David Frum on the crisis in the mediterranean

by Chris Bertram on July 29, 2015

David Frum is a US pundit, who writes on US politics. So, being based elsewhere, I don’t usually pay a lot of attention to him. Unfortunately, today, somebody drew my attention to this article in the Atlantic in which he argues, as a prelude to some boilerplate anti-immigrant conservative points, that the people who are crossing the Mediterranean are economic migrants rather than genuine refugees. Although there’s a rather dismissive mention of Syrians at the beginning of the piece “just 30 per cent” (30 per cent of a large number is a lot of people), the message of the piece is clear. Frum calls in aid the Canadian journalist Doug Saunders, who knows his stuff and usually writes sensibly on immigration matters.

Here’s Frum (and Frum quoting Saunders):

Doug Saunders, a British Canadian journalist who has spent considerable time reporting from North Africa and the Middle East and who in 2012 published a book that was sympathetic to trans-Mediterranean migrants, rejects as “insidious” the notion that such migrants are fleeing famine and death. To the contrary, he wrote recently:

Every boat person I’ve met has been ambitious, urban, educated, and, if not middle-class (though a surprising number are …), then far from subsistence peasantry. They are very poor by European standards, but often comfortable by African and Middle Eastern ones.

What these migrants are doing is what migrants have always done: they’re pursuing a better life. But although migration is attractive to the migrants, it is unwanted by European electorates—and the tension between continued migration and public opinion is changing the Continent in dangerous ways.

I’d read the original Saunders article, which is rather good and which draws on research from the always impressive Hein de Haas, so I was surprised to see it quoted like this. I went back and took a look. The quoted passage comes after some earlier paragraphs in which Saunders writes:

What has compounded the matter during the past 24 months has been the conflict in Syria. While only a fraction of people fleeing that country have attempted to go to Europe – the vast majority are encamped in Turkey, Jordan or Lebanon – that fraction has multiplied the numbers of boat people dramatically in 2014 and 2015. It now accounts for perhaps half of Mediterranean boat migrants (though the boat that was the subject of last weekend’s tragedy carried passengers almost entirely from sub-Saharan Africa). … “There should be no reason for Syrian refugees to be getting on these boats, except that there has been no proper pathway for safe refugee acceptance opened up,” Dr. de Haas says. If Western countries would take their United Nations refugee responsibilities more seriously, Syrians wouldn’t be dying at sea.

Is David Frum often this misleading in his use of sources?

{ 74 comments }

1

Layman 07.29.15 at 3:21 pm

In short, yes. Your life was better before you were exposed to David Frum. Though in recent years Frum has styled himself as something of a ‘third way’ conservative anti-Republican – he was an Iraq-war and Bush administration critic and has been critical of the neoconservative foreign policy agenda – he has long been the sort of hack who cherry-picks data to suit his rhetorical needs.

2

Rich Puchalsky 07.29.15 at 3:25 pm

I think that we have to treat this subject and author under _Call of Cthulhu_ rules, which means that the mere attempt to peer into the matter may cause us to lose sanity.

In short, yes. But couldn’t we pretty much assume so from the mere mention of “economic migrants rather than genuine refugees”? I tend to assume that Europe makes this distinction in part because it doesn’t want to admit that the people who escaped the Holocaust were mostly “economic migrants” who left before it started, and that the number of “genuine refugees” who were permitted to go to other countries later on was comparatively small.

3

Bruce Baugh 07.29.15 at 3:39 pm

Frum is actually Canadian, down here helping screw up my country because the pickings are good for that. He’s also the guy who goaded John Holbo into inventing the term “Donner Party conservatism”, in his epic 2003 review of a Frum book.

4

ZM 07.29.15 at 3:52 pm

Chris Bertram,

Since you are a prominent academic maybe you could write an article about the need for a global conference on the refugee situation to start to deal with the emergency properly and permanently or temporarily resettle the current high numbers of refugees.

With the number of refugees at 50 million — the most since WW2 — the current piecemeal approach is not effective at all. I went to a talk by the historian Joy Damousi earlier this year, and she said that it took until 1968 to finally resettle all of the refugees from WW2. And I’ve read expert predictions that by 2050 another 200-250 million people are expected to become refugees due to the effects of climate change over the next 35 years.

This idea for a global conference was the idea of our local MP Lisa Chesters who said she and others were trying to get the Labor leader Bill Shorten to make an electoral promise to offer to host a global conference to change the national debate on refugees and boats. But instead he just recently moved the Labor policy to agree with the current Liberal government policy that is to turn any boats back to Indonesia.

If there was a plan to temporarily or permanently resettle all the refugees within about 5 years, then no one would take boats, and it would be fair for poor refugees that can’t afford boat journeys.

5

MPAVictoria 07.29.15 at 3:54 pm

” he was an Iraq-war and Bush administration critic and has been critical of the neoconservative foreign policy agenda”

Wasn’t he a speech writer for the Bush Whitehouse? I remember him being very pro Iraq war. At least early on.

6

Layman 07.29.15 at 4:08 pm

“Wasn’t he a speech writer for the Bush Whitehouse? I remember him being very pro Iraq war. At least early on.”

Yes to both. His ‘conversion’ came later. On reflection I’d say he’s still aligned with the neo-conservative agenda. He didn’t leave them, they more or less threw him out when he became a Bush / Iraq critic.

7

Jon W 07.29.15 at 4:09 pm

Rich Puchalsky @2: It’s not just Europe that draws a distinction between refugees and other migrants; the U.S. does so as well. Special treatment for people fleeing persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership in a “particular social group” is baked into international law. I don’t think that line is especially desirable as a policy matter; it tends to exclude even people fleeing actual war like the Syrians, if their danger doesn’t flow from their having been singled out on account of membership in a protected category. But it’s part of the legal landscape.

8

Phil Koop 07.29.15 at 4:15 pm

Bruce Baugh,

Frum has been an American citizen since 2007. He’s your problem now, dude.

MPAVictoria,

Yes indeed, he wrote speeches for Bush and was “credited” with devising the axis-of-evil trope. (Damned by faint praise and all that.)

9

Bloix 07.29.15 at 4:39 pm

Saunders:

“The most insidious notion is the one that holds that the Africans on the boats are starving villagers escaping famine and death. In fact, every boat person I’ve met has been ambitious, urban, educated, and, if not middle-class (though a surprising number are, as are an even larger number of Syrian refugees), then far from subsistence peasantry. They are very poor by European standards, but often comfortable by African and Middle Eastern ones…
“Why would somebody risk their life, and their comfort, for a journey that at best would promise a marginal life in the underground economies of Europe?
“Linguère Mously Mbaye, a scholar at the Bonn-based Institute for the Study of Labour, conducted a study of hundreds of people in Dakar, Senegal, who were planning to make the crossing to Europe.”
“The migrants tended not to be very poor. And they tended to be well-connected in Europe: They knew large numbers of people from their home country already living in Europe and working in similar occupations. In other words, they were tied into “migration networks” that communicated information about employment, small-business, housing and migration opportunities. Migrants tend to choose their European destinations not according to culture, language or history, but according to the number of people from their network who are living there – and also according to the economic success of their destination country.”
“The Syrian refugees are less tactical – and not as well linked into existing economies – than the Africans, but they, too, tend to come because they have connections to people or organizations in Europe. Concludes Dr. Mbaye, “Illegal migration starts first in thoughts, based upon the belief that success is only possible abroad.”
Both major studies found that the Africans who get onto the boats are not running from something awful, but running toward a specific, chosen opportunity, in employment or small business.
“That’s a big reason that the boat-people flows have gone up and down so dramatically: Dr. de Haas’s studies found that the main driver of cross-Mediterranean migration is not any economic or political factor in Africa but “sustained demand [in Europe] for cheap labour in agriculture, services, and other informal sectors.” Even those who are fleeing – the Syrians, some Eritreans – are choosing where they flee based on a sense of opportunity.”

