NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg spoke in Prague (a very beautiful city) today saying “What NATO as an organization is doing is to address the root causes of the migrant crisis.” That sounds cool, but reading on in the radio.cz report it’s clear that Stoltenberg’s idea of addressing root causes will ignore the real root cause of the refugee crisis. In my mind the real root cause of this refugee crisis (BTW, it’s not just a “migrant crisis”) is our collective addiction to crude oil based fuels like gasoline, the greenhouse gas impact of those fuels, and the fact that Western countries (EU and the U.S.) feel they must do deep manipulation of Middle East politics to gain access to crude oil supplies.
The full quote reported by radio.cz is:
“What NATO as an organization is doing is to address the root causes of the migrant crisis. Because we need immediate action in Europe but, in addition, we need to address the root causes in the countries of origin of the refugees. And when NATO is engaged in Afghanistan, when we are working with a partner country like Jordan or when we recently agreed with the government of Iraq to do defense capacity building or when we work with countries in North Africa then we are working with countries in the region to try to help them to increase their capacity, their capability to stabilize their own countries and in the long run that’s the only possible solution.”
What Stoltenberg describes as the root cause behind the Syrian/Yemeni/Libyan/Sudanese/etc refugee crisis is an inability for certain countries to “stabilize their own countries”.
Is that really the core issue? That these countries are unable to keep the peace? Really?
To summarize my post the other day (linked above), what I see as the root cause isn’t an inability to keep the peace. Yes, that’s a part of the problem. But let me ask, why are these countries unable to do so? Let me suggest that Western meddling in the Middle East — such as the illegal 2003 Iraq War that totally screwed up the power politics of Iraq — left the Middle East with lots of reasons to be totally incensed at The West because of what we did in Iraq and elsewhere the last 14+ years.
We, the Western Countries, committed serious atrocity after serious atrocity against populations in several Middle East countries. Recall that Iraq had nothing to do with the September 11, 2001 attacks, and that the Bush43 Administration lied through its teeth in justifying the March 2003 invasion of that country. And once we invaded, we totally screwed up in several ways, created a major power vacuum which allowed a Sunni/Shia civil war to blow out of proportion and these things eventually resulted in ISIS rampaging through Iraq and Syria in an insane fundamentalist Muslim jihad. These sort of events went on and on and on, the result being a whole population that’s extremely radicalized against the U.S. and The West in general.
The West created ISIS. Why? It’s because of our addiction to crude oil, because that’s why we continue to meddle in the Middle East.
It’s not just me saying things like this. CNN happened to have published a piece yesterday titled “Migrant crisis: West reaps what it has sown.” Aside from quibbling over their use of the phrase “Migrant Crisis” (it’s a refugee crisis) the article gives a great rundown of the many ways The West screwed up things in the Middle East. “Europe is reaping a whirlwind of its own making. It needs to stand up, or risk being blown away.”
Another example is an opinion piece published in the NY Times, Who’s responsible for the refugees, by Steve Hilton, a Hungarian whose family emigrated to Britain when he was young. He’s questioning the voices saying the refugee crisis is largely Europe’s problem. He points out, as I have here, that
The Iraq invasion (which could reasonably be described as “largely America’s responsibility”) unleashed a period of instability and competition in the region that is collapsing states and fueling sectarian conflict.
In more recent history he describes the Syrian crisis as:
European leaders wanted, years ago, to intervene directly in Syria in order to check President Bashar al-Assad’s cruelty; the United States didn’t. You can understand why — I wouldn’t for one second question the judgment of American political leaders that their country was reluctant to participate in another military conflict. But at least acknowledge the consequences of nonintervention: the protracted Syrian civil war, the emergence of a lawless territory ripe for exploitation by the sick zealots of the Islamic State, and the resulting flood of millions of displaced people.
So it’s a bit rich for American commentators to lecture Europeans when part of the reason the refugees are arriving on Europe’s doorstep is American foreign policy….
The collective actions of EU and US leadership created a vacuum in Syria which merged with the vacuum in Iraq directly created by America’s conduct in the aftermath of the Iraq war.
However, Steve Hilton is also missing the point on the root cause. He does say we need to address the root cause, but offers this solution:
That means serious and sustained action to create free societies people actually want to stay in. Places with a market economy, property rights, the rule of law, a free press, an independent judiciary and accountable democratic processes.
There are practical steps we could take to entice leaders in the Middle East to open up their economies and provide greater rights and freedoms.
Addressing the root cause of the refugee crisis isn’t to increase the “capability” of these countries to “stabilize their own countries.” Presumably what Stoltenberg wants to do is send in military/police training forces, and beef up their capability to put down the rebellions. That won’t address the real root cause. Instead that strikes me as an action that would make matters worse. Violence piled upon violence begets more violence.
To my mind what we need to do is double down on programs to decrease fossil fuel consumption. If we no longer require access to crude oil to run our economy, our governments won’t feel the need to meddle with Middle Eastern politics.
The following is an August 31, 2015 program from Al Jazeera — Inside Story: Refugees and Europes Dilemna — It shows a lot of information about what’s happening on the ground in the middle of the refugee crisis, and the trouble everyone is facing. Over 300,000 refugees arriving in Europe, and the policies are pushing the problem to countries like Greece and Italy rather than sharing it across Europe. All that’s well and good, at a tactical level. The whole discussion, a half hour of well reasoned, well informed opinion about the refugee crisis, everything in the program is very good. At a Tactical Level.
The problem is not a Tactical problem. It’s a strategic problem in terms of the fuel we’re using to power our society, and the effect of our choice to continue using crude oil. Those choices have consequences, one of which is a continued process of war causing refugees to flee their homes.
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