Writing numbers on refugees’ arms, are you f’ing kidding me?

by Eszter Hargittai on September 3, 2015

If Hungary can forget after 25 years why a fence on its border is shameful, disgraceful, and disgusting then I guess we shouldn’t be surprised that the Czech police may forget after 70 years that marking people with numbers on their arms for identification purposes is, well, not something that should be happening. Seriously, WTF.

If you’ve been living under a rock or focusing on US media/most Americans’ FB feeds, you may not even know what’s really going on. This Human Rights Watch piece gives a helpful overview. It also points out why things as they stand don’t work.

Worth noting is this piece from Al Jazeera that makes a very good case for why commentators, very much including the mainstream media, should not be talking about refugees as though they were migrants. They are refugees escaping inexplicable circumstances and we owe them the respect to acknowledge that when we discuss their plight.

It boggles the mind that some people, or in certain cases many people, cannot sympathize with these refugees and have nothing but hatred toward them. Is it history education that has completely failed us? Where is people’s compassion? The source of significant current problems is ISIS, hardly a group with which many in Europe would sympathize. So why is it so hard for people to appreciate that these refugees need help? I guess then it is not surprising that people can’t go the extra step to recognize the potential benefits of welcoming these refugees even if they can’t get on board with the humanitarian need.

There are exceptions, fortunately. Several thousand in Iceland have petitioned their government to take in more Syrian refugees. They get it. Refugees have the potential to contribute significantly to any society. From their letter:


Refugees are our future spouses, best friends, or soulmates, the drummer for the band of our children, our next colleague, Miss Iceland in 2022, the carpenter who finally finished the bathroom, the cook in the cafeteria, the fireman, the computer genius, or the television host.

And to be sure, there are also many volunteers who are helping out on the ground across Europe. This piece has concrete suggestions for how you can help even from afar.

Images, of course, often tell the story better than words. I recommend Budapest seen on Facebook for photographs that do a great job capturing the humanity of the situation, the innocence of the children, and the brutality of the circumstances.

And one more important observation:


{ 199 comments }

1

js. 09.03.15 at 2:15 am

Thanks for this. Really.

2

ZM 09.03.15 at 2:40 am

Thank you Eszter.

Our local refugee support group here made a submission to the Labor party platform that they should offer to host a global UN summit on the refugee crisis.

I don’t know how to get more support for a global summit to start a process that can resettle the high numbers of refugees though.

Two public intellectuals here on the left Father Frank Brennan and Robert Manne have recently moved to support the bi-partisan strategy of “stopping the boats” here in Australia which is a worry.

As it took until 1968 to resettle all the refugees from WW2 there needs to be a global approach to the current crisis, as unlike in the aftermath of WW2 we are looking at refugee and displaced persons numbers continuing to increase due to climate change, with experts predicting 200-250 million people will be displaced by 2050 due to climate change.

We sing a song in choir about an island in Europe welcoming 700 refugees

http://youtu.be/G_kZN4QNbPI

3

ZM 09.03.15 at 3:22 am

“then I guess we shouldn’t be surprised that the Czech police may forget after 70 years that marking people with numbers on their arms for identification purposes is, well, not something that should be happening. Seriously, WTF.”

The asylum seekers in detention in Christmas Island, Nauru, and Manus Island are identified by numbers as well. A local woman Janet Galbraith organised an exhibition earlier this year called Our Beautiful Names of art and poetry by people who are or had been in detention, called that in protest against people being identified as numbers. She has an online writing group with people in detention called Writing Through The Fences.

4

rootlesscosmo 09.03.15 at 3:39 am

I can’t be the only one who connects this with the repellent Chris Christie’s proposal that immigrants should be traceable in the same way as FedEx shipments, can I? My first thought was “South African passbook system” but this seems to be one of those rotten ideas that occur independently to rotten bastards of every stripe and nationality.

5

Eszter Hargittai 09.03.15 at 3:46 am

ZM, thanks for that song. I agree that it is very much a global issue. Anyone who thinks otherwise is rather naive.

Rootlesscosmo, a friend on my FB feed made that connection as well. Indeed, crazy doesn’t seem to be limited to any particular background.

6

lurker 09.03.15 at 5:17 am

‘The source of significant current problems is ISIS, hardly a group with which many in Europe would sympathize. So why is it so hard for people to appreciate that these refugees need help? ‘ (Eszter)
I’d say the source of most current problem is the western governments who set out to remake Middle East and succeeded.

7

ZM 09.03.15 at 6:46 am

The current problems are said by military experts to be the first climate change conflicts. This is due to the failure of crops due to drought, particularly Russian crops, so Russia stopped exports which drove up international prices, and food inflation in the Middle East interacted with and exacerbated existing social and political tensions and led to the Tunisian Revolution and Arab Spring which destabilised the region.

8

maidhc 09.03.15 at 8:37 am

Assigning numbers to people is basically a requirement if you are going to process a large number of people. Names are nice, but they are not unique, and processing people by name can lead to all kinds of confusion.

All of us who live in the developed world are processed by numbers: driver’s license number, taxpayer ID number, credit card number, ATM card number and so forth. If refugees come into our system, they are going to be given numbers also.

Putting numbers on people’s arms is a bit tone-deaf, but issuing them some kind of ID card is a mechanism to bring them into the refugee-processing system. You can argue about how adequate the system is for doing its task, but at a minimum it is necessary to know how many people are in the system and where they are.

I guess there’s kind of an argument that all decisions should be made by local officials with no knowledge of the overall situation. That’s kind of the way the WWII refugees were handled, because there was no system for processing all the data. There was kind of a system, but it was overwhelmed by the number of people. That allowed, for example, the Vatican ratlines that ran many Axis war criminals out to South America.

9

Manta 09.03.15 at 9:14 am

About al Jazeera piece

1) on what basis it claims that the term migrant is “tool that dehumanises and distances, a blunt pejorative”?

2) Even if we grant 1), how changing to “refugees” would solve anything: many people hate migrants; change the term to refugees and they will hate refugees

What’s in a name? that which we call a rose. By any other name would smell as sweet

It’s quite true that there is a dehumanization in the way the media portray the various disasters, though.

10

praisegod barebones 09.03.15 at 10:51 am

Manta@9
‘What’s in a name? that which we call a rose. By any other name would smell as sweet’

Similarly, it’s hard to explain the peculiar vogue, among writers at all positions on the political spectrum, for distinguishing between ‘soldiers’, ‘terrorists’, and ‘murderers’, when they are all in fact ‘killers’ (though they obviously have different reasons and justifications for their killing some of which we may approve of, and some not.)

Contextual note: I’m a(n economic) migrant, and (very fortunately for me), not a refugeee. You may wish to draw on your knowledge of this fact when assessing the intended force of my remark.

11

praisegod barebones 09.03.15 at 10:53 am

More on the non-neutrality of the term ‘migrant’, by the excellent Jenny Saul:

http://www.newstatesman.com/politics/staggers/2015/09/i-am-immigrant

12

Manta 09.03.15 at 11:11 am

I didn’t realize it was a competition to who has the background most fitting for discussion, barebones, otherwise I would have mentioned that I am also an economic migrant, and still don’t find anything the term “a tool that dehumanises and distances, a blunt pejorative”.

13

Chris Bertram 09.03.15 at 11:11 am

There’s some horrific stuff on @jamesmatesitv Twitter feed on developments in Hungary today.

On the terminology issue. I thought Judith Vonberg at Migrants Rights Network was good:

http://www.migrantsrights.org.uk/migration-pulse/2015/al-jazeera-will-not-say-mediterranean-migrants-we-should

14

praisegod barebones 09.03.15 at 12:22 pm

Manta@11

‘I didn’t realize it was a competition to who has the background most fitting for discussion’

Who said it was? If that’s the only purpose you can imagine for my mentioning it in the context of that particular comment, you’re rather lacking in imagination. Try again, perhaps.

My point was rather that even if there’s nothing wrong with the word itself (I agree with you – I don’t think I’m dehumanising myself by applying it to myself), there is something problematic about applying it to refugees, just as there would be about insisting on using only the word killers when talking about soldiers.

I included the fact that I’m a migrant in the hope of pointing people towards this interpretation oif what i was saying, rather than other potentially thread-jacking ones (such as the claim that there’s no significant difference between war and murder.)

Chris: I’ve been uncomfortable with the suggestion that I’ve seen in a few places that we should avoid the word ‘migrant’ altogether, not least because there are people to whom it is entirely appropriately applied (eg me and, by his own account Manta).

I can also see that there will be cases where it’s hard to distinguish (economic) migrants from political refugees as Vonberg points out, and that this is important.

Still, I think there are reasons for insisting on ‘refugee’ rather than ‘migrant’ in this particular debate. Someone doesn’t (normally) deserves compassion simply in virtue of being an economic migrant, in the way that they (normally) do simply in virtue of being a refugee. Being an economic migrant – at least under the UN’s definition (unless I’ve misread it) – seems to be compatible with being quite comfortably off. (Instance: myself and, I hope Manta, together with quite a lot of the FP writers on this site.) I also think that part of the point of using ‘migrant’ rather than ‘refugee’ is to undermine the presumption of compassion in their favour, and this is something we should push back on.

If so, there seems to be good reason to describe the people who are at the centre of the current debate as ‘refugees’ rather than ‘migrants’. (And I think that’s what the point of the Al-Jazeera article was)

I think that’s all compatible with thinking that there are many economic migrants – including those who are most frequently identified as such in public discourse – who do deserve our compassion, in virtue of the situations that have made them economic migrants, and we should be very careful about the ways in which public discourse around them develops too. (I think that one way of doing so is to ue ‘economic migrant’ in contexts where people have tended to use ‘expatriate.)

15

hix 09.03.15 at 12:49 pm

The neutral term would be asylum seekers id think. Thats what the debate is about for a start. Pretending they are all civil war refugees is just as unrealistic as pretending they are all economic migrants. I also tend to think the often not very warm welcome does not depend much on that distinction.

16

oldster 09.03.15 at 3:12 pm

Some people seem to interpret “never again” as a claim about the non-repeatability of historical particulars. I can never have last night’s hamburger again–that exact collection of beef-bits and mustard-molecules, cooked at that time and place. The Holocaust? Those very people, at those particular times and places? It can never happen again, either!

Of course, something very, very similar to it might happen in the future. But it won’t be *that* historical particular! Never again!

17

Nick 09.03.15 at 3:14 pm

This picture is on the front page of the major Canadian newspapers — it made me cry, and I’m surprised that no American blogs I’ve seen have mentioned it. Of course it’s not an analysis, and we all know this is going on, but still.

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/globe-debate/editorials/migrant-crisis-no-europe-is-facing-a-moral-crisis/article26199551/

18

TM 09.03.15 at 3:14 pm

ZM 7: I strongly recommend Juan Cole on the role of climate change in the Syria crisis:
http://www.thenation.com/article/did-isil-arise-partly-because-of-climate-change/

Regarding Russia, I’m not up to date on the drought situation there, do you have references?

19

TM 09.03.15 at 3:20 pm

8: “That’s kind of the way the WWII refugees were handled, because there was no system for processing all the data.”

I thought the problem wasn’t so much the lack of a data processing system, as the lack of good will for helping people in dire need. Or maybe I’m getting you wrong.

20

bob mcmanus 09.03.15 at 3:22 pm

18: The Cole link why I am more pessimistic than most on climate change, and why I think it will get bad much earlier than most people imagine.

The geopolitical and economic effects will precede (almost invisibly, as with this refugee problem) the worst climatic effects by decades, and probably, without radical effort, turn most political regimes toward the Right.

21

David 09.03.15 at 3:30 pm

Refugees are one thing, migrants are another. A number of us here (including me) are migrants, because we left our country of birth for another we preferred, and did so for any number of reasons. The people who were collecting the rubbish outside a few minutes ago are also migrants, come from West Africa for a better life here. Migrants generally make a reasonably free choice and want to stay. Refugees are, by definition, seeking refuge from something, and often do so only temporarily. All the research suggests, for example, that very few of the three million Syrian refugees in Lebanon and Jordan want to migrate to those countries. They will go home as soon as its safe to do so.
So the question is one of facts and definitions, and it’s wrong to describe refugees as migrants just as it’s wrong to describe migrants as refugees. Neither word is pejorative unless it’s wrongly applied, but the terms are tossed around so loosely that they are losing all meaning. Mass migration into Europe from certain parts of the world poses problems which have to be addressed. Refugees, usually but not always from other parts of the world, pose different questions that have to be addressed.
Incidentally, ISIS is less the cause of “current problems” than it is a symptom, and I do hope public opinion is not being softened up now for another ghastly humanitarian war (“bomb ISIS, solve the refugee problem”).
And for what it’s worth, as several people have pointed out, putting numbers on people is about the only feasible option, even if historical analogies make people feel uncomfortable. if you are dealing with large numbers of people who don’t speak your language, can’t read your script, and have probably lost whatever identity papers they had, but whom you need to keep track of, what’s the other clever practical solution?

22

bjk 09.03.15 at 3:45 pm

This post consists entirely of attacking other people for not doing enough. Maybe some people in the comments can post about the sacrifices they have personally made. It would serve as an example. Post pictures of the refugees you have taken into your home.

23

Lynne 09.03.15 at 3:56 pm

Nick, that picture is very hard to look at. The toddler could have been one of mine, is what crossed my mind when I saw it. And it turns out his five-year-old brother died on the boat; and the boy’s family had applied to come to Canada, and been refused.

I would have my country welcome as many of these refugees as we could. Harper pledged to bring 10,000 here by 2017 but now admits he is behind schedule, but no numbers are available….I hardly recognize my country’s government any more.

24

Scott Martens 09.03.15 at 4:14 pm

It does feel a little weird to feel proud of Germany and Angela Merkel for doing the right thing.