So – Saunders says emphatically that the refugees are not asylum seekers, they are not fleeing famine and death, they had pretty good prospects at home, but they are economic migrants pulled by demand for cheap labor in Europe. He says this even about the Syrians (presumably he means that the truly destitute Syrians don’t make it out of Lebanon and Turkey). I don’t know if he’s right or not. My question to you is, how did Frum misrepresent Saunders?

10

Lars 07.29.15 at 5:03 pm

“Is David Frum often this misleading in his use of sources?”

The following constitutes a data point of sorts which confirms your suspicion. In a conversation between Robert Wright and Glenn Greenwald about the Charlie Hebdo affair, Greenwald was making the point that defending free speech did not and should not be equated with defending the particular content of said speech. People in the US can easily say all sort of nasty and obnoxious things about Muslims that you couldn’t say about, say, Jews. And to make that point Greenwald published a bunch of cartoons which were controversial (for some) regarding the state of Israel. In the following, Greenwald and Wright discuss the reactions:

Greenwald: Well, so, you know, a few things. I mean one is the reaction that that article generated was completely predictable. It wasn’t like I walked into something and said ‘oh my God, people are offended by this and are accusing me of antisemitism. You know that reaction was a part of what I knew would be provoked and that was part of the point. Obviously like- and you have to distinguish it too, there are professional pundits who have made a career out of exploiting in a really cynical way accusations of antisemitism, who just hurl that label at anybody they want to politically harm, people like, you know, Jeffrey Goldberg and David Frum, both of whom insinuated that I had my own secret private collection of anti-Jewish cartoons that I was just waiting for the right day to unleash, um—
Wright: You know David— David said that on bloggingheads in a conversation with me when I was debating this issue with him and I felt bad that I didn’t kind of correct him on that point. [crosstalk] Because you actually said in the piece that you had gone out and gathered them, I think, for the purpose of writing the piece. I believe you said we scoured the internet…
Greenwald: I feel like people know who people like David Frum and Jeffrey Goldberg are and, you know, I didn’t feel a need to point it out…

That exchange occurs at about minute 24 of the diavlog if anyone is interested.
http://bloggingheads.tv/videos/35012

11

Anderson 07.29.15 at 5:07 pm

Bloix is himself misrepresenting: “Saunders says emphatically that the refugees are not asylum seekers.” No, he does not say that about the Syrians. He says they are “fleeing.”

Their choice of *where* to go is dictated in part by economic opportunity, but they are “fleeing.”

12

Marshall 07.29.15 at 5:17 pm

fleeing famine and death

For an urban, educated person, destruction of the urban order is as fatal as burning the olive groves. In the middle east these days, subsistence farming seems to have an eventual future; working a desk or a craft job in a consumer business does not. “These people could earn a living if they wanted to”, ya shore.

Actually “normal jobs” are getting to be unusual anywhere.

13

MPAVictoria 07.29.15 at 5:19 pm

“Actually “normal jobs” are getting to be unusual anywhere.”

Yep. We can’t all be computer programmers and social media “experts”. Very uneasy about the future.

14

Chris Bertram 07.29.15 at 5:36 pm

Bloix, you appear neither to be good at reading nor to understand the key categories in play. A refugee is someone with a well-founded fear of persecution, an asylum-seeker is someone who is seeking recognition as a refugee from a state. Your sentence “Saunders says emphatically that the refugees are not asylum seekers” therefore reveals rather basic confusion. In the paragraph immediately above the one you cite in extenso, Saunders writes:

“There should be no reason for Syrian refugees to be getting on these boats, except that there has been no proper pathway for safe refugee acceptance opened up,” Dr. de Haas says. If Western countries would take their United Nations refugee responsibilities more seriously, Syrians wouldn’t be dying at sea.

Even though he is here quoting de Haas, I take it that it is reasonable to infer from the whole para that Saunders thinks of the Syrians as refugees. And further below he writes “The Syrian *refugees* are less tactical … ” [emphasis added].

Frum cites Saunders as thinking the notion that the boat people are fleeing “famine and death” is “insidious”. But he (a) represents this as a quite general claim about people on the boats, whereas in the Saunders’s text it is about African migrants and (b) misleads as to Saunders’s intention, which is clearly to defeat a particular stereotype about African migrants rather than to cut between refugees and economic migrants. Saunders is saying that the boat people are not the starving in flight, as Western commentators often think. He’s right about that.

It is also correct that the refugees who manage to get to the West to seek asylum are economically better off, more skilled and better connected than the worse off in their countries of origin. That doesn’t mean they aren’t genuinely persecuted, it means that they have better resources to escape persecution than those poorer than they are do. And refugee status is about persecution.

15

Stephen 07.29.15 at 5:48 pm

Rich@2: “the people who escaped the Holocaust were mostly “economic migrants” who left before it started, and that the number of “genuine refugees” who were permitted to go to other countries later on was comparatively small.”

Are you sure about either of these statements? My impression, admittedly affected by Jews I have known who moved, or whose ancestors moved, to the UK before 1939, is that they left Germany because of the serious though less-than-exterminatory anti-Jewish persecution, rather than in search of a better life in a richer country. I don’t think that you can argue that a Jew who no longer has a job in Germany, on account of persecution, and then goes abroad in search of employment is an ‘economic migrant’.

And yes, after WWII started, the number of Jews who were were “were permitted to go to other countries” from Germany and Austria, and later from other countries overrun by the Nazis, was comparatively small. But was that not because they were prisoners of the deranged Nazis, rather than because of the policies of other countries?

16

Tyrone Slothrop 07.29.15 at 6:12 pm

Economic migrants or genuine refugees, Canada, at least, didn’t want them. From ccrweb.ca:

During the 12-year period of Nazi rule in Germany, Canada admitted fewer than 5,000 Jewish refugees, one of the worst records of any democracies. In 1945, asked how many Jews Canada would admit after the war, a Canadian official answered “None is too many”.

17

Bloix 07.29.15 at 6:13 pm

Chris –

You write: “Frum cites Saunders as thinking the notion that the boat people are fleeing “famine and death” is “insidious”. “

And this is indeed what Saunders says:

“The most insidious notion is the one that holds that the Africans on the boats are starving villagers escaping famine and death.”

Insidious, notion, boat, famine, death. no misrepresentation there.

You write:
“But he (a) represents this as a quite general claim about people on the boats, whereas in the Saunders’s text it is about African migrants”

Ok. The people on the boats are either Africans or Syrians. Saunders was talking about Africans, but from is talking about all the people on the boats. So your beef is that Frum represents a statement about Africans as applying also to Syrians, is that right?

But Saunders is not very clear about Syrians. He says, “Even those who are fleeing – the Syrians, some Eritreans – are choosing where they flee based on a sense of opportunity.”

And how does a Syrian get to Libya? He or she first goes to Lebanon or Turkey or Jordan. Most Syrian refugees stay there. As Saunders says, “only a fraction of people fleeing that country have attempted to go to Europe – the vast majority are encamped in Turkey, Jordan or Lebanon.”

I think you can fairly read Saunders to say that the Syrians are fleeing Syria due to the war, but those who make the decision to the next step – to go to Libya and try their chances at the trans-Mediterranean voyage – are no long at risk of “famine and death” – they are seeking to get to Europe in order to work. At any rate, it’s not an obvious misreading.

