Wednesday, June 13, 2007

European Lessons

The Last Days of Europe show how immigration is at the root of Europe's current problems.

By Stanley Kurtz

Can uncontrolled immigration kill a continent? According to Walter Laqueur, it already has. Laqueur, an historian who’s spent a lifetime moving between America and Europe, is a scholar and public intellectual of international stature. So it’s news when the latest book from so knowledgeable and unimpeachable a friend of Europe echoes and extends the themes of a pugnacious series of American tracts on European decline. Whether European intellectuals will be able to dismiss Laqueur’s The Last Days of Europe: Epitaph for an Old Continent, just as they’ve dismissed so many other such books, is an open question. (It’s tough to discount a book endorsed by Henry Kissinger and Niall Ferguson.) What’s certain is that, in the midst of our own immigration debate, Americans cannot afford to ignore The Last Days of Europe.

Immigration Disaster

In combination with Europe’s demographic decline and guilt-laden multiculturalism, says Laqueur, unchecked immigration has created a massive and growing population of unassimilated Muslims, hostile to their own countries and determined to transform Europe beyond all recognition, through a combination of violent and non-violent means. “Why had the European countries brought these [Islamist] attacks upon themselves?” asks Laqueur. “Above all,” he says, “it was naïveté that had made possible the indiscriminate immigration of earlier decades.” In his concluding reflection on what went wrong for Europe, Laqueur singles out immigration as first among causal equals: “...uncontrolled immigration was not the only reason for the decline of Europe. But taken together with the continent’s other misfortunes, it led to a profound crisis; a miracle might be needed to extract Europe from these predicaments.”In Laqueur’s telling, the trouble began “when European countries recruited workers abroad to do the work European workers were not willing or able to do.”

Only about half of the (supposedly temporary) guest workers who came to Europe during the boom years of the 1960s returned home as initially planned. “Others stayed on legally or illegally and in many cases brought relatives to join them, and the host governments were not willing to enforce the law against those who broke it.” When Europe’s boom gave out following the OPEC oil shock in 1973, governments stopped issuing work visas. But that didn’t stop immigration. Relatives flowed in legally, through family reunification laws, and illegally, as immigrant smuggling became a major business.

There followed a flood of asylum seekers, to whom the authorities were “quite liberal in their approach, even though the majority of these immigrants, probably the great majority, were not political refugees but ‘economic migrants....’” Many were Islamists, others hoped to establish criminal gangs, “but all asylum seekers, whether legitimate or illegitimate, were supported by a powerful lobby, the human rights associations and churches that provided legal and other aid. They claimed it was scandalous and in violation of elementary human rights to turn back new immigrants and that in case of doubt mercy should prevail.”

As supposed asylum seekers poured in, they destroyed their papers, making it impossible for European authorities to deport them. What’s more, “border controls inside Europe were largely abolished and if an immigrant had put foot into one European country he could move freely to another.” Laqueur adds that the “number of asylum seekers, real and bogus, began to decline after 2002, following the introduction of more stringent screening measures.” But by then it was too late; Europe had entered its “last days.”

It should have been clear early on that immigration was creating serious problems, says Laqueur. Muslim resistance to assimilation was evident, as were the warning signs of demographic decline. And had it been clear, it is hardly the case that nothing could have been done about it. After all, says Laqueur, “illegal immigrants to Japan or China, Singapore, or virtually any other country would have been sent back within days, if not hours, to their countries of origin.” Yet because all this was ignored, says Laqueur, we now face “the end of Europe as a major player in world affairs.” Almost overnight, Laqueur continues, “what had been considered a minor problem on a local level is becoming a major political issue, for there is growing resistance on the part of the native [European] population, who resent becoming strangers in their own homelands. Perhaps they are wrong to react in this way, but they have not been aware until recently of this trend, and no one ever asked or consulted them.

”What Were They Thinking?

Laqueur returns several times to the failure of Europe’s authorities to consult with the public on immigration. Instead of putting the matter up for debate, government and corporations quietly and unilaterally set policy. Europe’s elite had a bad conscience, given memories of refugees from Nazi Germany who’d been turned away decades earlier. There was also the omnipresent “fear of being accused of racism.” This bizarre combination of multiculturalism and complete disregard for the significance of culture opened up a huge gulf between Europe’s elite and the public — a gulf that emerged openly when France and The Netherlands rejected the proposed EU constitution (in part over concerns about Muslim immigration and the accession of Turkey to the EU). There was, says Laqueur, “a backlash against the elites who wanted to impose their policies on a population who had not been consulted....Another important motive was the reluctance to hand over national sovereignty to central, remote and anonymous institutions over which people had no control.”Laqueur concludes that it’s next to impossible for an historian to establish just what it was that Europe’s authorities were thinking when they formulated the immigration practices now undermining Western civilization in its very cradle. To the question “Did they imagine that uncontrolled immigration would not involve major problems?” Laqueur responds that it is unanswerable. (My guess is that, like today’s market-based immigration advocates in America, European leaders were focused on the immediate need for labor and gave little if any thought to long-term social consequences. In other words, the simplest explanation for Laqueur’s inability to track down the deep thoughts of Europe’s leaders about the cultural consequences of immigration is that there never were any such thoughts.)

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