I am trying to understand the logistics of this: Merkel suspended the Dublin rules for Syrian refugees. This means that all the Hungarians or the Czechs have to do with anyone claiming to be Syrian is put them on the next train or bus to Munich and walk away. This is also what most of the refugees actually want. This is surely easier and cheaper than building fences, blocking train stations, and generally being crappy.

So why are they doing this? Is there some weird obligation going on here that I’m not seeing reported? If Germany can suspend the Dublin rules to take refugees in, surely the Hungarians can’t find it that hard to suspend them so that they can send the refugees to Germany? I haven’t got a lot of sympathy for “I don’t want those kinds of people in my country” attitudes, but I have some sympathy for “you can’t expect a poor country in a recession to suddenly handle a humanitarian emergency like this without help”. The refugees don’t want to be in Prague or Budapest, they want to be in Munich. The German government is willing to have them in Munich. Is this really such a hard problem?

25

Tyrone Slothrop 09.03.15 at 4:14 pm

According to what I’ve read, Canada has, as of this date, settled some 2, 300 Syrian refugees out of the promised total of 10,000—though, IIRC, around 55% of these represent claimants whom Canada made committments to in 2013. If re-elected, Harper has promised to accept a further 10,000 (from persecuted religious minorities in Iraq and Syria) in addition to the 7,700 who remain to be settled in fulfillment of the existing pledge.

26

Scott Martens 09.03.15 at 4:20 pm

WRT, “migrant” and “refugee”… I have some problems with this analysis of the distinction.

Hurricane wipes out my apartment on the Gulf Coast and leaves my employer with no work for me for months. I decide to say, “Screw it, I’ll just go to LA and get a job there.” Am I a refugee or a migrant or neither? People move around for a lot of reasons, and no one thinks to label them on that basis until it becomes a legal issue. No, I think the Al Jazeera article has it half wrong: It’s offensive to call someone a migrant because it *is* pejorative, and in Europe it is almost constantly used in a pejorative sense.

I am not a migrant. I am a professional engaged in my trade and legally resident and employed where I am. That the country I am in is neither the one I was born in, nor one I have citizenship in, nor one that I especially identify with, is irrelevant. And I am not an “immigrant”. An immigrant is expected to perform some vaguely defined and never really feasible act of “assimilation”. I don’t assimilate, and why would I want to? When the reasons I have for being where I am stop being good reasons, I will go be somewhere else.

I tolerate “expat”, or “émigré”, and while I prefer “post-modern technomad”, I do understand why others might not use that label.

A refugee is a person who doesn’t want to be somewhere, and is trying to be somewhere else. So are a lot of people who aren’t refugees. What makes them different is *why* they don’t want to be where they were, and what will likely happen to them if they don’t go somewhere else. I don’t see that the questions for the people in the places they go to are hugely different. But then, I’m biased: I think that if people don’t want to be where they are, they should be free to go be somewhere else. I’ve always acted as if that was true, and I think it would be very hypocritical of me to deny to others what I’ve always taken as my right.

27

kidneystones 09.03.15 at 4:23 pm

@22 You make a fair point. Even if we accept that there are many ways of helping others, communities in Greece, Italy, Macedonia, Hungary, and the Czech Republic aren’t being given much of a choice about how many people from other communities they should feed, clothe, and care for. I’m frankly surprised there hasn’t been more anti-migrant violence and conflict. Banking on the inexhaustible good will of these communities seems most unwise. Criticizing those on the front lines for the manner in which they identify the people they are prepared to feed and clothe, at least temporarily, strikes me as venal and stupid. We won’t be sending any checks this week, but we have in the past, and that’s always an option. Closer to home, local food banks and volunteer organizations are always looking for support. I’m aware that this sort of volunteer activity is not completely foreign for some/many in the CT community.

28

TM 09.03.15 at 4:29 pm

24: My guess would be that many people in Germany and elsewhere have been ashamed of what’s been going on. I’m referring to people drowning by the hundreds, dozens of decomposing bodies found in a truck at the border, and arson attacks on refugee shelters. Apparently not everybody wants to be complicit in that. Plus, it doesn’t look good and the world is watching.

29

TM 09.03.15 at 4:31 pm

Btw, German mainstream media are referring to Fluechtlinge, refugees.

30

Map Maker 09.03.15 at 4:47 pm

Well, I bet a lot of European politicians are regretting their decision not to admit Turkey into the EU. Had they done that, the migrant problem wouldn’t have been Hungary and Greece’s problem, it would have been Turkey’s. And they would have an incentive to handle it better than the are now.

31

TM 09.03.15 at 5:12 pm

Turkey does host almost 2 million Syrian refugees, far more than have ever reached the EU. Member or not (Turkey is actually an associate member), it seems a no-brainer that the EU should help Turkey deal with the crisis. Of course, Turkey itself isn’t just an innocent bystander in the Syrian crisis.

Also, there has been no decision not to admit Turkey.

32

Trader Joe 09.03.15 at 6:17 pm

@26 and elsewhere

I thought the migrant vs. refugee distinction was more legalistic than moral. Countries are obliged to take in and shelter refugees, they may use their various immigration policies to admit/reject migrants. Calling these people migrants gives an excuse for not admitting them. Once you give them refugee status (as Germany has apparently done) you’re obliged to help.

The reporting seems to like to use the terms as synonyms, but regardless of any pejorative context, the two are decidedly different.

As for the numbering, I can’t say I like it, but as someone noted up-thread, an obvious alternative doesn’t come to mind particularly given the probable language challenges. At least a sharpie is better than a tattoo…

33

Layman 09.03.15 at 6:42 pm

Scott Martens @ 24

I asked the same thing: Why doesn’t Hungary just helps these people in their way to Germany? I haven’t seen a satisfactory answer. The closest is this: As I understand it, requests for asylum have to be made in the country in which you are first registered. If these people are allowed to go on to Germany, without registering first in Hungary, they will be registered in Germany, apply in Germany, and it seems far more likely they’ll ultimately be granted the right to stay in Europe by Germany. Hungarian policy-makers don’t want that, and are trying to enforce registration in Hungary, so that they have a say in future applications for asylum. That seems remarkably petty to me – is it possible that’s the motivation?

34

hix 09.03.15 at 7:09 pm

If they apply in germany they should be sent back to hungary if they are honest about their route id expect. The Dublin rules are a pretty convenient dodge for Germany with the current eu geography. Note you also cant go to the german embassy to get asylum, technically one would have to enter germany as the first eu country to get asylum in germany. ( about hum 70 % sure here) Its rather implausible to think anything would be easier in terms of dodging asylum seekers in pr actical terms if turkey were an eu member and in general the utilitarian case for turkish membership is rather weak.

35

Igor Belanov 09.03.15 at 7:10 pm

I feel that to try and make too much of a distinction between ‘migrants’ and ‘refugees’ would be a grave mistake. For one thing, it is very difficult to decide in the midst of a humanitarian crisis who is coming to Europe to escape persecution and who is looking for a ‘better life’, and often the reasoning is a bit of both. It is also tricky to try and sift through people who want to stay in Europe for good and those who eventually want to return to their ‘homes’. The argument that these people are all refugees also is vulnerable to the type of argument beloved of the inhumane British government that they should stay in the nearest ‘safe country’. (The British government is trying to milk the fact that it has given more aid to refugees in Lebanon/Turkey/Jordan than other EU countries in an attempt to save face. This overlooks the fact that it is doing so in order to try and keep them as far away from Britain as possible).

Ultimately the Syrian issue has temporarily diverted attention from the situation as a whole. There are still a lot of African migrants arriving across the Mediterranean- are they to be rounded up and sent back? In the end the peoples and governments of Europe will have to accept that no-one is illegal. The last few months have shown that there is little to stop people migrating to Europe if they are really set on doing it. This will have to force European countries into some kind of solution, even if morality doesn’t.

36

hix 09.03.15 at 7:13 pm

Its obv easier to suspend a rule that causes solely cost for oneself, since no one will sue or complain otherwise about it.

37

TM 09.03.15 at 7:16 pm

“Once you give them refugee status (as Germany has apparently done) you’re obliged to help.”

It’s far too early to say that. Germany does have an obligation to help (food, shelter) anybody asking for asylum but not to let them stay. Whether they have a right to stay under German law depends on a lengthy administrative process. Germany sometimes does give groups of refugees temporary asylum. They could administratively decide that Syrian refugees can stay until their return is deemed safe. Refugees are not supposed to be deported to war zones anyway. The crux of course is that according to EU rules, which Germany worked hard to push through, the responsibility to deal with refugees is on the country of first contact. It appears that Merkel loosened or suspended that principle and Hungary doesn’t like it but I too am mystified what exactly Orban is objecting to (http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-34136823).

Something less depressing: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-34130639

38

David 09.03.15 at 7:19 pm

@TM. I don’t think Turkey will be in the EU any time soon, if ever, for complicated EU internal political reasons. But it’s true they have hosted large numbers of refugees. As has Lebanon, which hosts something between one and two million refugees in a country of four million people with plenty of problems of its own. This has brought about not only an unprecedented humanitarian problem and terrible pressure on health and education services, but also rising crime and insecurity as Syrian organised crime intelligently makes use of the influx to expand over the border. I do wish people were a little bit more conscious of just how much Syria’s neighbours are actually doing and suffering, since that’s where the vast majority of the refugees are always going to be.
And I do mean refugees here, because the distinction is not primarily a technical one. A migrant says “I want to go to X” and when they arrive they are in principle happy. A refugee says “I am fleeing from Y” and is happy when they leave, but hopes one day to return. Obviously there are ambiguities and overlaps, but you can’t intelligently deal with problems such as we are now facing unless you keep simple distinctions like this in mind. It’s true that “migrant” can be a pejorative term, but this is as much as anything because the nature of migration itself has changed, and continues to do so, posing new sorts of problems all the time.

39

TM 09.03.15 at 7:49 pm

“I do wish people were a little bit more conscious of just how much Syria’s neighbours are actually doing and suffering, since that’s where the vast majority of the refugees are always going to be.”
Absolutely.

40

TM 09.03.15 at 7:50 pm

BBC Update (http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-34142512):

In Brussels, Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban described the situation as a “German problem” as Germany was where those arriving in the EU “would like to go”. But European Council President Donald Tusk said at least 100,000 [sic! not millions] refugees should be distributed across EU states.

In other developments on Thursday:

* France and Germany repeated calls for a permanent and mandatory system to accept asylum seekers into the EU
* Czech police said they would stop writing numbers on migrants’ hands after criticism from human rights groups
* Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan accused European nations of turning the Mediterranean into a “cemetery for refugees”
* Bayern Munich football club said it would set up a training camp for refugees coming into Germany

The human cost of the crisis was put into sharp focus on Wednesday when five children were among 12 migrants who drowned in Turkish waters while trying to reach Greece. Images of the washed-up body of three-year-old Alan Kurdi, who died alongside his mother and five-year-old brother, circulated widely on social media.

41

TM 09.03.15 at 7:51 pm

Statement by European Council President Donald Tusk:

If leaders do not demonstrate good will, solidarity will become an empty slogan and will be replaced by political blackmail, divisions and a new blame game.

42

Marshall 09.03.15 at 7:53 pm

“Migrant” was a bad word in the ’30’s. … http://musicfromthedepression.com/how-can-you-keep-on-moving. This is a reminder that the American experience has not been completely pleasing and underscores the ambiguity between economic and political displaced people, as we used to call them. Also to second mcmanus’ observation about our future under climate change.

I also don’t understand why Hungary wants to prevent people from leaving unless they’re just being [bad word]. I saw a quote from an on-site military person that indicated he didn’t understand either.

43

Stephen 09.03.15 at 8:20 pm

praisegod barebones @10: “it’s hard to explain the peculiar vogue, among writers at all positions on the political spectrum, for distinguishing between ‘soldiers’, ‘terrorists’, and ‘murderers’, when they are all in fact ‘killers’.

Somehow I suspect you have no knowledge of the Northern Irish troubles (though if you wanted to argue that a small proportion of soldiers were killers, I wouldn’t disagree).

44

adam.smith 09.03.15 at 8:22 pm

@hix — unless I’m completely misunderstanding you, you seem to be missing the fact that Germany has dropped the Dublin regulations, which is the background of Scott & Layman’s question of “why does Hungary care, then?” (to which I don’t have a real answer, either).
See http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/germany/11821822/Germany-drops-EU-rules-to-allow-in-Syrian-refugees.html e.g.

45

Stephen 09.03.15 at 8:26 pm

Igor Belanov @45: “In the end the peoples and governments of Europe will have to accept that no-one is illegal.”

Great. So the governments (democratically elected) and peoples (hey, but what do they matter) of Europe will have to accept the diktat of the great Igor Belanov.

Somehow, I doubt that will happen, without the great Igor Belanov (and whose army?) being able to enforce it.

If your argument is that there should be no state borders: could you be more specific?

46

Ronan(rf) 09.03.15 at 8:30 pm

My assumption was Hungary’s behaviour can be explained by (1) trying to disincentivize migrants from using Hungary as a transit point by making life as difficult as possible (2) an ideological opposition to (particularly Muslim ) migration to Europe (not just Hungary), and (3) fidez playing to their base
Admittedly I know nought about Hungarian politics, so am probably wrong

47

Abbe Faria 09.03.15 at 8:38 pm

“Worth noting is this piece from Al Jazeera that makes a very good case for why commentators, very much including the mainstream media, should not be talking about refugees as though they were migrants. They are refugees escaping inexplicable circumstances…”

More great stuff from Al Jazeera on the importance of appropriate language use about this “inexplicable” conflict below:

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dWchMZfUkMQ&w=560&h=315%5D

48

TM 09.03.15 at 8:43 pm

46: (1) seems to make sense (in that particular logic).

49

Abbe Faria 09.03.15 at 8:52 pm

My understanding is Hungary (and that region of Europe in general) has few Muslims, but a very dramatic historical narrative regarding the Turk. I mean, Vlad the Impaler is literally a national hero in that part of the world – you can see why the defending Christendom line plays.