You say: (b) misleads as to Saunders’s intention, which is clearly to defeat a particular stereotype about African migrants rather than to cut between refugees and economic migrants.

But Frum has no obligation to honor Saunders’s intention. He is using Saunders as a source of factual information. He is entitled to use that factual information to support an argument that may be aligned with, tangential to, or directly opposed to Saunders’ intention. And far from trying to suggest that Saunders agrees with him, Frum notes that Saunders has “published a book that was sympathetic to trans-Mediterranean migrants.”

Saunders believes that Europe needs a more flexible, open-door policy towards migrants. Frum, arguing from the same facts, wants the door slammed more firmly shut.

You can certainly argue that Saunders is right and Frum is wrong. But what you’ve said here is that Frum is a dishonest journalist. I don’t see it, and I think it weakens your own argument when you attack others for dishonesty that isn’t there.

18

bob mcmanus 07.29.15 at 6:21 pm

15: Yeah, I wondered about that too. Of course, like 1933-40 a lot of the bad discriminatory laws and actions had serious economic affects, but there were a whole lot of political refugees, many not Jews, including those who settled in California but also people like Einstein. Were most of them celebrities? Did US law/policy change after the mid-30s? I remember Thomas Mann left Germany around 1933 but started in Switzerland.

And of course the horror is that Jews in Poland USSR etc had no strong reason to emigrate before 1939.

19

Jon W 07.29.15 at 6:34 pm

Chris Bertram @13: Here’s a small pedantic correction, which doesn’t undermine your larger point. You write that “[a] refugee is someone with a well-founded fear of persecution,” and that’s the usual legal definition (I tracked it in #7). But the Syrians mostly don’t fear “persecution” in asylum law’s specialized sense; the UN treats them as refugees because in practice it goes beyond the official definition, including in the “refugee” category people who are fleeing the indiscriminate effects of conflict whether they fear persecution or not.

20

Bloix 07.29.15 at 6:55 pm

Just as an example, this is from a sympathetic account of a Syrian who chose to make the trip:

“His long journey began when he left Syria to Egypt via Lebanon. He thought he could stay in Cairo and work, but the situation in Egypt was unstable. He struggled for 40 days in Egypt until he decided to go to Europe. He decided to travel to Libya to find a way to Europe. He was able to reach the Libyan border and tried to sneak across it…. He was detained and jailed for few days before he was released. He then decided to travel to Tripoli, to find work and save money for his trip to Europe. After seven months of hard work, he was able to make some money and start planning a way out to Europe.

http://www.alaraby.co.uk/english/features/2015/3/18/the-journey-to-europe-one-syrian-refugees-story

So this refugee was worked and saved money in Lebanon for seven months and used the savings to finance the voyage. The article describes a displaced person in a very stressful situation, not someone with a need to flee “famine and death.”

21

Philip 07.29.15 at 7:33 pm

Booix, from your link I would say he had a well founded fear of persecution.

“I couldn’t stand it any more,” Shurbaji explained. “My home town Darya was totally destroyed and I lost a lot of family members. I couldn’t stay while the security forces were killing innocent people. There was nothing left for me there any more, when all my loved ones were either jailed, killed or scattered abroad.”
– See more at: http://www.alaraby.co.uk/english/features/2015/3/18/the-journey-to-europe-one-syrian-refugees-story#sthash.eAVxRU36.dpuf

22

politicalfootball 07.29.15 at 7:34 pm

Stephen@15, bob@18 – Somebody is misreading Rich@2 here. I took him to be rejecting the distinction between “economic migrants” and of “genuine refugees,” using the example of Jewish migrants whose motivations were similar to those of people labeled “economic migrants” today, but who are nonetheless “genuine refugees.”

Anyway, whether that’s what Rich intended, that’s what I think.

23

Stephen 07.29.15 at 7:35 pm

BobMcManus@18: “And of course the horror is that Jews in Poland USSR etc had no strong reason to emigrate before 1939.”

Well, yes, Jews in Poland pre-1939 had no strong reason to emigrate. Consider the argument that in earlier years could have been put forward on their behalf: we’re Polish Jews, we are safe from persecution (even if not particular favoured) in Poland, but we believe that at some future undefined date we may be about to become the victims of serious non-Polish persecution, and we therefore demand the right to emigrate now to other European or non-European countries to escape from this hypothetical but currently non-existant persecution.

With 20:20 hindsight, that demand was justified. Pre-1939, how could it have been?

As for Jews in the USSR pre-1941 wishing to emigrate: surely, only a seriously masochistic or suicidal Soviet Jew would have pleaded guilty to such a pro-Capitalist, if not Trotskyite, crime?

24

Stephen 07.29.15 at 7:41 pm

politicalfootball@22: I suspect you are misreading me. I’m saying that Jews fleeing Nazi Germany pre-WW2 were not, in the modern sense, economic migrants (people often quite well off by local standards in their own countries but looking for a richer life elsewhere) but persecuted people rightly fleeing from, in their case, Nazi persecution.

Are you really disputing that?

25

Rich Puchalsky 07.29.15 at 7:50 pm

Brief Google: here. (mentions the Evian Conference and so on). A good number of Holocaust rescuers have stories like “Rescued lots of people by stamping their passports so that they could emigrate to [country X] without authorization”.

The reasons for migrating from place to place were complex in earlier eras, for instance: “Jews preferred to live in relatively tolerant Poland rather than in the USSR” according to this. For the U.S., large-scale Jewish immigration ended in 1924, and while the Jews who immigrated before then obviously did so for a range of reasons, I think that the large majority of them would now be considered to be economic migrants.

26

P O'Neill 07.29.15 at 8:06 pm

Frum

Furthermore, a 2014 study in The Economic Journal found that each year between 1995 and 2011, immigrants from outside the European Economic Area were a net drag on the United Kingdom’s budget.

The cited article (Dustmann and Frattini, November 2014 issue) conclusion

Immigrants from non-EEA countries, on the other hand, contribute less than they receive; however, this outcome is similar, albeit larger in magnitude, to natives, who also make a negative net contribution over the same period. This finding may partly be explained by the larger number of children non-EEA immigrants have over the period considered, whose cost we assign to immigrants while assigning these children’s contributions after entering the labour market to natives. Yet this strategy, necessitated by a lack of information in our data set on the foreign born status of immigrants’ parents, is likely to overestimate (rather than underestimate) the relative cost of immigrants in all our computations.

27

Abbe Faria 07.29.15 at 8:16 pm

“Booix, from your link I would say he had a well founded fear of persecution.”

*Had* a fear of persecution in Syria. Let me spell this out: the guy’s journey was Syria > Lebanon > Egypt > Libya. The notable thing here is that Libya one of the very few place on earth nearly as awful as Syria. Like many people who try to cross the Med into Europe via Libya he moved from one hellish jihadi ridden warzone to stable countries at peace (plenty of Europeans pay to go on holiday to Lebanon and Egypt), and then for some reason chose to travel *into* a different hellish jihadi ridden warzone in order to get on the boat.

Whatever your views on migration, it seriously damages the “fleeing war and persecution” cliche when people are obviously and deliberately walking straight into war and persecution in order to try and better their lot. Frankly, the other cliché that that this is a rational decision aimed at improving their circumstances is also looking extremely suspect. It strikes me that there’s a strong case this is an objectively awful decision driven by misinformation (rather like moving to LA to become a movie star, or doing a media studies degree in the hope of becoming a journalist).

