One only has to observe the chaos occurring in Southern and Southeastern Europe to understand the something has gone seriously wrong. Hundreds of thousands of refugees began migrating from the Middle East and North Africa this summer in numbers unseen in Europe since the end of the 1940’s. The citizens of Europe are now discovering the price that will be paid, as a result of the failure of their governments in the conduct of foreign policy over the last few years. The economic and investment consequences of these shortsighted actions are just beginning.
The major powers of Europe in addition to the United States pursued actions or the lack thereof in the Middle East and in North Africa, that lead to a destabilization of numerous governments in the region. The growing list of failed states and the bedlam that followed upon their collapse was a direct result of the lack of courage of the political leaders of the West
Disengagement, leading from behind, lack of resolve, these were all policies followed by the governments of countries that were in a position to make a difference on their own, or in concert with allies. In one situation after another, these governments individually and collectively failed to take action against incidences of rising terrorism and the spread of civil war.
The foolish decision by the American government to withdraw all armed forces from Iraq prematurely in December 2011, opened the door for a now Shiite dominated country to focus on a power grab against the Kurds and Sunnis. It left the country vulnerable to attack by ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) beginning in December of 2013, culminating into a full scale invasion in June 2014.
If the United States had maintained armed forces in Iraq indefinitely despite the unwise campaign promise of President Obama, the forces of ISIS would have been unable to overrun large swaths of territory in the northeastern part of the country. It would of helped prevent the political disintegration of central authority as well as putting a check on the rising influence of Iran inside Iraq.
When President Obama from the United States drew a red line against the use of chemical weapons by Syrian leader Bashar Assad on his own people who were in rebellion, he failed to take action when that line was crossed. Not only did it prove to be a disaster for the Syrian people in an escalating civil war, it showed that the threat of force by an American president was nothing to be feared any longer.
The continuous demand by the United States and a number of European countries that Assad needed to step down from power without taking steps to make that happen, exposed the weakness of the Western position not only among enemies in the region, but outside powers like Russia and China.
It would set the ground work for an ongoing civil war that allowed ISIS to take power in the northern part of the country, as well as allowing what will soon prove to be a permanent Russian military presence in Syria. It must be noted here, that the United States has for the last generation attempted to keep the Russians mostly out of the Middle East.
Along with the now failed states of Iraq and Syria one can also look at the situation in Libya. Here it is the Europeans who carry the burden of one of the biggest foreign policy blunders of the past few years in 2011. It would be France and the United Kingdom with the assistance of the United States that would spearhead the effort to overthrown the military strongman Muammar Gaddafi. The NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Operation) would end with the capture and death of Gaddafi.
Not only did the NATO operation fail to stop the disintegration of Libya, it actually accelerated it. Before long the country would disintegrate into two main factions and soon a new civil war would engulf the country. One would be based in the east and one in the west. Soon a branch of ISIS, along with Al Qaeda, and a number of militias who now vie for control of territory within the country.
The failure of the Europeans was once Gaddafi was overthrown, they were unwilling to commit the economic and military resources necessary to stabilize Libya. The new government was too weak to maintain the unity of the country without assistance from their European neighbors across the Mediterranean. As a result, another failed state came into being.
In Egypt following the revolution of 2011,the Muslim Brotherhood won half of the parliamentary seats the same year and the presidential election the following year. President Morsi was overthrown after mass protests within a year, when the military finally moved to end his tenure.
There was a huge hostility among the population against this movement after it attempted to transform Egyptian society. According to a number of analysts this sequence of events was largely the result of the insistence of the United States government that the former President Hosni Mubarak had to be removed from office, thus forcing his resignation.
In Iraq when it became clear that the inept and corrupt central government in Baghdad would be unable to stop the land grab being made by ISIS in the north, the Kurds on their own began to defend their historical geographic area. In desperate need of arms in order to accomplish this task, the government of the United States continues to insist that any military assistance must go through the central government of Iraq.
This remains the case even now, when it has become quite evident that weapons intended for the Kurds will never be delivered. This is in spite of the Kurds becoming the most effective fighters in Iraq against the ISIS invaders. It is evidence of a refusal of the American government to accept the reality on the ground. Iraq as a country no longer exists.
The territory controlled by the Kurds who have long suffered from the rule emanating from Baghdad, is virtually independent. At long last, this group of people first promised nationhood after the First World War, have partially succeeded in gaining this status. Again it was achieved in spite of American preferences.
The reluctance on the part of the United States government is somewhat understandable given the large Kurdish presence in Turkey. It is feared that the move towards a Greater Kurdistan should not be encouraged further, considering that Turkey is a member of NATO and a traditional ally of the United States. However, until recently the nation of Turkey has provided almost no assistance in stopping ISIS and even now, is more concerned at hitting the Kurds in northern Syria as their main military objective.
This is a nuance of the present American and European policy of not providing military assistance to the Ukraine, which has been invaded by Russia. It is true there are sympathizers to the Russian military occupation in the east of the country by the large Russian minority there, but an invasion has taken place nonetheless. This should have been made clear with the take over and annexation of Crimea in 2014.
The insurgents in the east of Ukraine would of already been defeated, had it not been for the transfer of arms by Russia and the subsequent invasion of the country. This made a military victory by the authorities in Kiev impossible, without weapons from Europe and the United States. What the Americans and Europeans insist is that Ukraine negotiate with the very people who have invaded their country. The nonsensical philosophy being any military assistance to the Ukrainians would just widen the war as if a country should not be able to defend sovereign territory.