Germany has a very large Kurdish population, which is very liberal and syncretic religiously, so there’s a much more positive view of Muslims and understandably a great deal of local support and sympathy for Syrian refugees.

50

hix 09.03.15 at 9:08 pm

Just skimmed the news on this Merkel lifts Dublin thing. As i read it, Germany is still very much expecting Hungary to block refugees from just going through to German. If however Syrians do make it to Germany after other EU nations made some effort to stop illegal entering, they will not be sent back to that nation according to Dublin rules but get an asylum hearing in Germany.

51

hix 09.03.15 at 9:15 pm

German legalese: Für Syrer würden Dublin-Verfahren “zum gegenwärtigen Zeitpunkt …. faktisch nicht weiter verfolgt”. … Merkel und Hollande beharren auf Dublin.

“for the time being, the Dublin system is de facto not implemented with regards to Syrians”

http://www.tagesspiegel.de/politik/wende-in-der-asylpolitik-deutschland-setzt-dublin-regeln-fuer-aus-syrien-fluechtende-aus/12229884.html

52

Igor Belanov 09.04.15 at 7:27 am

“Igor Belanov @45: “In the end the peoples and governments of Europe will have to accept that no-one is illegal.”

Great. So the governments (democratically elected) and peoples (hey, but what do they matter) of Europe will have to accept the diktat of the great Igor Belanov.

Somehow, I doubt that will happen, without the great Igor Belanov (and whose army?) being able to enforce it.

If your argument is that there should be no state borders: could you be more specific?”

Ideally there should be no borders. Few people complain about migrants flocking from the peripheries of the UK to the South East, despite all the difficulties this causes the areas concerned. Likewise Eastern Germany and the US rustbelt. These types of migration are constantly happening as a result of economic developments, rather than refugee crises that happen mercifully rarely.

What I was getting at is that despite the ‘democratically-elected’ governments and all the repressive functions of the state, these people (migrants/refugees/asylum-seekers) are still managing to get across the Mediterranean and into central Europe and reaching the Channel. In order to stop this ‘the peoples of Europe’ would have to regress into types of repressive and violent behaviour we haven’t seen in Europe for generations. Thus even on a practical level it would be difficult to stop this tide. As far as ethics goes, can you really give me an argument as to why the ‘peoples of Europe ‘ should refuse passage to these people, without resorting to abstract notions of ‘national sovereignty’ that certainly didn’t apply to Greece in its current crisis?

53

praisegod barebones 09.04.15 at 7:30 am

Stephen@43:

I lived in the UK from 1970-2000, and have formed my own views on the basis of reading, conversation and a certain amount of experience. I also – as noted in 10 and 14 – have no intention of contributing to a thread-jack, so let’s leave it at that.

hix @ 15:

If you’re looking for a neutral term, I’d suggest ‘people’. I also wonder why we’d think that ‘neutrality’ is a virtue in a debate about people drowning.

Scott Marten @ 24:

Imagine what it feels like if you’ve been living in Turkey for the past umpteen years and you have to concede that whatever its faults, the Turkish AKP government has been incomparably better than anywhere in the EU on this particular issue .

Belanov @ 35: I think there’s a mistaken inference from ‘sometimes it’s hard to tell whether someone’s an economic refugee or a migrant’ to ‘it doesn’t really matter whether we call them migrants or refugees’.

The fact that there are quite a lot of border-line cases – and that we ought to be as compassionate in those cases as in the clear-cut ones doesn’t mean that all cases are border-line.

54

dax 09.04.15 at 7:40 am

“I’d say the source of most current problem is the western governments who set out to remake Middle East and succeeded.”

Well not really. Most current problems are a direct result of *the US and the UK* setting out to remake the Middle East by invading Iraq. Both the US and the UK have yet to say, “We have a special responsibility given what we did.” Instead they are basically hiding under the rug hoping no one notices, while doing their best to complain about continental Europeans not doing enough.

55

ZM 09.04.15 at 7:45 am

TM,

“ZM 7: I strongly recommend Juan Cole on the role of climate change in the Syria crisis:
http://www.thenation.com/article/did-isil-arise-partly-because-of-climate-change/
Regarding Russia, I’m not up to date on the drought situation there, do you have references?”

Thanks for the link, that article is very interesting and also quite worrying.

In late 2013 I heard a defense expert talk about the role of climate change and failure of crops in Russia in the Arab Spring , but I’ve read about it a few times since. Eg.

“ASP’s Policy Brief, “The Arab Spring and World Food Prices,” details this link.
The Arab Spring represents merely one example of what climate change may look like in the future. Climate change can undermine states with existing tensions and fragile social contracts.
Andrew Holland explains the connection between rising world food prices due to climate change, and the spark that set off The Arab Spring”

http://www.americansecurityproject.org/climate-change-the-arab-spring-and-food-prices/

“In a report published last week, researchers from the Center for American Progress, the Center for Climate and Security and the Stimson Center examined the role of climate change in the Middle East’s upheaval during 2010 and 2011. Looking at long-term trends in rain, crops, food prices and migration, they were able to determine how these factors contributed to social instability in the region.
“The Arab Spring would likely have come one way or another, but the context in which it did is not inconsequential. Global warming may not have caused the Arab Spring, but it may have made it come earlier,” the report says”

http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/climate-change-and-rising-food-prices-heightened-arab-spring/

56

Ronan(rf) 09.04.15 at 8:00 am

Afaik There are plausible links between climate change and the Arab spring, but the evidence is also contested and ambiguous. The problem, afaict, is that research in general hasn’t found strong evidence of links between climate volatility and conflict (although this might might be in part due to methodological flaws, or something like that)

http://www.carbonbrief.org/blog/2015/03/reflections-on-climate-conflict-research-more-confusion-than-knowledge/

http://www.hbuhaug.com/2015/03/06/climate-conflict-research-where-now/

57

ZM 09.04.15 at 8:04 am

bob mcmanus,

“18: The Cole link why I am more pessimistic than most on climate change, and why I think it will get bad much earlier than most people imagine.
The geopolitical and economic effects will precede (almost invisibly, as with this refugee problem) the worst climatic effects by decades, and probably, without radical effort, turn most political regimes toward the Right.”

Yes I think we are already in a period where climate change is having significant negative effects.

I am less pessimistic than you as there is enough technical knowledge (eg. Renewable energy technology, batteries) and other knowledge (eg. the need to change agricultural practices and reduce animal farming) and the principle of sustainability has been mainstreamed now albeit in a weak form.

Given this it is possible to implement a rapid transition to mitigate climate change now as in war time mobilization.

I think in Australia although we are very behind at the moment we have enough institutions and programs and social capital for this to happen once a court case tells the parliaments of the States and Commonwealth they are being derelict and have to act to maintain a safe and agriculturally prosperous climate for future generations.

I think in the U.S. it will be more difficult due to your ideas of small government despite in the Constitutional debates the founders had a general commitment to governance being a public trust.

So possibly if the world moves to a rapid transition the U.S. might follow a bit behind like in WW2 it took a longer time to decide to go to war.

But peopke will still be displaced by climate change , with the figures I read being 200-250 million by 2050, so it is important to have a global solution to resettling displaced persons.

I think this should be divided into temporary resettlement for displaced persons that wish to return to their countries of origin once conflict ends, and permanent resettlement for displaced persons that either can not it do not wish to return to their countries of origin.

There should also be efforts to end conflict so as people can return home and people in temporary resettlement need to be able to access education, training, and employment so the time in temporary settlement is not wasted.

58

Ronan(rf) 09.04.15 at 8:18 am

Trying to link it to isis is probably the wrong way to look at it though, imo. Isis were created by the Iraq war and larger ideological and organisational Islamist trends in the region (and the behaviour of the Iraqi govt over past decade etc) The breakdown in order in Syria Iraq might have given them the means and opportunity to implement their agenda (and greater ability to recruit, perhaps) but focusing on climate change obscures a whole lot of more important factors.
(Ot, so Anyway I’ll leave it there )

59

Jesús Couto Fandiño 09.04.15 at 10:43 am

#22 Put pictures of the people you have personally cured of illness
Put pictures of the people you personally saved from fires
Put pictures of the people you personally educated

Oh, you didnt do anything of that? Then you dont have any opinions about healthcare, fire departments, or education?

Me, I’ve personally donated to MSF and ACNUR so somebody can help. And I’ve personally registered to help in the (not very probable) case our goverment changes tunes and get more refugees. And I’m going to personally protest the fact they want to listen more to votes of callous people like you than to make what human dignity and decency requires, thus impersonally shaming me as member of this country and this European Union, like having to her your stupid comment repeated 100x times does daily.

Next time you ever need the help of anybody, do us all a favor and reject it. It would save taxes for people that deserve it.

60

Ian 09.04.15 at 11:11 am

There appear to be many difficulties in whatever term is used to identify refugees/migrants, for instance – Economic migrant may be interpreted as – persons dealt with economically rather than individually, just as easily as, a person or persons moving because of economic wish or necessity.

There was a quote which came out of the international assistance arena, once remembered but now the detail is forgotten, the gist of which was:-
Financial aid is frequently provided in a context suiting the sensibilities of the giver rather than the needy resulting in much waste and confusion. Providing the type of aid a person values, which answers their needs, whilst maintaining their dignity, may not meet the sensibilities of the donor but will often be valued more, and hence be economical.

It appears that many of the views expressed from within those nations receiving refugees, and repeated within this topic, reflect each nations needs rather than those of many of the more desperate refugees, and hence appear to be reflective of broader more worrying trends internationally.

61

dax 09.04.15 at 11:37 am

@59. I think #22″s point is more corroborated rather than disputed by your post. You gain more moral authority on the refugee/migrant crisis by saying, “I have donated money to …” than saying, “Other people should be helping more” (although except for a linked article I didn’t see this latter attitude anywhere in the OP or the comments).

62

David 09.04.15 at 12:08 pm

The problem is that all of the factors that are producing refugees (in the true sense of the word) are getting worse rather than better. And whilst I’m against reflexively blaming the West for everything (as I am for absolving the West for everything) the fact is that the chaos in the Levant, which is where the main problems are, can largely be traced to a long history of western involvement and manipulation going back to at least 1919. Especially since the end of the Cold War, moreover, the region has been a giant video game without consequences, where you could always leave the game when it became boring. We’ve been shocked to discover during the last decade or so that the sprites in the game are capable of shooting back, but that’s classified as a “terrorist” problem, which in principle we know how to deal with. Now, we are being confronted with the humanitarian consequences of a century of interference and mismanagement, and the political class is panicking. They have begun to realise that this isn’t a game, it’s the real world, and things have consequences.
And you can add to that the factors that produce “migration” in the proper sense are also getting worse, and the political class has no idea how to deal with that either.

63

Jesús Couto Fandiño 09.04.15 at 12:12 pm

22 “point” is the same bullshit I’ve heard ALL WEEK about ANY plan by our town councils to offer assistance in the crisis, and to any movement demanding to do so.

The very moment you say Europe should do something there comes an idiot asking how many Syrians you have at home, or why dont you use your money and not “theirs”.

64

kidneystones 09.04.15 at 12:48 pm

@62 “…is the same bullshit I’ve heard LARGE CAPS about MORE LARGE CAPS plan…”
Your frustration is evident and understandable. Given your experience do you think you’re going to win support from people by insulting them and declaring your own moral superiority? I suggest the opposite is likely to occur. Worse, there are, in my experience, a great many who feel very strongly that ‘taking care of our own’ does not mean handing money over to criminal organizations to be smuggled across borders and putting the lives of children at risk, if the gain is simply economic. The points about western responsibility are spot-on. Supposing that nations such as Canada and Australia have a long history of stepping up to help the poor is pure fiction. The opposite is true. Ideally, most people would prefer, I expect, to raise their families among friends and relatives in or near communities where they feel a sense of ‘home.’ There is no question that Drone Strike, Cameron, and Sarkozy, along with a whole list of other malefactors bear much of the responsibility. But they’re extremely unlikely to do much of anything, aren’t they. The numbers are still relatively small in historical terms, and the loss of life minimal.

Things are likely to improve slowly, as border controls are re-imposed and countries like Germany settle more of the influx. If border controls are not imposed and the people smuggling continues, we can expect a real hardening of hearts.

65

ZM 09.04.15 at 12:59 pm

bjk @22

“This post consists entirely of attacking other people for not doing enough. Maybe some people in the comments can post about the sacrifices they have personally made. It would serve as an example. Post pictures of the refugees you have taken into your home.”

Where I live I know people who have invited refugees to live with them. Some women in our town’s chapter of an Australian wide refugee support group have made a hooked rug for children in detention, other things have been holding fundraising events, talks, concerts, dances, picnics and art exhibitions, as well as holding weekly letter writing sessions in the library. People have organised weekends in the countryside for refugee families. A cafe has a tin for donations to buy food for asylum seekers. The Catholic Church worked with the bacon factory to find work for Sudanese refugees some years ago. And I already mentioned above one woman who has an online writing group for people in detention and she also has organised the publication of chap books and art exhibitions and runs a Persian food market stall:

https://youtu.be/tHsTIuEc1Zc

66

Jesús Couto Fandiño 09.04.15 at 1:05 pm

#63 As things are right now, pretending to find “support” from that kind of quarters is quixotic

There is, right now, a battle for the soul of Europe. Better to get people that still have some ounces of humanity left movilized than pretend that you are going to get your local UKIP voter, or Orban supporter, or whatever, on board with anything.

They, right now, are defining our response to this. I dont want to convince anybody of my “moral superiority” – the moment you get somebody like, say, Orban himself, saying what he says, it is clear what we have to rally to keep our whole European “moral superiority” relevant or surrender it to people like them.