28

Bloix 07.29.15 at 8:30 pm

#21 – Philip –
The article says he was wanted by the regime because of his “involvement in the peaceful protests during the first year of the movement in 2011.” This would be sufficient, most likely, to show a “well founded fear of persecution” that would qualify him for political asylum. And putting aside his legal right to asylum, he obviously had a non-economic motive for fleeing Syria – he could have gotten killed simply as an innocent civilian (a concern that does not qualify a person for asylum, which is what Chris was chastising me about).

But note his journey: he fled Syria for Lebanon. He made his way to Egypt. He tried to cross illegally into Libya but was caught. He returned to Egypt, and then back to Lebanon. He got a job in Lebanon and worked for six months. He was not starving or in physical danger in Lebanon. He was not expelled from Lebanon. There’s no indication that he couldn’t have stayed in Lebanon, as a great many Syrians are doing. But he chose to spend his savings to enter Libya and from their to attempt to enter Europe.

Why did he want to go to Europe? Because he believed he could have a better life there. He was not fleeing “famine and death” in Lebanon. He was drawn to Europe.

I’m not saying for a moment that his desire to go to Europe reflects badly on him. I’m not belittling his ordeal or denying his courage. I’m saying that he was not fleeing “famine and death” when he made the decision to try to go to Europe.

Saunders says that the facts show that almost all African migrants are drawn to Europe in this fashion. Chris says that Frum meretriciously extends Saunders’ conclusion about African migrants to Syrian migrants. I am saying that Saunders’ point appears to apply to Syrians as well and that therefore it is not at all clear that Frum has made a misrepresentation.

I think it’s a mistake to accuse people of lying unless it’s very clear that what they’ve said is intentionally false, and I don’t think that what Frum has done comes close to that threshold.

29

Philip 07.29.15 at 8:33 pm

Abbe Faria, it is the reason someone leaves their home country that defines if they are a refugee not the reason they made a claim in a particular country or the route they took to get there.

30

Cian 07.29.15 at 8:37 pm

#27 Plenty of Europeans pay to go on holiday to all kinds of places that are hellholes for the inhabitants. Egypt would be one of those places. And while Lebanon is indeed a nice place to live, a Syrian is going to struggle to make a living there these days.

And frankly this: “rather like moving to LA to become a movie star” is offensive. Because clearly trying to go to a stable political country where you can find a living after being driven from your home is just like trying to become a movie star.

Maybe he made bad choices. But the options available to him (and most Syrians) are not good ones.

31

Cian 07.29.15 at 8:38 pm

Lebannon is a nice place to visit, rather than live. As a place to live it’s complicated.

32

bianca steele 07.29.15 at 8:42 pm

Prior to 1900, entire towns in Russia were depopulated by people fleeing pogroms. They were living basically peasant lifestyles, for the most part–though undoubtedly some were comfortably off. Regardless of their status in Russia, most became workers. They were assisted in emigrating by charities funded by well off Jews in Western Europe and North America, and presumably some had saved enough to help family members. They came to North America, England, and cities from Berlin to Moscow, and occasionally to Palestine. Obviously those ending up in Berlin, Warsaw, Vilna, or Kiev mostly didn’t survive the war, which was only foreseeable if you were enormously pessimistic. They came to the US because there were said to be plenty of jobs, obviously, but it’s unlikely they left Russia because their sources of income had dried up. What this has to do with David Frum’s article or Rich Puchalsky’s comment, I don’t know.

At some point immigration to the U.S. became more difficult, and presumably economic and political changes in Russia and elsewhere and Europe shifted pressure elsewhere or to other forms.

33

bianca steele 07.29.15 at 8:47 pm

“in Russia” much of the territory involved is outside present day Russia but I’ve never met anyone of that generation who knew the difference and don’t actually know where one set of ancestors’ hometown would be today, probably Byelorus or Moldova, maybe Poland or Ukraine, I’m not sure it would be possible to find out

34

politicalfootball 07.29.15 at 10:14 pm

politicalfootball@22: I suspect you are misreading me. I’m saying that Jews fleeing Nazi Germany pre-WW2 were not, in the modern sense, economic migrants (people often quite well off by local standards in their own countries but looking for a richer life elsewhere) but persecuted people rightly fleeing from, in their case, Nazi persecution.

I am skeptical. I am suspicious of efforts to differentiate economic refugees from political ones. First, I am skeptical of the existence of a clean differentiation between economics and politics. Surely the Jews of the ’30s in Germany were subject to both sorts of discrimination, and they weren’t really two different things.

I agree with you that a certain type of refugee is characterized by relative prosperity (according to where they are coming from) and relative poverty (compared to where they are going to). Problem is, people who are really poor are also rooted to their location. They can’t raise the money to buy a spot on a leaky boat in the Mediterranean.

Non-rhetorical question: I wonder what percentage of the Jews departing Nazi Germany had greater-than-median incomes but were nonetheless migrating to places where their income would be less-than-median? Personally, I would still consider refugees who fit that description to be legitimate political refugees. I think, likewise, a lot of people today who fit that description are nonetheless legitimate political refugees.

35

Crprod 07.30.15 at 12:15 am

The only interesting thing about David Frum is whether he is the grandson or great nephew of John Frum.

36

thehersch 07.30.15 at 1:25 am

I think it’s a mistake to accuse people of lying unless it’s very clear that what they’ve said is intentionally false, and I don’t think that what Frum has done comes close to that threshold.

What you’re glossing over is how firmly and obviously Frum has pressed his thumb over the parts of Saunders’s piece that show he’s drawing a distinction between the African and the Syrian migrants. It’s hard to believe, for me anyway, that this was mere inadvertence.

Saunders writes: “The most insidious notion is the one that holds that the Africans on the boats are starving villagers escaping famine and death.”

Frum writes: “Doug Saunders, a British Canadian journalist who has spent considerable time reporting from North Africa and the Middle East and who in 2012 published a book that was sympathetic to trans-Mediterranean migrants, rejects as “insidious” the notion that such migrants are fleeing famine and death.”

Gee, where did “the Africans” go?

Saunders writes: “In fact, every boat person I’ve met has been ambitious, urban, educated, and, if not middle-class (though a surprising number are, as are an even larger number of Syrian refugees), then far from subsistence peasantry.”

Frum writes, quoting Saunders: “Every boat person I’ve met has been ambitious, urban, educated, and, if not middle-class (though a surprising number are …), then far from subsistence peasantry. “

Gee, the Syrians disappeared into the ellipsis!

This is obviously dishonest. I can’t imagine defending it.

37

Antoni Jaume 07.30.15 at 1:37 am

bloix, the article does not make it clear which Tripoli that refugee went, as there is one in Lybia too.

38

Bloix 07.30.15 at 2:43 am

Antoni Jaume – you’re absolutely right, he probably stayed in Libya. I was thrown off by the prior reference to Lebanon. Either way, he was able to work and save money for six months before embarking for Europe, so he wasn’t fleeing”famine and death” when he left.

39

Tom Hurka 07.30.15 at 2:50 am

David Frum is the son of Barbara Frum, whose politics, I gather, were very different. She was a CBC radio and then TV current-affairs interviewer and much loved. David did come up with the “axis of evil” phrase, or a close predecessor of it, but was then fired from his White House speechwriting job because his wife boasted about that on Facebook. And yes, Doug Saunders writes good stuff. I liked his book Arrival Cities.

40

Jesús Couto Fandiño 07.30.15 at 8:52 am

And once we get to the distinction of who is a refugee and who is somebody trying to find a better life…

… what the hell do we care? They are PEOPLE. People that are DROWNING IN THE SEA.

