partners mentioned, the US should focus afterwards on security closer to home
The delusion that national defense begins at the furthest rock on planet had become dogma after Pearl Harbor. The national consensus for defending one’s country through military conscription was another Vietnam victim. But despite that fiasco and a spate of other senseless foreign wars, support for overseas adventures never long diminished. In Europe, conscription survived a lot longer, but with a few exceptions, popular support for a strong military seriously waned even before the Cold War ended. German Defense Minister Struck later rallied some support for helping the US in Afghanistan by claiming “German security is being defended in the Hindu Kush.” Instead of security, it brought Afghan refugees.
Western countries are unique in preempting distant dubious threats to their societies while opening their borders to foreign masses bent on reestablishing parallel societies in their adopted countries. The irony of my being drafted for a war to save the American Way of Life 9,000 miles from home while Ted Kennedy and LBJ were opening the doors to a virtual Third World invasion took long to sink in. I knew things were getting bad at home when a friend sent me a tabloid clipping about a lad in front of our local church having part of his head removed by a machete-wielding West Indian. The clipping was accompanied by a sardonic note that I was probably safe, relatively speaking, as a well-armed infantry grunt in Vietnam. My family abandoned the neighborhood before I got back, and our local pub where my farewell party had been held had to rely on newly installed bars across its doors. Until he went bankrupt shortly thereafter, the owner only opened up for familiar customers. He had been robbed once too often.
A decade to the day after my return,“Bushwick saw some of the most devastating damage and losses accompanying the 1977 New York City blackout. The neighborhood looked like Berlin in 1945 until decades later Federal Urban Renewal funds partially spruced it up for the new population. The rioting had been a stark contrast to the party-like atmosphere of the previous 1965 blackout, before the demographic upheaval. By 1990, the 77 murders in the area covered by our 83rd police precinct would have rivaled today’s Distrito Central in Honduras for place five in urban violence outside war zones.
After a half century of dealing with ethnic or religious cultural conflicts, from my old neighborhood to minority indigenous Montagnard tribesmen in Vietnam to refugee camps full of Bosnians in Europe or Rwandans in the heart of Africa, I both marvel and despair at the widespread faith of western leaders in the ability to avoid such conflicts from being transplanted to their own countries. “Yes we can” Merkel paraphrased Obama. A bit more tolerance teaching and a lot more subsidies should do the trick!
When reality sets in and the end of the history holiday can no longer be ignored, hard measures to stem the influx will inevitably be adopted. They will lead to dangerous internal splits in many EU states between protesting starry-eyed idealists and those who believe borders have a legitimate purpose and thus need to be protected. The danger of violence is not limited to clashes between the natives and the newcomers.
Gene Tuttle is a retired Foreign Service Officer living in Vienna, Austria