67

ZM 09.04.15 at 1:09 pm

Ronan (rf),

Yes climate change is not the only reason, I don’t think you can really separate the environmental and social and cultural factors that are interacting. I should have just said climate change was an important contributing factor, and these conflicts are probably the first conflicts where climate change has been a factor. Unless possibly in recent African conflicts, but that is just supposition I haven’t read anything to that effect.

68

kidneystones 09.04.15 at 1:23 pm

@65. I don’t think that’s the case at all. Religious groups, often conservative, do a lot of the front-line work working with the homeless, with refugee groups, and on site in locations that most wouldn’t dream of visiting. The situation in Europe, not yet a full-blown crisis, requires the re-introduction of borders controls and an end to people smuggling. The one UKIP supporter I do know supported Labour all his life. I suspect there are many more like him who see the solution to this crisis/situation as the reintroduction of border controls, and controlled immigration. He has young children of his own and certainly do not believe for a second he derives and pleasure from the scenes we’re seeing now.

69

Jesús Couto Fandiño 09.04.15 at 1:30 pm

#67 I assume you have not read, for example, Orban (PM of Hungary) saying how they have the “right” to not want to share their country with muslims, or that he is saving European Christianity.

Or go to Twitter, find some tag like #RefugeeWelcome, and see how many times you read something like “when they come to steal and rape are you going to welcome them?”

Or read the UKIP twat that used his Sherlock Holmes like intellect to say that, as the drowned kid was “well fed and well clothed” this was just his parents greed for European money and how “queue jumping cost”.

The absolute lack of coordination and of action of our goverments, all of them more playing the “lets somebody else deal with that” is a calculation of not pissing those kind of voters.

And frankly, “reintroduction of border controls and controlled inmigration” has as much to do with dealing with refugees fleeing murder and destruction and providing them with safety as deliberating about sea patrol patterns while you dont thrown a lifesaver to a drowning man.

70

Z 09.04.15 at 2:00 pm

Il ne faut pas se tromper. Dans quelques années, les historiens jugeront les Européens sur la façon dont ils ont accueilli ceux qui fuyaient la mort sous les bombes, l’esclavage sexuel, les persécutions religieuses, les barils de TNT sur leurs quartiers, l’épuration ethnique. Dans les livres d’histoire, le chapitre consacré à ce moment-là s’ouvrira sur une photo : celle du corps d’un petit Syrien, Aylan Kurdi, noyé, rejeté par la mer, un sinistre matin de septembre 2015. (Le Monde éditorial 09/03)

We should not delude ourselves. In a few years, historians will judge the way Europeans received those who fled deadly bombings, sexual slavery, religious persecutions, TNT barrels on their neighborhoods, ethnic cleansing. In history books, the chapter devoted to this moment will open with a picture: that of the body of a Syrian little one, Aylan Kurdi, drowned to death, thrown back by the sea, a bleak September 2015 morning. (My translation)

71

Layman 09.04.15 at 2:20 pm

“The problem, afaict, is that research in general hasn’t found strong evidence of links between climate volatility and conflict “

If we need more research to tell us that climate change will lead to resource shortages for many, and that resource shortfalls lead to conflict, we’re in more trouble than we thought.

72

P O'Neill 09.04.15 at 2:27 pm

As this New York Times article explains, it’s somewhat difficult for the EU to have a Syrian refugee policy when it doesn’t have a Syria policy.

73

Beryl 09.04.15 at 2:33 pm

It’s always the West’s fault, eh? Iraq was a botch but where were we when we could have, um, (bad word!) intervened, to save the Syrians from Assad? And maybe even precluded ISIS in Syria?

http://www.butterfliesandwheels.org/2015/we-are-watching-syria-die/

74

TM 09.04.15 at 2:34 pm

Ronan: Isn’t the link between rising food prices/food shortages and political instability pretty uncontroversial? It doesn’t have to be a monocausal explanation but certainly it’s been a factor in political events from the French Revolution and before to the Arab Spring. In terms of effects of climate change on food safety, we have seen only the beginning. There were crop failures in Russia a few years back and a terrible corn harvest in the US recently, unprecedented multi-year drought in Australia and now in California, and many more regional drought events that have been made worse and more persistent by rising temperatures. So far, the effects have been localized. What hasn’t happened yet is a megadrought affecting several major agricultural regions simultaneously.

75

Patrick S. O'Donnell 09.04.15 at 2:36 pm

Jakob Cornides (JurD), who “serves as an official in the European Commission’s Directorate General for Trade,” would rather you not post such photographs, lest we be emotionally moved: http://www.ejiltalk.org/the-drowning-child/#comments

76

TM 09.04.15 at 2:36 pm

70 wins.

77

Jesús Couto Fandiño 09.04.15 at 2:47 pm

#74 Oh sweet, just in one comment he both decries injecting emotion in this “debate” and goes for the rights of the unborn.

Real flexibility of mind, a normal one would have broke in the middle of the argument.

78

LFC 09.04.15 at 2:58 pm

Ronan @56
I no longer read The Monkey Cage, I’m afraid, and my reading of Duck of Minerva has become very irregular (haven’t been there in a while), but a few years back there was quite a bit of stuff on both blogs (esp. TMC), iirc, about pol sci research on the link betw climate change and conflict. Dueling studies, methodological disputes, whatnot. The usual.

I see you give two more recent links, so they probably pick up the studies that were in question.

79

Layman 09.04.15 at 3:05 pm

@ 76, if you read further in the thread, he gets better: It is those who accuse others of inaction who are truly the cruel ones.

80

LFC 09.04.15 at 3:15 pm

Z @69
thanks for the Le Monde quote. I wish I had the degree of facility with French — in terms of writing it, e.g. — that you obviously have with English. (I also wish I read the French press more than once a year or whatever.)

With appropriate self-denigration out of the way, I’d offer a slight alteration to your translation (there’s nothing wrong w/ your version, mine is just more literal):
“les historiens jugeront les Européens sur la façon dont ils ont accueilli”
= historians will judge Europeans on the way in which they received [or welcomed] etc.

81

kidneystones 09.04.15 at 3:17 pm

@68 Yes. I have read them. Most states impose cultural norms on the citizenry. As others have noted, the Balkans served as the battle field for Muslim invasion of Europe and the residual tensions there remain as real as those between blacks and whites in the US today, the difference being an extremely recent and extremely violent war along ethnic and religious lines fought in the region.

The point for me is that most Greeks today continue to reject Golden Dawn. There are bigots and these people will always say and do stupid things. We’re a very long way from the not too distant past in our collective responses and the evidence is not all bad. Re-establishing border controls is an issue that crosses political boundaries and is, I’d strongly suggest, central to the question of helping the maximum number of refugees find a welcome.

82

Hidari 09.04.15 at 6:42 pm

@72 yes absolutely. I mean if the ‘West’ were to intervene* in Syria then in five years time it might look like modern-day Iraq, or even Libya. Which would obviously be much better.

*I mean overtly, as opposed to the semi-covert Western backed ‘ops’ which are already well underway.

83

Hal 09.04.15 at 7:06 pm

Hidari @81,

Right. So I nominate you to explain to Aylan Kurdi’s dad that we did nothing in Syria — the “ops” are far too little and too late — because, well… (insert convenient Stop-the-War slogan here).

And do you seriously think things are better in Syria than in (name any country here)?

84

David 09.04.15 at 7:46 pm

@69. Ah Le Monde at its worst again. Opinion outside the French elites is divided between those who think you can read it with nose-plugs and those who think you can’t read it at all without endangering your sanity. They’ve been pathologically anti-Assad for years, and now they don’t like the consequence. On your bicyclette!

85

Stephen 09.04.15 at 8:02 pm

praisegod barebones @53: look, it was you who started to start arguing in this thread not so much about refugees as about the distinction between soldiers and terrorists. If you don’t like the way the argument might go, do by all means run away, but don’t complain about threadjacking.

86

Stephen 09.04.15 at 8:07 pm

ZM@66: “these conflicts are probably the first conflicts where climate change has been a factor.” Do have a look at, for example, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/4.2_kiloyear_event

87

Ronan(rf) 09.04.15 at 8:10 pm

Tm @73 . Yeah, it’s my (laymans) understanding that there’s a strong link between high food prices and “political instability ” (although less between food prices and large scale violent conflict) I also agree that climate change *could* be (as they say) a game changer. I ‘ll try write a longer comment later when not on a kindle.

LFC @77 my link above is from the author of this relatively new book

http://www.cambridge.org/ie/academic/subjects/politics-international-relations/comparative-politics/inequality-grievances-and-civil-war

Which is in part a reply to fearon et al . It might be (as they say) up your alley, and perhaps worth checking out

88

Stephen 09.04.15 at 8:46 pm

Igor Belanov@52: apparently, you reject what you call abstract notions of ‘national sovereignty’.
Many people care for abstract notions of ‘truth’ and ‘justice’. Do you reject these also, or would you prefer to argue that abstract notions you agree with are (though abstract) perfectly acceptable, but the others (being abstract) aren’t?

89

hix 09.04.15 at 9:06 pm

Slovenia Poland, Czech Republic and Hungary just declared they reject a quota system to distribute refugees.

90

LFC 09.05.15 at 1:25 am

Ronan @86
Cederman, Gleditsch authored a couple of the earlier articles that were being debated. The debate is not really ‘up my alley’ but thks anyway.

91

kidneystones 09.05.15 at 2:15 am

@88 Get the fence built on the border with Mexico – the issue that unites Hispanic, Black, and White Americans: https://today.yougov.com/news/2015/09/04/build-fence-mexico-not-canada/

Until border controls are imposed in Europe (and elsewhere): a plurality of people irrespective of ethnicity view uncontrolled movements of people as manifest chaos, the very antithesis to civil society, whatever the societal norms. Indeed, lining up politely to wait our turns at cash registers, check-out/in counters, and other places as required is generally regarded as a basic function/operation of civil order. That can’t happen as long as people can go move anyplace they like, whenever they like. The suggestion that anybody rejects the idea of ‘border-controls’ can be tested simply: do we want doors on our homes/offices? Do we want the freedom to lock these doors and deny entry to those we deem unwelcome? Do we want the right to determine for ourselves who comes into our homes? These are the ‘border controls’ of everyday life. Imagining a world without them is fine. Living in a world without them? Not so much.

92

kidneystones 09.05.15 at 2:29 am

@ 82 Cheers for grasping the nettle. The spectacularly bad decision to repeatedly invade Iraq, depose dictators we don’t like, and otherwise use brute force when better ideas might/would be more effective does have consequences. I’m sympathetic to the plight of refugees fleeing the wars and chaos across North Africa and in the Middle East the west did so much to create. I have much more sympathy, however, for those who can’t afford to pay people smuggler’s the criminal fees they demand, and are compelled to endure the consequences of our actions. I did not oppose the invasion of Iraq or the interventions in Syria and Libya on strictly moral grounds. I also understand these moves to be ill-conceived and dangerously stupid. Who now is ready to argue that removing Libya’s government has made the nation better and safer? I’d like to see democracy sprout everywhere. But I’m not convinced that bombing the hell out of people on the other side of the planet is going to make that happen anytime soon. Removing these governments was the easy part. That was transparently clear at the time. Replacing these governments with something that would provide stability, as we are discovering, is a a challenge of a very different order. And one we are clearly not ready to address, much less to meet.

93

hix 09.05.15 at 3:27 am

Again, lots of emphasice from German and Austrian officials that it is an expectation, not a general lift of Dublin rules that the people camping in front of the Budapest train station are allowed to enter/transit.

[Cant really say i disaprove btw, because lets face it asylum seekers are a major cost factor and just inviting all EU countries to send everyone his way to Germany (which happens often enough without invitation) would have an inner EU distribution effect of a scope i rather say no thanks to]

94

LFC 09.05.15 at 4:07 am

@kidneystones

The sheer length of the U.S.-Mexico border — almost 2,000 miles — makes it very, very difficult to secure and ‘control’ effectively, assuming for the sake of argument that one wants border control. A (presumably high-tech) fence or wall along the entire land extent of a boundary of this length is, imo, a fairly ridiculous proposition: it wd be very expensive (which is why Trump proposes that Mexico construct it) and I doubt it wd even work as intended. Peter Andreas’ Border Games showed to what degree efforts to control the U.S./Mexico border in the ’80s and early ’90s were mainly symbolic: when efforts were ramped up in one part of the border (e.g. the western part), the flow of border-crossers just shifted to other parts (including the inhospitable Sonoran desert).

To control effectively a 2,000 mile border, you basically need the equivalent of a small army doing it close to full-time. High-tech stuff can help but I don’t think it is sufficient on its own. The politicians clamoring to ‘secure’ the U.S.-Mexico border should face up to the implication: a controlled border of this length will be a highly militarized border. The politicians don’t say that, of course, and in Trump’s case substitute the proposal that Mexico build and pay for a 2,000-mile-long fence, confirming that Trump is an idiot.

95

novakant 09.05.15 at 4:27 am

Many people care for abstract notions of ‘truth’ and ‘justice’.

Yeah, maybe, but ‘abstract’ has mainly negative connotations (e.g. ‘useless’, ‘detached’, ‘irrelevant’) both in ordinary language and philosophical discourse and for good reason.

96

Chris Bertram 09.05.15 at 7:09 am

It simply wrong to claim, as kidneystones does, that the territorial jurisdication of states is just like private property and that someone who supports the right of people to move across borders must also support a similar right with respect to private houses. But in any case, the general right to freedom of movement is not in play here. What’s at issue is the right to asylum of people where the bond between them and their state has been broken and the duty of other states to do their fair share of catering for these people. It isn’t a general discussion of the rights and wrongs of immigration. Flows of refugees are a tiny proportion of international migrant flows.