As I said in similar opportunities, lets put aside the inmigration issue for a bit – I for one find it stupid, the answer of a country that gets people that want to be there should be “Good! More workers, more consumers, more taxpayers, hello people!”, but again, lets put it aside.

The issue at the moment is what to do with the people drowning in the Mediterranean, and the decent answer is “rescue them and be there to rescue as many of them as possible”. The splitting of hairs about who is “deserving” of being in Europe we can leave for when they are not drowning.

41

Chris Bertram 07.30.15 at 9:33 am

@Jesus – yes absolutely right.

42

novakant 07.30.15 at 11:10 am

The issue at the moment is what to do with the people drowning in the Mediterranean, and the decent answer is “rescue them and be there to rescue as many of them as possible”. The splitting of hairs about who is “deserving” of being in Europe we can leave for when they are not drowning.

I agree, most of the discourse on this matter is incredibly callous.

43

Bloix 07.30.15 at 2:09 pm

Frum’s argument is that the way to prevent people from DROWNING IN THE SEA is to have a very strict intervention policy that locates and interdicts all boats and prevents the would-be migrants from entering Europe. He says that doing so will discourage would-be migrants from attempting the crossing thus will save their lives. He says that because the migrants are not fleeing “famine and death” they are in a position to make rational decisions, and a strict interdiction policy will lead them to decide not to embark. He points to the Australian policy as a successful one.

This is an argument. It may be false (what exactly has the Australian experience been?) but it’s an argument that can be refuted with or supported by evidence.

Now, Chris believes, and has argued here with some force and persuasive effect, that attempts to close borders are immoral and that the only moral policy is to allow all migrants in. That’s an argument worth having. But it’s a different argument.

Chris would like to link the two arguments, I suspect, by claiming that it is impossible to keep people from drowning in the sea unless there is an open borders policy. That is, Chris would like to deploy the drowned would-be migrants as a weapon in his arsenal of pro-open borders arguments. His position is that there are two choices: open borders or PEOPLE DROWNING IN THE SEA, and that people who claim that there is a third choice – strict policing of closed borders – are at the very least mistaken and more likely callous monsters. That’s a legitimate argument and it might even be right.

I have said here before that in spite of their power I am not persuaded by Chris’s arguments that closed borders are immoral. That doesn’t mean I couldn’t be persuaded that closed borders are impossible. (As, by analogy, I find nothing immoral about the death penalty in theory but I have become persuaded that any criminal justice system must necessarily be so imperfect that it cannot possibly be administered justly in practice.)

What worries me a bit is that Chris is reluctant to have a rational discussion about the fate of migrants because he is not willing to test his views about interdiction of migrants against the facts out of a concern that he might lose this powerful argument in favor of open borders.

44

Salem 07.30.15 at 3:05 pm

How do we view this conversation in light of the Calais Crisis, which is really just the Mediterranean Crisis distilled to its essence?

For those who don’t know, there are currently thousands of people, mostly African and Syrian, trying to break into the Channel Tunnel to illegally enter Britain. Several people have died so far, and it is causing a great deal of disruption on both sides of the border. Some of these people have, no doubt, fled “famine and death” (or worse) in their home countries. Others, no doubt, have not.

But it is very clear that these people are not fleeing “famine and death” in France, which is where they are right now. And yet they are willing to risk death and serious injury (with the connivance of the French authorities) to cross, not from bondage into freedom or even from poverty into wealth, but simply from one moderately wealthy EU country into another, where perhaps the language barriers are lower and the immigrant networks more supportive. If this was truly about persecution, asylum, etc, they could apply for asylum in France*, as they are legally obliged to do. Frum is quite right that this is simply about migrants pursuing a better life.

That said, I have a sneaking sympathy for the claim that migrants have the right to seek that better life, regardless of the wishes of the recipient country’s population, and I suspect Frum does not.

*Or their country of entry into the EU, if different.

45

bianca steele 07.30.15 at 3:53 pm

One way the famine and death argument might come in handy is that you could substitute “THEY’RE STARVING” for “DROWNING” and make the same argument that something, anything has to be done. Saunders’ article is very good and makes some strong points about labor mobility. Frum does raise the question, which I think Chris has brought up here occasionally, of what happens to them and their children after they arrive. Is Europe going to integrate them somehow? Is it going to rely on their strong networks, while abandoning groups that might lack those?

And if the camps are so bad, if Libya and Eritrea are so bad, what’s happening to the women and children (sentimentality about whom probably drives a lot of worry over refugees)? What happens to countries that can’t integrate a rising generation of educated, independent young men who want to leave the countryside, but end up emigrating instead? When the smart guys decided to support a coup in Libya (I think I’m remembering this correctly, maybe not), surely the idea was that the educated would take their place in a new, modern society, not all take advantage of the end of the dictatorship by emigrating?

46

ZM 07.30.15 at 3:59 pm

Bloix,

” He points to the Australian policy as a successful one.

This is an argument. It may be false (what exactly has the Australian experience been?) but it’s an argument that can be refuted with or supported by evidence.”

The problem with the Australian experience is it is not very ethical and is not dealing with the high number of global refugees and displaced persons. Refugees arriving by boat has been a big political issue here since the turn of the century. The favoured slogan is “Stop The Boats!”

At the moment the government has a “Turn Back The Boats!” policy — where it sends the navy out to police the seas and turn any refugee boats back to Indonesia. Indonesia is not happy with this — and I think Indonesia has started sending some boats back to the previous country as well now.

As you can see this is not a proper solution to the problem of 50 million refugees and displaced persons globally, and I am not sure it is even that legal.

The government creatively also first excised some islands from the Australian migration zone, then in 2013 the government excised the whole mainland of the country of Australia from the Australian migration zone, which was quite a feat I am sure you would agree.

Another part of the Australian experience is mandatory detention. This started under the Labor government in 1989 due to Cambodian boat arrivals they complained were economic migrants. Mandatory detention used to take place in Australia — however to discourage refugees from sailing here the government introduced offshore detention which is on Nauru and Manus Island in Papua New Guinea. There are a lot of human rights problems in the offshore detention centres which there was a recent report about which recommended a Royal Commission into the detention centres.

And another part is trying to get other countries to take boat arrivals, so at the moment I think some refugees will be settled in Papua New Guinea which the PNG government agreed to likely for economic reasons, but PNG residents are not in favour of and the refugees are not in favour of, and there will be a big problem with the Muslim refugees who don’t think pigs should be eaten. Then I think Cambodia has also agreed to resettle some refugees too.

So as you can see Australia does not have a very ethical approach at the moment.

I don’t really agree with Chris Bertram’s idea of open borders either, there should just be a global conference to make a proper plan with further meeting so as to resettle all the refugees either temporarily or permanently depending on what is suitable on a case by case basis.

47

Chris Bertram 07.30.15 at 4:23 pm

@Bloix What worries me a bit is that Chris is reluctant to have a rational discussion about the fate of migrants because he is not willing to test his views about interdiction of migrants against the facts out of a concern that he might lose this powerful argument in favor of open borders.

You aren’t wrong to suspect that I’m reluctant to have a discussion, rational or otherwise, with commenters who engage in psychological speculation of this kind.

@salem I didn’t post on Calais and I didn’t post, at least here, on open borders. I posted on Frum’s use of Saunders’s text.

48

Rich Puchalsky 07.30.15 at 4:36 pm

Jesús Couto Fandiño: “The issue at the moment is what to do with the people drowning in the Mediterranean, and the decent answer is “rescue them and be there to rescue as many of them as possible”. The splitting of hairs about who is “deserving” of being in Europe we can leave for when they are not drowning.”