It should be noted that in exchange for the surrender of their nuclear missiles, the borders of Ukraine were guaranteed by treaty in 1994. The signatories of this accord known as the Budapest Memorandum include the nations of the United Kingdom, Russia and the United States. If Russian President Putin decides to launch a wider war in Ukraine further to the west and south, there will no doubt be the arrival of refugees in the countries of Hungary, Poland, Romania and Slovakia that all border Ukraine.
The spread of Islamic terrorism outside the Middle East is accelerating as witnessed by the movement of Boko Harram in Nigeria, Chad, Niger and northern Cameroon. The French finally intervened under the auspices of the United Nations (UN) in 2013, to stop Islamic insurgents in northern Mali from moving south to take over the entire country. There are increasing terrorist activity and the setting of of cells across the entire region which is encouraging many people living there to consider migrating to the safety of Europe.
In Iraq and Syria there is a concerted effort to remove the Christian presence in these two countries that has been in existence for two millenniums. Other minority groups have received similar treatment leading to mass migrations of people to neighboring countries like Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey. These refugees because of their sheer numbers have become destabilizing to their host countries.
Lebanon alone has taken in more than 1 million people from Syria alone. This is in a country with only 4.8 million inhabitants. Jordan has taken in over 600,000 and Turkey near 2 million. So far nearly 4 million Syrians have fled their home country all together and 7.6 million have been internally displaced. Many of these people are expected to eventually make their way towards European shores.
In Syria, the government of Bashar Assad with assistance from their ally Iran, is actually promoting the depopulation of wide spaces inside the country. This is so the indigenous population can be replaced with people that will be more accepting of the new arrangement envisioned by the Iranians and the government of Assad.
The same is true in northern Iraq, many of the citizens that have fled these areas will not be returning. They will be replaced by new populations from the south. To date the Gulf states refuse to accept refugees from these areas. The reason for the denial of sanctuary given by Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and Saudi Arabia among others, is that there may be terrorists embedded in these groups.
The terrorist connection is a legitimate concern, but since the countries bordering the main theater of war are already inundated with refugees, it only makes it more likely that more of them will head towards the European Union. Already numbering in the hundreds of thousands, soon millions of displaced people will be on the move.
In all 2014 there were 280,000 arrivals in Europe from the unstable areas of North Africa and the Middle East. More than 350,000 have already arrived by the end of August this year so far. The previous migrations coming from conflicts in Afghanistan and Eritrea have been largely surpassed by the human catastrophe going on in Syria.
Germany alone is expecting 800,000 refugees alone. The rate of asylum seekers in Europe as a whole was 435,190 in 2013 and 626,065 in 2014. There is no telling how many will be processed this year.
In response to the mass arrival of people in Europe, 5 countries have already built border fences. The media has focused most of their efforts on the Hungarians who have just recently erected a fence with the border shared with Serbia. However, other countries in the region have already built barriers to stem the flow of the new arrivals. These include Bulgaria, Greece, Turkey and Macedonia. It is likely this infrastructure will be expanded as migrants shift their exodus further to the west towards Croatia and Slovenia.
Austria and Germany have already put troops on their borders to gain some semblance of control over their frontiers. Italy is also being overwhelmed by arrivals coming by sea which is a major problem for Greece as well. They have long coastlines which make the arrival of new refugees almost impossible to stop. The outer periphery of Europe is taking the brunt of the inundation of migrants both economic and political for now. It is soon going to become a mounting problem throughout Europe.
The recent actions taken by a number of countries make a mockery of the Schengen Agreement which permits visa free travel among most countries in the Euro-zone. The call from central authorities in Europe, that the burden of refugee acceptance and resettlement throughout the European Union must be shared is not being recognized by a number of countries.
There are countries in Eastern Europe who claim there are economically unable to accept the numbers being suggested by Union officials. Others nations are already hinting that their wish is to only accept Christian refugees. As of yet, only Slovakia has publicly stated this position but as the numbers increase the sentiment is likely to spread. They have observed what has occurred in nations with large Muslim populations. The terrorist activity in France for example is creating a political backlash throughout Europe.
The fear of terrorists arriving with the migrants has been heightened as claims have been made by ISIS and other Islamic groups that this has already been accomplished. It is creating a growing controversy in Europe that will soon likely surpass the sovereign debt issue.
The short term economic impact of accommodating so many newcomers, will soon be overwhelmed with the long term consequences of absorbing so many people who have cultural values that are distinctly different from the countries they will live in. They are often to be resettled in countries already struggling with high levels of debt, unemployment, and low levels of economic growth.
Where will the financing come from, to provide the housing and living expenses that will soon be incurred? How will all these new immigrants be provided with the job and language training they will need, to become successful in their host countries? How will they be prevented from later migrating to countries that might offer better opportunities like Germany? Will these new arrivals be able to adapt to the countries they will will now call home?
The European Union is about to face a crisis of epic proportions that will strain the institutions that were designed to deal with issues from another era. The rising stress being placed on member nations in the Union, will soon undermine the present cohesiveness in attempting to reach a common policy. It is unlikely Europe will survive the present situation in its present form either economically or politically.