97

kidneystones 09.05.15 at 7:34 am

@96 I make no such claim. I claim that individuals demand the right to control access to space. You might be willing to give up your office space, your turn at sabbatical, your place in theater line. But in all cases I suspect you want to be the one exercising that choice. Please correct me if I’m wrong on this specific point. You are wrong to assert that ‘the general right to freedom of movement is not in play here,’ and play is certainly not the term I’d employ for rampant criminal behavior.

Hungary, and other countries want to be able to determine who comes to Hungary, just as most British people want to be able to determine who comes to Britain. That is my specific comparison with private property. The citizens of a state have the right to determine who enters that state, or do you dispute that point, too?

@94 I’m not American. I don’t have any plan to help build any walls. And the latest poll has Trump beating Clinton 44-40. I wouldn’t bet against Trump and at this stage and I’d put money on a fence/wall being built the entire length of the border within his first term.

98

kidneystones 09.05.15 at 8:01 am

@94 My bad. That’s 45-40, Trump over Clinton. 44-40 is Trump over Sanders. Still, early days with plenty of time for Trump to implode. There’s no question the establishment of both parties hates his guts. Here’s the poll, http://www.surveyusa.com/client/PollReport.aspx?g=d950cadf-05ce-4148-a125-35c0cdab26c6

Via the Hill: http://thehill.com/blogs/ballot-box/presidential-races/252825-poll-trump-beats-hillary-head-to-head

99

Scott Martens 09.05.15 at 8:22 am

kidneystones@91:You know that used to be the standard argument for segregation? Your home is yours in a very different way than your neighbourhood, your city, or your state. I know of no law, no custom, and no tradition that says you can pick your neighbours, and most people define progress in human rights in terms of denying exactly what you think is so essential

100

Hidari 09.05.15 at 8:55 am

@83 Every time I think the ‘why aren’t we killing people? For God’s sake, why????’ mob have reached a new low, they keep on digging. However, even by the miserably low standards of the ‘let’s lob some missiles into the middle east and see what happens, might be fun’ sect, your post sets a new benchmark.

101

kidneystones 09.05.15 at 9:11 am

@99 Why not skip segregation and the KKK and compare me to Hitler? You ignore the fact that a democratically elected majority of citizens freely voted within one large state (the US) to outlaw such practices. You’re making my case. That’s the point. We don’t get to decide how other states organize their affairs, but we insist upon the right to organize our own, and that includes immigration and border controls, along with a great many other issues, thank god. Do you have a problem with this concept? Or, is allowing citizens to determine immigration rates, health policy, defense, voting rights, etc for themselves too much freedom?

102

Chris Bertram 09.05.15 at 9:56 am

” The citizens of a state have the right to determine who enters that state, or do you dispute that point, too?”

As it happens, I do.

103

Scott Martens 09.05.15 at 10:40 am

@ kidneystones: Why not skip segregation and the KKK and compare me to Hitler

Because Hitler wasn’t a segregationist, and you have not (at least in this thread) advocated any of the things Hitler is most famous for. Passive-aggressive use of Godwin’s law does not impress anyone. Own your own words.

I believe that the moral value of person, their suitability to control their own lives, and their freedom to pursue the life they want, under conditions favourable to them, including the freedom to move and establish themselves in different places, should not be dependent on which side of an imaginary line they were born on, nor on the authority that issues their paperwork, nor their ethnicity, language, or cultural background. You disagree. How, exactly, is position morally different from the core arguments of segregationism other than by superficially not mentioning race?

104

novakant 09.05.15 at 11:46 am

” The citizens of a state have the right to determine who enters that state, or do you dispute that point, too?”

Almost all countries are signatories to the 1951 convention on refugees, so no, they don’t have that right.

105

Beryl 09.05.15 at 12:23 pm

Hidari@100,

So – correct me if I’m wrong – your solution to the Syrian revolution/civil war (350,000 dead, 8 million refugees) was/is “it’s not our problem”?

106

Manta 09.05.15 at 12:48 pm

Beryl, given the fact that one side of the civil war in Syria was trained and armed by the West and its Middle East allies, and another side by Russia, making it “not our problem” would probably be a great improvement over the present situation (see also: Lybia, and “responsibility to protect”).

And this without taking into account the role of Western intervention in Iraq in creating ISIS

107

kidneystones 09.05.15 at 12:52 pm

@ 104 They operative term here is that each individual state signed an agreement to (theoretically) allow a specific subset of people to enter cross a border and there to secure aid. This is surely a good thing.

In the case currently garnering so much attention, the family from Syria entered Turkey where they were provided with clothed and fed, no doubt under the articles of 1951. The family intended to proceed to Canada, or the UK, but evidently hit a ‘bureaucratic snag.’ They then paid a gang of criminal profiteers a substantial sum to be taken by boat from Turkey to Greece. Instead, the mother and two young boys died. The mother, according to accounts, did not want to get in the boat. This is a tragedy. But not a tragedy on the same order as many, many, many others I could name. The family had to leave Syria for good reason. They were safe in Turkey. There were legal options. They elected to go a different route.

What do you think the best recourse would be? To open all the borders, or to process families on a case by case basis and grant them safe passage to a welcoming country?

In all other cases, as far as I know, countries reserve the right to deny entry to foreign nationals. Let me know, please, if I’ve got that part wrong.

108

DanielH 09.05.15 at 1:03 pm

Beryl, Hal: how about advocating for something that doesn’t involve killing lots of people to uncertain effect? Safely resettling those fleeing the conflict, for example. Or is that “doing nothing” because it doesn’t involve bombs?

109

Hidari 09.05.15 at 1:09 pm

@105
What Manta said. (comment 106). Also comment 108.

110

kidneystones 09.05.15 at 1:14 pm

@ 103 You began our brief exchange by comparing me to a segregationist, which it seems you regard as bona fides of your good will, probity, and intellectual integrity. Now, you suggest I’m the aggressor. Thanks, too, for speaking for everyone.

My only question for you is whether anyone you know shares your belief in practice: that everybody should be absolutely free to live everywhere, irrespective of the wishes of the people living there. My experience with people who utter the sorts of platitudes you espouse is uniformly negative, I’m afraid.

Suggesting that I, and others who share my views -that would be most people, btw – provide you with some sort of evidence to disprove that we are not in favor of segregation might win the argument in your mind. Insulting doesn’t come close, of course.

I can’t think of a single person who believes we should scrap borders and surrender the right to determine who should live within a nation state.

111

kidneystones 09.05.15 at 1:18 pm

@ 110 Sorry about the convoluted syntax. My inclination really is to be rude.

Open borders to everyone, or you’re a racist. Good grief.

112

Layman 09.05.15 at 1:33 pm

“I can’t think of a single person who believes we should scrap borders and surrender the right to determine who should live within a nation state.”

You’re presenting a false choice here. There are lots of people who don’t believe we should scrap borders, but also don’t believe we should use excessive force to prevent miserable people from crossing them.

113

novakant 09.05.15 at 1:41 pm

114

kidneystones 09.05.15 at 1:49 pm

@112 Wrong (again!), I’m afraid. I’m responding to specifically to that binary articulated by ‘windy’ in @103. “I believe that the moral value of person, their suitability to control their own lives, and their freedom to pursue the life they want, under conditions favourable to them, including the freedom to move and establish themselves in different places, should not be dependent on which side of an imaginary line they were born on, nor on the authority that issues their paperwork, nor their ethnicity, language, or cultural background. You disagree. How, exactly, is position morally different from the core arguments of segregationism other than by superficially not mentioning race?”

Now, it’s possible you missed this little exchange. Could happen. I agree, it’s a false choice, but please don’t lay the blame for the formulation at my door. I’ve made it very clear that we should help people and help those who are helping people, rather than criticize them. Especially, when a plurality of people in America and the UK, for example, want to see their own borders secured. That’s my point.

115

kidneystones 09.05.15 at 1:55 pm

@113 Nice! But you still haven’t answered the question Should people be welcomed, cared for, treated with dignity, and have their claims for refugee status evaluated on the merits? Or should we throw open the borders? Or should we allow criminal profiteers who end up killing people to meet the demands of the market? I say welcome them and process them.

Disagree?

116

Chris Bertram 09.05.15 at 2:16 pm

Please don’t feed the troll.

117

Layman 09.05.15 at 2:25 pm

“Please don’t feed the troll.”

You mean like this?

“It simply wrong to claim, as kidneystones does, that the territorial jurisdication of states is just like private property and that someone who supports the right of people to move across borders must also support a similar right with respect to private houses.”

Or like this?

“As it happens, I do.”

118

Beryl 09.05.15 at 2:26 pm

Manta,

Wrong. The West did not start the Syrian civil war – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Syrian_Civil_War – nor did it arm one side. Russia and Iran did… the side of the regime. It was only after chemical weapons and barrel bombs were used by Assad that Obama had his hand forced. A “no-fly” zone could have helped, but by then it was far too late. ISIS had pushed out the “moderate” Sunni rebels and the war had spread across the country. So, in effect, our inaction (then and now) has contributed to Aylan Kurdi’s death. Congratulations.

119

Hidari 09.05.15 at 2:37 pm

It doesn’t matter how many Arabs we kill, for some people it’s never going to be enough.

Also, DFTT.

120

kidneystones 09.05.15 at 2:37 pm

Here are some links that help put the plight of refugees in Europe in perspective. From the UN. In Turkey alone there are 1.9 million Syrians and a total of 4 million displaced because of the ongoing civil war which is a direct result of western interventions. There are 4 million Iraqis displaced, the majority internally. A quick glance at the Independent reveals that the EU has a new plan to take a total of 160,000 refugees. What makes the plan so appealing (to some) is the transfer of deportation powers to the EU for economic refugees. There’s a list of countries that will be deemed ‘safe,’ which means that citizens of these states will be barred from claiming refugee status.

The initial post expressed ‘outrage’ that the refugees already out of Turkey and in Europe were being identified by having numbers drawn on their arms. Britain, France, the US and a supporting cast of miscreant nations destabilized Syria and destroyed Iraq. France is now planning to start bombing Syria as a ‘solution.’ Turkey is not an innocent actor in all this, but the nation could probably stand some assistance.

Most/many of the displaced people would probably like to return to their homes, homes western nations helped render uninhabitable. When we start to understand and accept the role we need to play in rebuilding these communities we might see an end to the real suffering we helped cause. One place to start is by providing existing states in the region with all they support they need – and that includes some that we find morally repugnant.

Or, we could talk about colored pens.

121

Beryl 09.05.15 at 2:45 pm

Hidari @119,

Brilliant response. Insightful, informative, comprehensive.

Remind me who is being the “troll”.

122

Layman 09.05.15 at 3:22 pm

It seems rather easy to get to Syria with a weapon. Would-be interveners can just get on with it, can’t they? I suppose they’ll say that wouldn’t be enough to end the suffering, but then that’s the pragmatic argument against large-scale intervention, too.

123

Beryl 09.05.15 at 5:20 pm

Kidneystones,

Britain, France, the US and a supporting cast of miscreant nations destabilized Syria and destroyed Iraq

Right about Iraq (in part; Saddam made his own substantial contribution and, given the inability of the Sunnis and the Shiites to cooperate [the Kurds already had their own state-within-a-state], there would have been political chaos by now regardless), wrong about Syria. I was in Damascus early in 2011 when the first waves of the “Arab Spring” were washing ashore. There were high hopes then of a liberalisation. But Assad, fearing that any sign of weakness would be exploited, and with encouragement from Hizbollah and Iran, chose to crack down hard instead: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-26116868https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Syrian_Civil_War . The West had no input whatsoever. Not even some weak suggestion to the regime that bombing your own population is unacceptable. Perhaps it was inevitable that there would be conflict, but in this case it was Western inaction and lack of pressure (with the help of Russia’s veto power at the UN) that emboldened Assad. Four years later, Aylan Kurdi paid the price.

124

magari 09.05.15 at 5:32 pm

@123, say what? There’s no civil war at this point without ISIS, and there’s no ISIS (of this magnitude/capability) without the manpower and weaponry they import into Syria from Iraq.

125

bob mcmanus 09.05.15 at 6:01 pm

The West had no input whatsoever.

Juan Cole mentions the neoliberalism and globalization

Here is a Morgan Stanley analyst in Newsweek in 2009 Barton Biggs on the Next Emerging Market

Searching “neoliberalism globalization Syria” will get you a lot

One of the very understudied aspects of neoliberalism is the way it creates new identities and empowers old identities in both intrastate and extrastate levels, and creates frictions and fractures in state power and regional organization. More generalizable to “difference is marketable.”

Yeah, we did it, almost all of it, to Egypt and Syria and Libya and Ukraine and Greece.

Wave billions at a weak state and watch the civil war begin. Goes way back.

126

bob mcmanus 09.05.15 at 6:03 pm

Probably should be “difference will be capitalized” with the Nitzan Bichler I’m reading this week.

127

Abbe Faria 09.05.15 at 7:06 pm

“Perhaps it was inevitable that there would be conflict, but in this case it was Western inaction and lack of pressure (with the help of Russia’s veto power at the UN) that emboldened Assad. Four years later, Aylan Kurdi paid the price.”

That’s absolute nonsense. Assad has never attacked the Kurds in force, unlike the (Turkish sponsored) opposition forces. Assad has instead granted citizenship to thousands of Kurds and negotiated the withdrawal of the Syrian National Army from the North allowing the Kurds autonomy. The forces who caused Aylan Kurdi to flee Kobane were Islamist revolutionaries who engaged in an attack on secular democrats for the sole reason that they were secular democrats. It’s disgusting that Kurdi’s death is being used to propagandise against Assad and Kurdish autonomy, when the opposition are directly responsible for the attempt to crush Kobane.