I’m from a Jewish family, and we have a good number of (pre-Holocaust) migration stories going back to my grandparents and great-grandparents with maybe a bit from one more generation. I’ve also read about this to some extent. My generalizations:

1. The “decent answer” is useless, because people in general and Europeans in specific have never been decent.

2. Historically the vast majority of refugees who’ve died have died not because of lack of immediate rescue efforts, but because no country wanted to take them in legally and they had to stay where they were.

3. The cult of the rescuer swept Europe after WW II with the cooperation of Jews who thought correctly that a lot of sentiment in this area would translate into some support for Israel. But really the number of people rescued was minuscule.

4. No group of people that need to emigrate should expect to depend on goodwill from others. They should expect to depend on communal help, and otherwise try to keep out of the system. Gaming the system might work but it’s a last resort. In particular the people who are already parceling out who is an economic migrant, who is a real refugee, who is deserving and who should be rescued and then sent back have already decided to make your life the subject of a bureaucratic process and it’s better to evade their attention completely if at all possible.

49

Bloix 07.30.15 at 5:16 pm

Chris – No one is able to avoid being influenced in his view of the facts by what he wants them to be. It’s hard to admit it. Much easier to take offense at the suggestion that what we want to be true influences what we believe to be true. It would be easier for me to accept that you have accounted for this natural inclination if you had not accused Frum of lying where there’s no obvious lie.

ZM- I accept your point that the Australian policy is harsh and does not resolve the problem of refugees. I accept that there is a strong argument that the policy is immoral. What I don’t know is whether the policy has prevented people from drowning in the sea. Frum says that it has. Is he correct or incorrect? This is a 2+2 = 4 issue, not a morality issue.

50

Raisuli 07.30.15 at 5:58 pm

Bloix: “if you had not accused Frum of lying where there’s no obvious lie”- in respect to this statement, you do not seem to have addressed the comment from thehersch@36 which points out several key omissions in Frum’s use of quotation which are the crux of the matter.

51

Corey Robin 07.30.15 at 6:10 pm

Anyone interested in Australia’s current policy should read chapter 4 of Caroline Moorehead’s Human Cargo, which describes an earlier version of that policy. It features the children of families applying for asylum being held for months in detention centers and doing things like sewing up their lips in protest and, in one case, swallowing an entire bottle of shampoo in despair. “Yet,” as David Frum writes, “Australia’s example is promising.”

https://books.google.com/books?id=-LHP35ABcuEC&pg=PA143&lpg=PA143&dq=%22swallowing+an+entire+bottle+of+shampoo+while+in+the+shower%22&source=bl&ots=f5uGtH42Y4&sig=WMmzFAnIQvZCTBtNk26ffSdSn-0&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0CB4Q6AEwAGoVChMIt4mqlbmDxwIVwiceCh1XYAz9#v=onepage&q=%22swallowing%20an%20entire%20bottle%20of%20shampoo%20while%20in%20the%20shower%22&f=false

52

Bloix 07.30.15 at 7:03 pm

#50 – I addressed the points made in #36 in #17. What I said there was that Frum’s reading of Saunders is not such an obvious misreading that it must be intentional and it may not be a misreading at all. It’s legitimate to argue that Frum misreads Saunders. But it’s a mistake to call someone a liar if the lie is not clear. All that does is weaken your own credibility.

#51 – the Moorehead books says, at page 135, that the earlier version of the policy “had, in a very practical way, worked” in that it discouraged people from embarking on boats. “Punishment and deterrence had borne fruit.” People who don’t embark, of course, don’t drown. She then addresses the terrible costs of the policy. Moorehead shows the intellectual honesty to state the facts as best she can determine them and argue from them.

I’ve done a little googling, and the data I’ve found shows that since the reinstatement of Australia’s policy in September 2013, it appears, there have been two incidents of drowning – on in September and one in December 2013 – and none since then. In the prior 12 months, there were at least 12 drowning incidents, many with casualties in the double digits. (Anyone is welcome of course to show that this data is not correct or otherwise misleading.)

http://artsonline.monash.edu.au/thebordercrossingobservatory/publications/australian-border-deaths-database/

So it looks like the deterrence policy is once again bearing fruit in a practical sense. The moral implications may once again be disturbing. It would be worthwhile to talk about them without having to pretend that the facts are not what they are.

53

Layman 07.30.15 at 7:39 pm

“What I said there was that Frum’s reading of Saunders is not such an obvious misreading that it must be intentional and it may not be a misreading at all. “

This is certainly odd. Do you think Frum accurately quotes Saunders, or do you think he doesn’t? You make it sound as if you have no opinion on the matter.

54

Corey Robin 07.30.15 at 7:42 pm

The Australia example came up in this thread because Bloix claimed at 43: “Frum’s argument is that the way to prevent people from DROWNING IN THE SEA is to have a very strict intervention policy that locates and interdicts all boats and prevents the would-be migrants from entering Europe. He says that doing so will discourage would-be migrants from attempting the crossing thus will save their lives. He says that because the migrants are not fleeing “famine and death” they are in a position to make rational decisions, and a strict interdiction policy will lead them to decide not to embark. He points to the Australian policy as a successful one.”

Frum’s argument is nothing of the kind. He never says the way to prevent DROWNING IN THE SEA (a topic he mentions exactly once in an article of several thousand words) is to adopt the Australian policy. He never says that that policy would save refugees’ lives. He’s quite clear that his main concern is that new arrivals pose a strain on their host countries (economic, cultural, and the like) that can among other things lead to violent extremism. Frum’s goal is to stop migration, not deaths at sea. As he says of the Australian policy: “The policy has been expensive: the government has reportedly spent about $1 billion Australian a year to detain migrants at facilities in other countries. That is a relatively small sum, however, compared with the high social and economic costs over many years—and multiple generations—of allowing large-scale migration by very low-skilled people.” Notice he doesn’t say “compared with the huge numbers of people who are DROWNING IN THE SEA.”

It’s no wonder Bloix thinks Chris is being unfair to Frum, since Bloix has quite plainly swapped what’s in his own head for what’s on the page. What was it that he said above? “No one is able to avoid being influenced in his view of the facts by what he wants them to be. It’s hard to admit it.”

55

Bloix 07.30.15 at 8:07 pm

#53 – Frum’s quotes are accurate. He abides by journalistic conventions regarding use of quotation marks and ellipses. No one is arguing that Frum misquotes Saunders in this sense.

What is being argued is that Frum, although he quotes Saunders words accurately, quotes misleadingly in order to make it appear that Saunders’ point about African migrants applies equally to Syrian migrants. That point is that the vast majority of African migrants are not fleeing “famine and death.” They may be penniless and discriminated against and without hope of a decent future, but they do not face “famine and death.” They are heading to Europe to make better lives, not to avoid death.

I read the Saunders article, and for the reasons I’ve explained, I think that it is plausible to read Saunders as saying that the Syrian migrants – once they have made their escape from Syria – are similarly placed. That is, at the time they embark from Libya for Europe, they do not face imminent death and their reason for heading to Europe is to make a better life than that of an impoverished refugee in a camp. Because it is plausible to read Saunders that way, it is not (IMHO) dishonest of Frum to use Saunders as a factual source from which to apply this argument to all migrants, not just Africans. Saunders wouldn’t agree with Frum’s interpretation of the facts, but (based on his article) I think that he would agree with Frum’s representation of the facts.

As I said, you might argue that Frum misunderstands Saunders. You might even argue that Frum misunderstands because he is influenced by his desire to advocate for strict policing of borders. I would take the other side of that argument but I would listen hard to what you say.