128

Hidari 09.05.15 at 7:10 pm

129

Manta 09.05.15 at 8:03 pm

Beril @118
“The West did not start the Syrian civil war – nor did it arm one side. Russia and Iran did… the side of the regime. It was only after chemical weapons and barrel bombs were used by Assad that Obama had his hand forced”

Assad uses chemical weapons: 2013
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Use_of_chemical_weapons_in_the_Syrian_civil_war

US arming syrian rebels:
Date: 2012
http://www.rt.com/news/syria-arms-us-france-531/
and
https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/syrian-rebels-get-influx-of-arms-with-gulf-neighbors-money-us-coordination/2012/05/15/gIQAds2TSU_story.html
and
http://www.nytimes.com/2012/10/15/world/middleeast/jihadists-receiving-most-arms-sent-to-syrian-rebels.html

Do I need to add anything more?

130

Manta 09.05.15 at 8:07 pm

My comment is awaiting moderation (probably, too many links…), but the gist is:
contra Beril@118, USA and its allies (both in Europe and the Middle East) were arming Syrian rebels BEFORE Assad used chemical weapons.

131

Manta 09.05.15 at 8:15 pm

And claiming that “The West had no input whatsoever. ” is also false:
http://www.csmonitor.com/World/terrorism-security/2011/0418/Cables-reveal-covert-US-support-for-Syria-s-opposition

(unfortunately, I was not able to find the link to the original WP story…)

132

Chris Bertram 09.05.15 at 8:59 pm

@layman fair point. But I’m resolved to take my own advice from now on.

133

LFC 09.05.15 at 9:09 pm

It should be noted that the CIA covert support for and US arming of Syrian rebels was, from all the coverage I can recall, *much* less than what the Syrian opposition groups in question wanted. While “the West played no role” is not accurate, I also don’t think it’s accurate to see the Syrian civil war, in its origins, as something the West ’caused’. The ISIS factor comes later, after the war was well underway.

134

LFC 09.05.15 at 9:24 pm

A. Faria 127
The forces who caused Aylan Kurdi to flee Kobane were Islamist revolutionaries who engaged in an attack on secular democrats for the sole reason that they were secular democrats. It’s disgusting that Kurdi’s death is being used to propagandise against Assad and Kurdish autonomy, when the opposition are directly responsible for the attempt to crush Kobane.

Has Kurdish autonomy even been mentioned in the recent media discussions sparked by the photo of Kurdi? If so, I’ve missed it. The photo has been used mainly to focus attention to the refugee crisis rather than to support one side or faction or other, istm. The photo ‘stands in for’ thousands of children who have been displaced and/or killed. For some (or many) people, recitations of numbers become ‘merely’ statistics; they need this kind of concretized and moving visual image to become galvanized or even become aware of the issue. (For another fairly recent example, recall how the deaths from shrapnel of those Palestinian boys playing soccer on the beach crystallized anger about Israel’s actions in the last Gaza war. Different context, but same point re the force of visuals in drawing attention, etc.)

135

hix 09.05.15 at 9:26 pm

Just skimming the asylum numbers from 2014 for the entire eu. They are far far detached from what geography would suggest. Asylum seekers in Spain or Portugal are are hardly noticable and Italy or Greece also have less than France for example. On a per capita basis Sweden has by far most Asylum seekers even so there should basically be close to zero who manage to get there if Dublin rules were applied strictly in reality.

136

Manta 09.05.15 at 9:37 pm

LFC@133
“It should be noted that the CIA covert support for and US arming of Syrian rebels was, from all the coverage I can recall, *much* less than what the Syrian opposition groups in question wanted.”

Of course it was much less that they wanted!
Has it ever happened in the history of humankind that a group of armed people claimed to have received enough founding for their war?
(Anf it was not only CIA, and the support was so “covert” that it ended on the NYT… it seems a scene straight from Dr Strangelove)

137

Eszter Hargittai 09.05.15 at 10:23 pm

Thanks to those who’ve engaged in serious discussion here with relevant and helpful links, I’ve definitely learned some things.

More on the climate change connection here:
http://www.upworthy.com/trying-to-follow-what-is-going-on-in-syria-and-why-this-comic-will-get-you-there-in-5-minutes

138

hix 09.05.15 at 10:35 pm

Theres an interesting overlap in the almost romantic notions of frictionless integration in the op and the neoliberal employer reps demands to open up the labour market for refugees. The legal situation at least in Germany is different, with asylum status not granting labour market access and a clear expectation of refugees leaving again after the immidiate threat no longer exists. Not sure how that plays out in real life percentage wise, since some do get the right to work unpopular jobs and sometimes the threat just lasts a long time etc… . Either way i dont think those emotional appeals with a rose coloured view on costs ( including non fiscal ones) do any good. Rather the contrary they just trigger responses in kind, with emotional appeals to xenophobia and the narzism of minor diferences with regards to the weakest local populations.

139

bob mcmanus 09.05.15 at 11:25 pm

137: I don’t know if I’m helpful or not.

This is from al Jazeera 2012 Neoliberal Egypt: The hijacked revolution Not on Syria, but shows the process in great detail, which occurred with variation in Libya and Syria

In the end – despite USAid’s projections to the contrary – the programme did very little to help common farmers. Instead, it disproportionately benefitted the few large landholders who could afford to take out the loans, while slashing the demand for agricultural labour and causing rural wages to plummet.

To propel the transformation to export-led agriculture, USAid forced the Egyptian government to heavily tax the production of staples by local farmers and to eliminate subsidies on essential consumer goods like sugar, cooking oil and dairy products in order to make room for competition from American and other foreign companies.

To ameliorate the resulting food gap, USAid’s so-called “Food for Peace” programme provided billions of dollars of loans for Egypt to import subsidised grain from the US, which only further undercut local farmers. The result of all of this “agricultural reform” was an unprecedented spike in food prices which made livelihoods increasingly precarious and forced much of the workforce to accept degrading and dehumanising labour conditions. The widespread social frustrations that resulted from these reforms helped spark the 2011 uprising.

Problem is, it is probably irreversible under the int’l trade regimes, not gonna force the sale, division, and distribution back into small family self-sufficient subsistence farms without becoming an int’l economic pariah. Irreversible.

Climate change adds another level of stress to an economy based on resource sucking industrial agriculture.

140

Matt 09.05.15 at 11:28 pm

gtfrtghftggftgrftgygtfrtgfrtgfrftgfrgtfgfgfgfggfggfggfgfdgfdefrtgfrdeswedfghgfdswaq

141

bob mcmanus 09.05.15 at 11:29 pm

What makes me pessimistic is that we can gather together to help the refugees, stop the wars and arm sales, start peace talks etc…

…but stop Goldman-Sachs, mega-banks, hedgers and speculators, even NGOs from loaning to and financing overseas native dynamic entrepreneurs in developing markets?

Literally In-effing-conceivable!!! TINA!!!

And so we’re doomed, the locusts will turn it all into a desert.

142

Matt 09.05.15 at 11:32 pm

Sorry, cat on keyboard.

143

Beryl 09.05.15 at 11:33 pm

Abbe Faria @127,

My host in Syria was a Kurd academic so I am well versed in the Kurdish situation. I chose my words carefully. I said that Western inaction (at the beginning of the protests and the immediate police repression) emboldened Assad. It also dismayed the moderate Sunnis who were pressing for some liberalisation in the context of the “Arab Spring”. It was only after 2 years of increasingly bitter fighting that ISIS showed up. By then the more militant elements in the Sunni opposition (Jabhat Al-Nusra, etc.) to Assad had turned against the liberals and even against each other. It didn’t take much for ISIS to sweep across eastern and northern Syria. Had the liberals/moderates been supported (by the West) from the start and had there been some pressure on Assad to negotiate, it’s possible that ISIS might have been (significantly) precluded, but there were always “red lines” (about chemical weapons and so on) that were repeatedly crossed by Assad without much response – even verbal – from the US or Europe. This is what I meant when I said, “Four years later, Aylan Kurdi paid the price.”

In fact the Kurds had been very careful to stay out of the conflict … until they were attacked, first by some rogue elements of Al-Nusra and then by ISIS. They are among the most reliable and liberal groups in the Middle East. But Turkey, which has in recent years reshaped itself as a major power broker in the region – replacing Egypt and Saudi Arabia – is not about to allow Kurdish nationalism to get too close to its borders. So, Turkish planes, using sorties against ISIS as a cover, have also attacked Kurdish positions in Iraq and Syria. In that region of the world our enemy’s enemy is not always our friend.

144

basil 09.05.15 at 11:54 pm

bob @141
Thinking of Goldman Sachs, etc here is Romano Prodi explaining what to him is an unassailable logic, in his words a ‘moral imperative – and economic benefit’

“Mrs Merkel’s position was not just a message of EU cohesion, but was also an intelligent proposal for the German economy because Syrian immigrants are appropriate to the German needs – the shrinking of population and the need for skills – 40% of the Syrians are graduates.”

145

Ronan(rf) 09.06.15 at 12:25 am

@140 I agree

146

Ronan(rf) 09.06.15 at 12:26 am

@142 excuse me?

147

Ronan(rf) 09.06.15 at 12:28 am

Meow

148

LFC 09.06.15 at 1:13 am

Manta @136
Not only less than they wanted, but not that much, period. And apparently also not very effective.

149

LFC 09.06.15 at 1:40 am

@b. mcmanus 139

That’s a useful link to the op-ed about Egypt in Al-J. What’s additionally depressing is that for a while in the ’70s I think USAID started to get away somewhat from policies that undercut local farmers (though I don’t know the history w/r/t Egypt specifically). It’s true that shipments of U.S. grain have always tended to hurt local producers; that hasn’t changed. Pretty much every other donor country gives this sort of aid in cash earmarked to help people buy food. Only the U.S. ships actual commodities, which is good for some U.S. farmers, not so good for local ones.

150

LFC 09.06.15 at 1:45 am

“local ones” — i.e., for farmers in the recipient countries

151

Layman 09.06.15 at 1:54 am

Beryl @ 143, language is instructive. As you say, if the west West stays out of the Syria conflict, that’s ‘inaction’. When the Kurds stay out of the Syria conflict, they’re being ‘careful’.

152

ZM 09.06.15 at 4:50 am

The Saturday Paper had an article on refugees this weekend, and I had not registered the high numbers of refugees going to Europe at the moment until I read it. It is very bad that we are offering settlement places to so few in comparison.

“A staggering 3000 [refugees] a day are coming in by land from Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan through the porous borders of the Balkans and the Greek islands. Africans packed in ramshackle boats and flimsy inflatables continue to try crossing the Mediterranean.

The numbers already arrived and applying for asylum are staggering. Since 2011, Germany has had 547,000 asking to stay, France almost 256,000 and Sweden 229,000. Even Britain, protected by the Channel moat, has had 125,000 apply for asylum. The flow is increasing: Germany expects to receive 800,000 asylum seekers this year.

Australians must look on with amazement and shame at the way Europe still manages a high level of compassion and commitment to refugee treaty obligations under such stress. We continue with Nauru, Manus Island and turning back our comparative trickle of boats, while our newly uniformed border force turns from the frontier to the illegal foreigners within. Melbourne taxi drivers were to be the first target: never mind the organised illegal farm workforce in places such as Griffith and Bundaberg being ignored for the benefit of Nationals voters.”

153

Hidari 09.06.15 at 7:30 am

The fantasy that at least some of us are playing here is the idea that the ‘West’ ever had any interest in Syrian democracy. Remember the West at almost exactly the same time that it, allegedly ‘should have’ been backing the ‘moderate’ Syrian rebels was in the process of overthrowing the democratically elected government of Egypt, because it threatened US interests. Therefore the idea that the West had any interest, ever, in Syrian democracy (or democracy in any other Arab state) is risible.

We come to the iron law of Middle Eastern politics.

1: For various reasons the United States, and the West generally, have opposed democracy in the Arab world since WW2 (and arguably before).

2: The Arabs know this.

3: Therefore there is a lot of resentment against the US (and the West generally, especially Israel) in the Arab world.

4: Therefore any democratically elected government in the Arab world that is genuinely representative of Arab popular opinion will, to a greater or lesser extent, be hostile to the US (and the West).

5: Therefore, ceteris paribus, the Americans are unlikely to give support to any genuinely democratic force in the Arab world, as any genuinely elected Arab government will probably be hostile, to a greater or lesser extent, to Western interests.

In an attempt to bring the discussion back to the subject of the OP. Obviously we should give support to the refugees. But not in a spirit of noblesse oblige. We should do it because it is our moral duty, because we are to a very great extent responsible for the refugee crisis. *

* As well as CIA ‘covert ops’ in Syria, other commentators have also noted the effects of climate change, to which ‘we’ are to a very large extent responsible, and neoliberalism (sometimes referred to, let’s not forget, as the Washington Consensus). Also there is the fact that ISIS arose as a direct result of the Iraq war (no deposing of Saddam, no ISIS) and the spillover of the Iraqi civil war(s) into Syria. Finally, there is long term Western support for the various dictators in the region, many of whom are now supporting ISIS with money and materiel, presumably with tacit Western support or at least indifference.

http://www.foreignpolicyjournal.com/2013/07/06/us-backed-coup-hijacks-egypts-revolution/

154

Manta 09.06.15 at 10:44 am

Beryl @143
“there were always “red lines” (about chemical weapons and so on) that were repeatedly crossed by Assad without much response – even verbal – from the US or Europe.”

Now we are really in cuckoo land:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Destruction_of_Syria%27s_chemical_weapons

“OPCW began preliminary inspections of Syria’s chemical weapons arsenal on 1 October 2013, and actual destruction began on 6 October… on 23 June 2014, had Syria finished shipping the remaining declared chemicals. On 18 August 2014, all of the most toxic chemicals had been destroyed offshore. “

Look, if you want to rewrite history, do about something that is NOT as recent and well-known as the destruction of Assad’s chemical weapons thanks to US intervention.

155

P O'Neill 09.06.15 at 1:31 pm

For the “how to make things worse” file, George Osborne says he’s going to allocate additional money to local councils to absorb refugees … from the foreign aid budget.

156

Hal 09.06.15 at 2:30 pm

@154,

On 18 August 2014, all of the most toxic chemicals had been destroyed offshore.