This is not the same as saying that Frum is “misleading” – that he is a liar who has intentionally misrepresented his sources. As to that argument, I just don’t see it.

56

Bloix 07.30.15 at 8:33 pm

This just in from the words of one syllable department:
– if you don’t get on a boat you won’t drown.
– if you think you won’t get to Europe, you won’t get on a boat, and you won’t drown.
– UNLESS you think that you will die if you don’t get to Europe.
– THEN you might get on a boat anyway.

There are some situations where people will choose death to avoid death. The jumpers at the World Trade Center did that. But migrants, Saunders says, are not in that position.

This is why Saunders is important to Frum. He shows that migrants don’t think that they will die if they don’t get to Europe. He shows that African migrants don’t. He shows that Syrian migrants don’t.

This fact implies that policing can work. At a high moral cost, it can keep migrants out of boats. That seems to be the Australian experience.

It’s true that Frum’s focus is on keeping migrants out. He’s not so much interested in drowning. But if policing works, it will stop people from drowning. So it will stop African people from drowning. And it will stop Syrian people from drowning.

We should be concerned with more than people drowning. We should be concerned with stunted and ruined lives. But if we are going to argue that PEOPLE ARE DROWNING (all caps) as a reason to let migrants into Europe, then we’d better be sure that policing will not save people from drowning, because that is the implicit argument.

And if we are going to call people liars, then they’d better be liars, otherwise we are hurting our own positions.

57

Bloix 07.30.15 at 8:36 pm

For clarity’s sake, not that anyone cares, #56 is a response to Prof. Robin at 54.

58

Layman 07.30.15 at 9:49 pm

Bloix, the article by Saunders makes several points:

– the boat illegal immigrants or refugees are a very small faction of the total number of illegal migrants in Europe;
– the Syrians are different, they’re ‘fleeing’ while the Africans are not;
– the Syrians would not be on the boats if there was a legitimate refugee process;
– the economic mass migrations have ebbed and flowed over the years, and have in the past been contained by humanitarian policies which include legal immigration processes, and aid to transit countries in return for better policing in those countries.

In other words, Saunders suggests that half the problem (the Syrian half) would be solved by allowing a direct legal refugee process; and that the other half would best be solved by agreements between EU countries, source and transit countries which include aid money flowing from the EU, legal immigration process for source countries, and incentives for transit countries to prevent transit.

Frum, on the other hand, wants to blockade the immigrants. He wants that because he thinks the immigrants can’t be assimilated and will harm Western European societies. To believe the connection between the one and the other, he must ignore Saunders when Saunders says the boat immigrants are only a fraction of the total immigrants. So, he can’t quote that annoying fact, and must leave it out.

Frum anticipates that some people will object that the immigrants are refugees. In fact, Saunders says that some are exactly that, that the Syrians are fleeing. So Frum can’t quote that part, because it conflicts with his narrative.

But wait! Saunders says that the Africans involved aren’t refugees. That’s perfect! Frum can use that, so long as he can artfully quote Saunders in such a way as to make it seem that Saunders is talking about all the immigrants. So, a snip here, a tuck there, some ellipses, and voila: Frum borrows Saunders’ credibility in support for his own views, even though those views are contradicted by what Saunders actually says: If assimilation is a problem, the boat people are the smallest part of the problem; a large portion of the boat people are genuinely refugees; and the economic migrants can best be addressed by more legal economic immigration pathways and cooperation and funding to source countries.

Now, if you want to see something else here, that’s your right, but it looks damned silly to me. It may help you to understand that Frum is actually writing a prescription for the U.S. border policies here, in the guise of writing about Europe.

59

Val 07.30.15 at 9:50 pm

As people have said, there is a ongoing debate in Australia. I was reading about this on another blog and a reader linked to the Greens policy http://greens.org.au/safer-pathways (includes a PDF at the bottom which has a bit more detail)

It’s worth reading. It’s a sensible start, based on evidence, and some ideas in it also appear relevant to the Mediterranean situation.

Australia’s current policies are vile and have been for a long time, although they have got steadily worse.

60

Layman 07.30.15 at 10:47 pm

Bloix @ 55

” Frum’s quotes are accurate. He abides by journalistic conventions regarding use of quotation marks and ellipses.”

I’m reminded of many examples. Here’s one. Once upon a time, Obama said this:

“There are a lot of wealthy, successful Americans who agree with me – because they want to give something back. They know they didn’t – look, if you’ve been successful, you didn’t get there on your own. You didn’t get there on your own. I’m always struck by people who think, well, it must be because I was just so smart. There are a lot of smart people out there. It must be because I worked harder than everybody else. Let me tell you something – there are a whole bunch of hardworking people out there.

“If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help. There was a great teacher somewhere in your life. Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive. Somebody invested in roads and bridges. If you’ve got a business – you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen. The Internet didn’t get invented on its own. Government research created the Internet so that all the companies could make money off the Internet.

“The point is, is that when we succeed, we succeed because of our individual initiative, but also because we do things together. There are some things, just like fighting fires, we don’t do on our own. I mean, imagine if everybody had their own fire service. That would be a hard way to organize fighting fires.”

In response, a number of people took to quoting Obama, as you say accurately, like this:

“If you’ve got a business – you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen.”

They, as you say, abided by journalistic conventions regarding the use of quotation marks and ellipses, and used the quote to imply Obama meant something different than is clear from the fuller context. In your view, was this dishonest?

61

thehersch 07.30.15 at 11:05 pm

This is why Saunders is important to Frum. He shows that migrants don’t think that they will die if they don’t get to Europe. He shows that African migrants don’t. He shows that Syrian migrants don’t.

Do you actually not recognize that what you’re doing is simply restating Frum’s dishonesty? Saunders, who calls the Syrians “refugees”, not “migrants”, does not show or state any such thing about the Syrians, in the article in question. To manipulate his article with misleading quotation to make it appear he does, which is Frum’s procedure, or merely to assert that he shows something that he doesn’t even address, as you do, are both dishonest, or the product of more intellectual disability than I imagine either you or Frum suffers from.

62

bekabot 07.31.15 at 2:27 am

1. It’s moderately bad form to deplore the results of war if you’re invested in promoting war, and

2. It’s even worse form to ignore the results of war if {see above}.

Every time I start to think better of David Frum, he says or writes something which puts me straight tout de suite.

63

Gzoref 07.31.15 at 3:07 am

Layman, you say: “[Frum] was an Iraq-war and Bush administration critic and has been critical of the neoconservative foreign policy agenda…”

While he is now a critic of the conservatives and Republicans in the early 2000s he was actually a Bush speechwriter during the run-up to the Iraq War.
He may now say that he is against the war, but he certainly was’t at the time. In fact, he claims to have coined the term “Axis of Evil.”

64

Lynn Gazis-Sax 07.31.15 at 3:11 am

Let me get this straight. Bloix’s argument is that it’s fair for Frum to say that refugees should be turned away from all but the nearest country they can flee to, because Syrian refugees are economic migrants the moment that they leave the first country where they arrived? This implies that Frum’s argument is that it makes both ethical and pragmatic sense, in the event of a humanitarian crisis caused by civil war, that the country closest to the conflict be fully obliged to welcome refugees and bear all burdens associated with that welcome, while any countries further away bear no responsibility at all.

I have trouble believing that this is the way UN protocols about refugees work, but let’s set that aside, because I am not a lawyer. Let’s just apply common sense to this proposed immigration ethic.