Destroyed. Sure.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Use_of_chemical_weapons_in_the_Syrian_civil_war

157

Hal from East Boston 09.06.15 at 3:14 pm

Whether you call them refugees or migrants I see, in some of the photos of them, some very fit and able-bodied young men, and they are supposedly fleeing the swarming of ISIS into their countries. My question is if they don’t like ISIS and see it as a presence very undesirable to have in their land, why don’t these abele-bodied young men stay home, organize and arm themselves and get to work exterminating ISIS?

As far as the US is concerned, we have built up over the generations a quite splendid country here. We have not only the right but the obligation to preserve it , for ourselves and future generations. It could be lost if we are not mindful to preserve it If we don’t get some kind of control over the numbers flooding here, it could in the course of time turn into some kind of third-world slum with teeming masses of unemployables and uncontrollable mobs making demands for support and sustenance. We have the right to determine to what degree we are willing to feed, clothe, house, support and educate these numbers, who are, whether “migrants” or “refugees,” FOREIGN NATIONALS, and the right to say “No more.” Some on this thread seem to think it would be wonderful to have open borders everywhere. It wouldn’t.

Many parts of the world are not fit for human habitation, but are inhabited anyway.Of the EIGHT BILLION people of this world, at least half of them would be swimming to this country if the oceans weren’t so wide. Sad as their situations are, we can’t take them in, as it would be to our own ruin to do so.

We have a lot to preserve here, and the right to preserve it.

158

Abbe Faria 09.06.15 at 3:39 pm

Hal, if you look at the list you will see the only CW attacks since disarmament have been either with Chlorine or with Mustard Gas against the Kurds.

Assad isn’t in conflict with the Kurds, in fact the SAA has been running joint ops with them against ISIS. So whoever was lobbing mustard gas at them clearly wasn’t in the SAA, in fact they’re fighting the opposition and there’s rather a lot of the country under opposition control which wasn’t disarmed (of course no-one issued ‘red lines’ to the opposition), so that’s a clue as to what’s going on there.

As for Chlorine… is your objection really that Syria hasn’t been ‘disarmed’ of Chlorine? You might want to google a bit more about what Chlorine does before you decide it should be a prohibited chemical agent. Destroying all the Chlorine within Syria wouldn’t save any lives.

159

Marc 09.06.15 at 4:38 pm

@153: I actually believe that people in the Middle East have free will and aren’t just tools of the West, or figures used to support domestic politics in other countries. The Islamists in places like Egypt like to use elections as tools, but don’t particularly respect the idea that elections could also remove them from power.

I think that you don’t need to invoke nefarious Western puppet masters to understand that there were large constituencies, including secular ones and religious minorities, who didn’t want the Muslim Brotherhood running Egypt.

There are plenty of cases where countries like the US have intervened, but applying a sweeping “west always at fault” filter is worse than useless. In terms of Syria, who precisely should win? ISIS? Assad? What if they’re both terrible and there is no good alternative? What were countries like the US supposed to do once the Arab Spring disintegrated into a power play by religious fanatics? What are countries like the US supposed to be doing now about ISIS?

I don’t see any particularly compelling answers to the above, and given that the blame game comes across as particularly sterile. And it’s pretty obviously relevant to the question of how to treat migrants and refugees, as the single best thing that that we could do for people who want to return home is to make it safe for them to do so, not to give them homes thousands of miles from where they want to be.

160

Brett Dunbar 09.06.15 at 5:24 pm

@71 You might expect climate change to cause conflict. Common sense might tell you it does, however common sense is also what tells you the earth is flat. Basically you have a falsifiable hypothesis so it’s worth actually testing it. In this case the result was rather unexpected. That’s science.

161

Stephen 09.06.15 at 6:02 pm

P O’Neill @155: “George Osborne says he’s going to allocate additional money to local councils to absorb refugees … from the foreign aid budget”.

And you think this “makes things worse”? Please explain.

Surely, giving money to local councils in UK to help Syrian refugees will, by any rational standards, make things better for Syrian refugees. Taking money from the foreign aid budget, a large proportion of which goes to less urgent cases and some proportion of which may be diverted entirely, seems to me like a good idea.

162

Layman 09.06.15 at 6:03 pm

“You might expect climate change to cause conflict. Common sense might tell you it does, however common sense is also what tells you the earth is flat.”

This comparison works against you. Just as there is a wealth of evidence that the earth is not flat, there is a wealth of evidence that changes in climate create resource shortfalls, and a wealth of evidence that resource shortfalls cause conflict. New research is always welcome – as it is in the case of geology and physics – but there’s enough experience now to acknowledge the connections.

163

Stephen 09.06.15 at 6:46 pm

novakant@95:
“Many people care for abstract notions of ‘truth’ and ‘justice’.

you;- “Yeah, maybe”.

Are you trying to argue that many people do not, in fact, care for ‘abstract notions’ of truth and justice? If you are, and if most CT commentators agree with you, I despair entirely.

If Igor Belanov continues to believe that national sovereignty, being an ‘abstract notion’ , is to be disregarded in terms of practical politics, I despair of Ivan Belanov.

164

Brett Dunbar 09.06.15 at 6:48 pm

The evidence gathered so far hasn’t supported the hypothesis, that’s the thing. It is certainly what we expected to find. So not finding it is fairly surprising. Can you cite any research showing an effect?

165

steven johnson 09.06.15 at 7:51 pm

Hidari@153 is pretty good, I think.

I have to quibble and add that I think there really was and is mass opposition on the part of Coptic Christians, Sufi Muslims and committed secularists to Morsi’s program of (rigid Sunni) Muslim Brotherhood government/personal rule. I think this is why the al-Sisi government has been able to carry on after Mubarak’s regime collapsed in the face of huge protests. Morsi and his party divided the opposition, especially by crushing the labor movement I think, but in the end, the military rules, which I would think is not the sequel he anticipated. C’est la guerre civile, ne c’est pas? A Morsi’s unthinking adherence to cheap cynicism can be so misleading.

I further think that the US/Saudi/Qatar et al. have hoped for a Syrian Morsi or al-Sisi all along and oppose Syrian democracy as resolutely as they oppose democratic Kurds. There was some element of genuine opposition to Assad, but it was never majority opposition in the fashion of Egypt. Nor do I think it at all reasonable to think that the protests were not relying on violence organized by local allies of the US/Saudi/Qatar et al. in a way the Egyptian revolutions (which by the way had its own component of violence from the beginning.) And in particular there was never a labor component as in Egypt, since the Syrian pro-democracy movement was always collaborationist.

Further, one aspect of US and allies interference contributing to the internecine violence in Syria that seems to have been overlooked, is that it has encouraged refusal on the part of the “protesters” to adhere to a maximalist program of immediate regime change. Given the peculiar American joy in murdering not just its enemies but their children too, no decent human being, which includes Syrian protesters, should expect any dictator, real or so-called, to commit suicide. In any event, Assad has made efforts to negotiate and the opposition has not. Any airy insistence that his efforts were fake

As to the ideas about the role of climate change in creating the Syrian catastrophe, I suspect we need to be a little more specific: The Syrian drought weakened the material base of the Baathist regime, making it impossible to maintain its legitimacy (such as it was,) by delivering enough material benefits. The thing about climate change and deprivation of resources is not that those lacking the resources engage in vicious attacks on the wealthy. This is I think a leftover image of starving rabble robbing and stealing and killing the good, well dressed folk. No, I think in periods of vast economic and ecological stress, it is the wealthy who attack those have been weakened, in order to seize a larger slice of shrinking pie. (There’s never enough pie for the elites, which is why the KRG in Iraq is not nearly as stable as believed, much less invincible.) If sea level rise starts taking out large areas of Bangla Desh, it won’t be the hordes of Bengalis invading India, it will be India attacking Bangla Desh.

166

Igor Belanov 09.06.15 at 7:55 pm

@162

“If Igor Belanov continues to believe that national sovereignty, being an ‘abstract notion’ , is to be disregarded in terms of practical politics, I despair of Ivan Belanov.”

I’m glad I got away with it, but I do sympathise with poor Ivan.

As far as it’s worth, I don’t think national sovereignty should be disregarded entirely in terms of practical politics, just that those other abstract notions you brought up, truth and justice, should be given priority over it.

“Surely, giving money to local councils in UK to help Syrian refugees will, by any rational standards, make things better for Syrian refugees. Taking money from the foreign aid budget, a large proportion of which goes to less urgent cases and some proportion of which may be diverted entirely, seems to me like a good idea.”

It would suit me better if they took the money away from the nuclear ‘deterrent’ and the civil list instead.

167

steven johnson 09.06.15 at 7:56 pm

“Nor do I think it at all reasonable to think that the protests were not relying on violence organized by local allies of the US/Saudi/Qatar et al. in a way the Egyptian revolutions DID NOT (…”

“… has encouraged refusal on the part of the “protesters” NOT TO NEGOTIATE BUT to adhere to a maximalist program of immediate regime change.”

THE MOST COMMON PROXIMATE CAUSE OF WAR IS THE PROSPECT OF AN EASY VICTORY.

Shrieking is not the best substitute for the ability to proof read, but I’m sorry, it’s the best I can do.

168

LFC 09.06.15 at 8:04 pm

Ronan @56 linked to a short post by Halvard Buhaug of Peace Research Inst. Oslo. Here’s that post:

Research to date provides no conclusive answer as to whether climate anomalies affect violent conflict. The modal opinion among experts on the subject is a qualified ‘perhaps’; few disagree with the notion that extreme environmental conditions and events can affect people’s inclination for using violence to redress their grievances, but it is increasingly apparent that climate is not related to conflict in a simple and direct manner. In a new essay just published, I discuss some reasons for the scholarly disagreement and offer some thoughts on how the field should progress.

Buhaug, H. 2015. Climate-conflict research: Some reflections on the way forward. WIREs Climate Change. doi: 10.1002/wcc.336. [Open access]

Some of you in this thread who are debating the relation betw. climate change and violent conflict might want to look at that piece. He says it’s open access.

I doubt I’m going to read it, but then I haven’t been making assertions on the subject. (Also, one of the few upsides of not having a ‘research agenda’ is that I don’t have to read anything I don’t fu*king want to. In fact, I don’t have to read anything, period. OTOH, if I were going to get into a yes-it-is-no-it-isn’t back-and-forth on the topic, I might want to glance at what some researchers say. Buhaug is just one person, of course, but it’s one place to start.)

169

Hidari 09.06.15 at 8:10 pm

170

Matt 09.06.15 at 8:12 pm

I actually believe that people in the Middle East have free will and aren’t just tools of the West, or figures used to support domestic politics in other countries. The Islamists in places like Egypt like to use elections as tools, but don’t particularly respect the idea that elections could also remove them from power.

I think that you don’t need to invoke nefarious Western puppet masters to understand that there were large constituencies, including secular ones and religious minorities, who didn’t want the Muslim Brotherhood running Egypt.

FWIW I agree that the coup against Morsi wasn’t caused by the West. The West “only” had an extraordinarily weak, muted response to a military coup, massacres, and show trials against a recently elected president and his supporters. I don’t think that Americans had a direct hand in it but you can see the enemies of democracy that American leaders really dislike and those who they are relieved to see succeed.

I think it’s appalling to justify the coup by what the Muslim Brotherhood might have done later. That’s doling out punishment on precrime charges. I don’t doubt that many people disliked Morsi’s election. Many people are going to be unhappy with election outcomes unless it’s a sham democracy. But if there’s ever a good time for a military to overthrow elected leaders, surely it’s after those leaders have refused to lose a legitimate election. Morsi was supposed to have a 4 year term but he was overthrown after a year.

171

LFC 09.06.15 at 8:17 pm

@steven johnson

His opponents want Assad gone. Assad considers all of them, regardless of faction or view, to be terrorists. Under such circumstances meaningful negotiations are impossible. It’s not that the U.S. “encouraged” the opponents not to negotiate while Assad made good-faith attempts to do so. Rather there’s no antecedent ‘space’ in which to negotiate; or, in the jargon, without a bargaining space, without an agreement on what is in dispute, there’s little or no possibility of bargaining.

172

LFC 09.06.15 at 8:24 pm

Hidari @168
The Nat Geo article you link appears to be referring to this paper:
http://www.pnas.org/content/112/11/3241.abstract

173

Hidari 09.06.15 at 8:46 pm

I genuinely don’t understand those people who deny that the US was behind the Morsi coup. After all the US boasted about it in the Voice of the Whitehouse, the New York Times:

“As President Mohamed Morsi huddled in his guard’s quarters during his last hours as Egypt’s first elected leader, he received a call from an Arab foreign minister with a final offer to end a standoff with the country’s top generals, senior advisers with the president said.

The foreign minister said he was acting as an emissary of Washington, the advisers said, and he asked if Mr. Morsi would accept the appointment of a new prime minister and cabinet, one that would take over all legislative powers and replace his chosen provincial governors.”

Let me just go over that. That’s the United States, a country on the other side of the globe, decreeing the make up of a democratically elected government. With of course an implied threat. If you don’t do as we say…..

‘The aides said they already knew what Mr. Morsi’s answer would be. He had responded to a similar proposal by pointing at his neck. “This before that,” he had told his aides, repeating a vow to die before accepting what he considered a de facto coup and thus a crippling blow to Egyptian democracy.

His top foreign policy adviser, Essam el-Haddad, then left the room to call the United States ambassador, Anne W. Patterson, to say that Mr. Morsi refused. When he returned, he said he had spoken to Susan E. Rice, the national security adviser, and that the military takeover was about to begin, senior aides said.’

“Mother just told us that we will stop playing in one hour,” an aide texted an associate, playing on a sarcastic Egyptian expression for the country’s Western patron, “Mother America.”

After deliberately refraining from referring to the coup as a coup, after a short period of time, the Nobel Peace Prize winner Barack Obama then continued the flow of arms and money to the Egyptian Junta.