Let’s see. Can you think of a country in Europe to which Syrian refugees are currently flooding, that’s closer geographically to the conflict than the rest of Europe? That would be Greece. The same country that’s currently just seen its economy plummet again due to its banks being closed for weeks. The same country whose third largest political party, sadly, is the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party, whose leaders currently face trial for orchestrating violent attacks on immigrants. Saying that Greece should bear all the burdens of assisting these Syrian refugees while the rest of Europe helps not a jot would make sense why, exactly?

But wait, you may say. David Frum isn’t making this argument. The refugees that came into Greece got there from Turkey. Therefore, they were economic migrants the moment they had made it safely to Turkey. OK, this version of the argument lets Greece off the hook, but only by transferring to Turkey the special “you must care for all these refugees on your own, because you’re the country that happened to be next door” burden. That would be the country that is currently housing 1.6 million Syrian refugees, providing them with food and medical care, with scant international assistance: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/nov/20/amnesty-report-desperate-plight-syrian-refugees-turkey

But this solution only works if Turkey, unusually noble among countries, lacks its own David Frums. This turns out, no surprise, not to be the case (from the Guardian article):

“According to the report, only 28% of the $497m earmarked for Turkey in the UN’s 2014 regional funding appeal for Syrians has been committed by international donors. “In September 2014, Turkey received some 130,000 refugees from Syria, more than the entire European Union had in the past three years,” the report states.

“Amnesty pointed out that the rising tension in Turkey and the unwillingness to accept more Syrian refugees resulting in violence at the border was in part due to the lack of a concerted international effort to find a more sustainable solution to the crisis.”

While it’s true that, practically, a lot of that international assistance may need to take the form of providing assistance to refugees in the places to which they first flee, as most of them probably hope to be able to return home rather than scattering around the world, it hardly makes sense to say that all countries that aren’t right next door should feel free to refuse refugees from civil war. And I also think Frum’s account of how good the international community has gotten at assisting refugees could use some correction from the Amnesty International report on the Syrian refugee situation in Turkey.

65

ZM 07.31.15 at 4:16 am

Bloix,

“We should be concerned with more than people drowning. We should be concerned with stunted and ruined lives. But if we are going to argue that PEOPLE ARE DROWNING (all caps) as a reason to let migrants into Europe, then we’d better be sure that policing will not save people from drowning, because that is the implicit argument.”

There was a book published last year in Australia “The Drownings Argument” that criticised excusing harsh treatment of refugees by pretending to be concerned about people drowning.

It has been terrible when there have been people drowned at sea, and no one would argue with that, but the government are really not genuinely concerned about the welfare of refugees as you can see by the harsh treatment of refugees and the bad conditions at detention centres and so on. And if the government was really primarily concerned with preventing drownings rather than Stopping The Boats! they could send the navy to guide any boats safely to Australia, but they don’t order the navy to do that at all, and the navy doesn’t even like to be involved in turning back the boats as it is not honourable.

“The pamphlet’s introduction states, “We see the current debate being derailed by the cruel and duplicitous ‘drownings’ argument falsely dressed up as a humanitarian response.”

Julian Burnside rightly points out that, “It opens the way to mistreat asylum seekers who have not drowned, and helps them pursue the darker purpose of keeping refugees out”. He usefully outlines how deterrence has gone through three phases since 2001: the “illegals” argument under Howard; Rudd’s demonisation of people smugglers from 2009; and the “stopping deaths at sea” argument since the Christmas Island crash tragedy in December 2010.”

Anyway, the proper thing is for global and regional conferences to work out temporary and permanent resettlement programs for the 50 million people. I read that Ban Ki-moon said the refugee issue is part of the development issue, so as he was a refugee in the Korean war maybe he can call some UN conferences as the slap-dash unorganised present approach is not working at all.

66

Layman 07.31.15 at 12:58 pm

“While he is now a critic of the conservatives and Republicans in the early 2000s he was actually a Bush speechwriter during the run-up to the Iraq War.
He may now say that he is against the war, but he certainly was’t at the time. In fact, he claims to have coined the term “Axis of Evil.”

Yes, these things are true, as noted elsewhere in the thread.

67

FredR 07.31.15 at 2:11 pm

Bloix killing it in this thread…

68

Bruce Wilder 07.31.15 at 3:08 pm

Bloix’s performance has been remarkable and ought to be acknowledged.

69

Marshall 07.31.15 at 3:41 pm

Let us not lose sight that the best most sustainable solution is to provide a decent political and economic environment in their place of origin. Which we … nobody in particular but human society in general … does pretty well for typhoons, earthquakes and suchlike, but spectacularly not for cancers like the Middle East. Which if we don’t do better soon will be the ruination of us all yet.

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Stephen 07.31.15 at 5:40 pm

Marshall@69: when you say “cancers like the Middle East” I think you may be ignoring that, according to many people, the migrants trying to get across the Mediterranean are not mostly from the ME but from sub-Saharan Africa.

Now, I can see that describing Africa as “a cancer” would not go down well on CT (nor with me). Equally, I can see that blaming Africa’s troubles on the Axis of Evil, aka US + UK + Israel, is unlikely to go down well either. So …?

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TM 07.31.15 at 8:04 pm

I keep wondering about this:

“The most insidious notion is the one that holds that the Africans on the boats are starving villagers escaping famine and death. In fact, every boat person I’ve met has been ambitious, urban, educated, and, if not middle-class (though a surprising number are, as are an even larger number of Syrian refugees), then far from subsistence peasantry.”

Why does Saunders call this an “insidious” notion? Of course it is true that people who are acutely starving rarely make it to Europe. Of course it is true that the poorest, most desperate refugees mostly end up in neighboring countries that are themselves poor and unstable. Only those refugees with some resources are able to get to (or even attempt the journey to) Europe (or US or Australia). They also tend to be the best educated, most entrepreneurial (ambitious as Saunders says). That state of affairs in itself contributes to the enormous international inequity, the insidiousness of the refugee situation (as pointed out by Lynn in 64). Millions of refugees worldwide are hosted in regions or countries that are themselves too poor to provide for them, whereas the few thousand refugees lucky enough to reach richer countries are prevented from arriving or staying, greeted with hostility, and turned into political fodder for right-wing propaganda. The rich countries do much, much less than many poorer ones to help refugees yet they complain of the “burden” these refugees allegedly pose. The rhetoric is sickening and the actual administrative practice even more so – it is profoundly inhuman and doesn’t even remotely comply with the minimal promises made in the Geneva Conventions. All of that is insidious. Now why does Saunders say it’s insidious to regard refugees as desperate people escaping starvation and death? They are desperate enough to risk everything they have, including their lives. You don’t do that for no good reason.

Maybe Saunders thinks that he is countering a rhetoric that portrays the refugees as beggars to be fed. No, he says, they are not useless eaters, they are educated and ambitious! They will work hard and create economic growth, so we shouldn’t be so harsh on them! (I don’t know if he says that but it seems to be the implication)

If that is what Saunders is trying to get at, I am highly skeptical. He should hardly be surprised at being quoted by the likes of Frum, arguing that refugees are really just economic migrants who don’t need help at all. Again, you don’t risk your life without an urgent reason, and the fact that boat refugees are not the most desperate among the refugees, because those would never get close to the European Fortress, doesn’t really make things any better.

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Working Class Nero 07.31.15 at 9:04 pm

Great job Bloix — I am in awe…

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thehersch 08.01.15 at 1:31 am

TM, you seem to confess in your comments that you haven’t read Saunders’s article, and that your thoughts about what it might say or mean are speculation. Why not just read it? It’s linked in the original post, and it’s not terribly long.

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TM 08.02.15 at 3:45 am

Sigh.

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