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/07/07/world/middleeast/morsi-spurned-deals-to-the-end-seeing-the-military-as-tamed.html?hp&_r=0

174

Collin Street 09.06.15 at 8:50 pm

> common sense is also what tells you the earth is flat.

It doesn’t, you know. The earth’s radius of curvature is pretty small, honestly, and its effects clearly and obviously visible: if you think the earth is flat you haven’t been paying attention.

175

Brett Dunbar 09.06.15 at 9:19 pm

The coup was already underway at that point. Attempting to mediate a handover of power doesn’t actually mean that they organised the coup. It looks more like Morsi had already lost power and was being offered a figurehead position.

Morsi had weakened his position by attempting to manipulate the constitutional convention to permanently entrench the Muslim brotherhood in power. This dubious behaviour cost him both the support of liberal Egyptians and a lot of western governments. Leaving his regime isolated and vulnerable.

176

steven johnson 09.06.15 at 9:29 pm

Hidari@172 Of course the al-Sisi regime sought approval and assistance (as your excerpt reports,) from the US.

The interesting question for me is how it is that the US couldn’t sustain Mubarak but so far it’s doing just fine propping up al-Sisi. Mubarak was just as much a creature of the military deep state as al-Sisi. He’d just been out of uniform longer.

“‘This before that,’ he had told his aides, repeating a vow to die before accepting what he considered a de facto coup and thus a crippling blow to Egyptian democracy.” As near as I can tell, Morsi’s crushing of the labor movement was the first crushing blow to Egyptian democracy. Further, the personal regime Morsi was assembling was exclusively based on the Muslim Brotherhood. Making Egypt even more sectarian is not democratic, despite winning an election. And I don’t think it’s a matter of what he might have done, but what he was plainly doing, especially doing so in a way that would leave large portions of the population politically helpless.

177

Layman 09.06.15 at 9:44 pm

“The evidence gathered so far hasn’t supported the hypothesis, that’s the thing.”

What hypothesis, exactly? I’m saying two things:

1) Climate changes can lead to resource shortfalls;

2) and resource shortfalls can lead to conflict.

I doubt you disagree with either of those propositions. They’re quite well demonstrated. For 1, consider the incidence of famine during the Little Ice Age; for 2, consider the drivers behind the Imperial Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

If you accept both, and you accept that global climate change is happening and is not reversible, then conflict is more or less inevitable, isn’t it? And, coming back to the OP, is it not the case that wealthy nations will have to pay the costs of accommodating refugees, feeding famine victims, providing shelter, etc? If not wealthy nations, then who?

178

Matt 09.06.15 at 9:57 pm

Egypt’s 2012 constitutional referendum passed with 64% of the vote. A quick search didn’t turn up fraud allegations from international monitors, though international monitors described suppression of anti-referendum voices in the run-up to voting.

I saw quite a few things to dislike about the Egyptian government when Morsi was in power, but the post-coup government is worse. The military’s massacre of 800+ protesters on 14 August 2013 is the sort of thing that is supposed* to start the CIA smuggling anti-tank missiles to the armed affiliates of protesters. The post-coup government isn’t a secularizing force, in fact is trying to out-Muslim the MB with prosecuting religious offenses. It’s abusing the courts worse than the MB did to sentence groups to death in sham trials. It’s torturing and executing prisoners without even sham court oversight. It’s abominable.

*Though I’m relieved that the CIA is not treating Egypt like Syria, because civil war is an even worse outcome for ordinary Egyptians. Hypocrisy is a lesser evil than inflaming another war.

179

Brett Dunbar 09.06.15 at 10:27 pm

@ 176
Yes I accept the argument is logical. That is why it was expected that there would be a correlation between climate and political instability. The hypothesis is eminently plausible. It just doesn’t seem to be borne out by the facts. The correlation anticipated just isn’t there in the data. The result was unexpected for exactly the reasons you cite.

180

Brett Dunbar 09.06.15 at 10:36 pm

It’s not so much allegations of fraud, Morsi was genuinely popular and his regime had widespread support. It’s more that the constitution proposed would have entrenched the brotherhood in power pretty much whatever happened. This cost him support amongst western governments and liberal Egyptians.

181

Matt 09.06.15 at 11:08 pm

I can only read English translations and commentary on Egypt’s 2012 constitution, but I don’t see what about it is worse than the constitution it was replacing. Nor does it appear to contain any special carveouts for the Muslim Brotherhood. It’s not the constitution I would have written but it appears to be an improvement on what was in place before. “We had to burn the democracy in order to save it” just seems to be weapons-grade bullshit. And I say that as an atheist with no warm feelings for laws or governments constructed along religious lines.

182

steven johnson 09.06.15 at 11:22 pm

Matt@177 In a revolutionary situation, elections have only a limited ability to express the people’s will. Morsi chose to interpret his election as an endorsement of him personally and the Muslim Brotherhood generally. I think events have demonstrated it was an endorsement of the MB’s record of opposition to Mubarak, who was equated with what they call the “deep state.” Unfortunately a decisive popular vote does not confer a mandate in democracies, as witness the 2008 elections in the US.

The Mubarak wasn’t a secularizing force either, and it tried to steal MB’s thunder too. The point to take home is that a sectarian strong state that unlike Mubarak et al. aren’t getting rich by selling the store, is the MB’s thunder.

183

Witt 09.06.15 at 11:41 pm

I don’t mean to distract the thread from the genuinely urgent discussion of the Syrian refugee situation, but since this absurd claim is repeated often, it bears noting that the 2,000-mile US southern border includes 700 miles of river. As in, the border itself runs through the river for 700 miles.

Building a wall in the middle of the river is obviously a whole ‘nother undertaking, but strangely enough I have never heard anyone propose that we just cede ground to Mexico and build on our own side of the river.

Moreover, those who put their faith in the effectiveness of an imagined, super-militarized border wall seem to be under the delusion that it will somehow be more effective than arguably the most-policed border in human history. (Link goes to a list of successful and unsuccessful crossing attempts for the Berlin Wall.)

184

LFC 09.07.15 at 1:36 am

Brett Dunbar @178:

The correlation anticipated just isn’t there in the data.

I suppose that’s why someone whose job involves researching this very question has stated that “Research to date provides no conclusive answer as to whether climate anomalies affect violent conflict.” (see my comment @176)

“No conclusive answer”, in Brett Dunbar’s world, equals “correlation isn’t there in the data.” No, it does not mean that, as anyone acquainted with English should know.

185

ZM 09.07.15 at 5:10 am

I think that in standard theoretical perspectives the impact of climate change on conflict falls into the ditch of the contest between material/geographical determinism versus social constructionism.

But there is some work I am aware of that is more nuanced like Nancy Tuana who proposes an “interactionist” epistemology and ontology that can conceptualise the interrelationships between social and environmental elements.

She looks at Hurricane Katrina as a profound instance of the interaction of the effects of climate change exacerbating and interacting with existing social tensions and inequalities. She writes: For in witnessing Katrina , the urgency of embracing an ontology that rematerialises the social and takes seriously the agency of the natural is rendered apparent.”

(Viscous Porosity:Witnessing Katrina http://www.academia.edu/12103511/Viscous_Porosity_Witnessing_Katrina)

186

Hidari 09.07.15 at 6:33 am

@ 174.

Just imagine turning that last paragraph round for a minute.

‘Nixon had weakened his position by attempting to manipulate the constitutional convention to permanently entrench the Republicans in power. This dubious behaviour cost him both the support of liberal Americans and a lot of Arab governments. Leaving his regime isolated and vulnerable.’

Just the idea, accepted without question, that ‘Western’ governments have the right to decree what sort of government the Egyptians are going to be allowed to have.

187

Brett Dunbar 09.07.15 at 8:39 am

It’s not so much right as power. Rich western governments can make a difference to what happens. If you argue that the US orchestrated the coup, and it would have either not happened or been less likely to succeed without US support then if Morsi hadn’t lost US support he would have had a better chance of staying in power.

188

Brett Dunbar 09.07.15 at 9:22 am

Even if the coup was entirely domestic and nothing to do with us, western governments could have made al-Sisi’s life difficult afterwards. For example not recognising his government freezing Egyptian assets, imposing sanctions &c. doing that sort of thing has a significant material cost to us and his regime didn’t seem to be worth it.

189

Val 09.07.15 at 11:00 am

190

Ronan(rf) 09.07.15 at 12:37 pm

The concentration on the US as behind the military coup in Egypt seems odd. You could certainly argue against specific positions the US took, but they didn’t drive the coup, and in fact were pretty consistent supporters (against some regional allies ) for a (even MB led) democratic transition in Egypt.
The drive to oust the MB primarily came from domestic actors. A lot of the (stronger ) arguments to the contrary sound overly UScentric.

191

Brett Dunbar 09.07.15 at 1:13 pm

The interesting thing is that the Arab spring does seem to have supported Richard Cincotta’s demographic hypothesis. Basically the probability of a revolution occurring and of successfully leading to a stable democracy is directly linked to the median age of the population. The data he used was on revolutions 1972-1989. If the median age is 30 or higher a stable democracy is always achieved. If the median age is less than 25 then you get democracy about 10% of then time. The probability of democracy rises as the median age rises. The older the median age the less likely a revolution is to happen at all. Once the average age is 35 then revolutions don’t happen.

According to this article from 2012

https://www.newscientist.com/article/mg21428653-800-egypt-arab-spring-could-be-wasted-in-youthful-nations/

Tunisia has a median age of 30, giving it a very good chance.

The others are in a rather less favourable situation.

Libya’s median age is 26
Egypt’s median age is 25

Giving them some chance but not a great one.

Syria’s median age is 21
Yemen’s median age is 17

Giving them next to no chance

192

TM 09.07.15 at 3:26 pm

173: Unbelievable. So Obama had it announced to the world via the NYT that his officials were the ones who told Morsi he had to go? How do you explain that Ronan if the US was not a driving actor? Is it conceivable that Sisi would have acted without explicit US backing? No more than it is conceivable that Pinochet would have acted without explicit US backing.

193

Brett Dunbar 09.07.15 at 4:47 pm

The US was acting as a channel of communication. Morsi had already lost control and the Junta were making an offer via the US. That is a fairly long way from the US being responsible for the coup.

194

TM 09.07.15 at 5:24 pm

Why do you think it’s unremarkable that a junta would use the US as a “channel of communication”? The only purpose would have been to convince Morsi that the junta had US backing, lest he was under any illusion that the US due to its well-known “commitment to democracy” (*) might restrain the putschists.

(*) I didn’t think that any FP observer around the year 2015 might still be able to claim without irony that US foreign policy cares a rat’s ass about democracy and human rights but there you go, they still claim it, knowing that nobody has taken the claim seriously in a long time. E.g. see http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2015/sep/24/what-foreign-policy-us/

195

Manta 09.07.15 at 8:00 pm

For those thinking that the West is not doing enough (damage) in Syria:
France to prepare for IS air strikes

http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-34173983

196

Ronan(rf) 09.07.15 at 9:05 pm

I havent been following it closely over the last year or so, so perhaps some new info has come out that more directly implictaes the US in the 2013 coup (and argues against US policy being ‘pro democratisation’ before the coup)
Here, anyway, is my understanding of it (restating my comment above)
Egypt expert Ellis Goldberg:

” Internationally, however, the two leaders faced different situations with the United States. US policy makers increasingly wanted to see Allende ousted both because they feared the emergence of a socialist government on the Latin American continent and because the Hickenlooper Amendment formally committed the US to oppose governments that nationalized foreign property with insufficient compensation. It would be wrong to say that the US supported Morsi as such but the US appears to have been committed to Morsi’s presidency as a step toward democratization and initially sought, albeit halfheartedly, for his return as the legitimate holder of the office. “

http://nisralnasr.blogspot.ie/2013/09/a-tale-of-two-coups.html

And Middle East expert Marc Lynch:

“When the coup first happened, I think they wanted to wait and see how things were going to develop. The U.S. obviously didn’t want the coup to happen. The entire heart of their strategy — and I do believe they’ve had a strategy this whole time — has been to push Egypt toward a democratic transition, to hold elections, to bring all the political trends inside the system. That meant bringing in the Islamists, the Salafis, the Muslim Brotherhood, the liberals, the youth activists, and channeling everything toward democratic elections.

The coup basically destroyed all that. It completely swept aside all the institutions, all the processes that the U.S. had been working to try to support. At the same time, however, there was no real love for Morsi, and there were a lot of people who didn’t trust the Muslim Brotherhood. So there was a real ambivalence on the part of the U.S. They were opposed to a coup, but they weren’t sure they wanted to go to the mat to restore Morsi to power.”

http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonkblog/wp/2013/08/15/should-the-u-s-cut-off-aid-to-egypt-an-interview-with-marc-lynch/

197

P O'Neill 09.07.15 at 9:31 pm

@Stephen (#161, belated) .. of course the extra money for the councils is good but I fear that Osborne deciding of all places he could take the money, it would be from foreign aid, means he sees the median voter as Sir Herbert Gussett and wants to be able to say “we’re not spending a pound extra on foreigners” even with needs higher.

198

Brett Dunbar 09.07.15 at 10:01 pm

It might be seen as a way to slightly cut the foreign aid budget in real terms without formally abandoning the coalition’s achievement of getting to the UN target of 0.7% of GNI, Britain is one of just six countries to do so (the others are Norway, Sweden, Luxembourg, Denmark and rather surprisingly the UAE) and has the second largest in cash term only the US has a higher absolute budget. That was one thing the Liberal Democrats got out of the coalition.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_governments_by_development_aid

199

TM 09.09.15 at 8:54 pm

The Nation:

Europe’s Refugee Crisis Was Made in America
Washington helped create the conditions with its wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
http://www.thenation.com/article/europes-refugee-crisis-was-made-in-america/

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