Over 1 million refugees entered Europe in 2015 alone. Another 136,000 have arrived so far in 2016. This creates a huge financial burden as well as a cultural challenge for a Europe which is already weakened by huge debt and slow economic growth.
It will bolster those campaigning to take Britain out of the European Union in the upcoming June referendum. A British departure from the EU will dramatically weaken it and might encourage other countries to leave as well.
Islamic State terror plays into the hands of populist demagogues such as presidential candidate Donald Trump and right wing French leader Marine Le Pen.
To allow ISIS to have its own territory, and capital city Raqqa in Syria, is a very high risk strategy. It allows the Islamic State to spread its evil not only around the immediate area but all over the world.
The question raised most urgently by the Brussels attacks, so soon after Paris, is whether and why Raqqa can be tolerated when Al Qaeda’s Tora Bora sanctuary in Afghanistan was not. Today, the West’s ponderous wait-them-out approach looks like capitulation.
The fundamental question is whether or not the U.S. can refrain from immersing itself in the crises of the Middle East and still maintain its status as the world’s indispensable super power. “George Bush will be remembered harshly for what he did in the Middle East. Barack Obama is gambling that he will be judged well for the things he didn’t do.” The stakes are very high indeed for both the United States and our European allies.
The main concerns of this blog are the fiscal and economic problems faced by the U.S. How do we address the very serious issues of a slow economy and rapidly growing national debt. But like it or not, what we do affects the whole world. If we fail to meet our responsibilities for world leadership, then everyone, including us, will suffer the many serious consequences. The Brookings Institution’s Kenneth Pollack has an excellent article in the current issue of Foreign Affairs, “Fight or Flight: America’s Choice in the Middle East,” clearly making the case for strong American leadership. According to Mr. Pollack, “The costs of stepping up are more manageable than the risks of stepping back, but either option would be better than continuing to muddle through.” He explains that
The problem began after WWII when the Arab states either became secular republics (dictatorships) or monarchies.
By the 1990’s popular discontent had risen throughout the Middle East and exploded in the Arab Spring of 2011.
Now there are full blown civil wars in Iraq, Libya, Syria and Yemen with nascent conflicts in Egypt, South Sudan and Turkey.
Stabilizing the Middle East will require shutting down the current civil wars with at least small numbers of combat forces in Iraq and possibly Syria. Economic assistance and infra-structure development should be given only in return for political reform.
The advantage of a reduced U.S. presence in the Middle East is that it would reduce the threat from terrorism.
The great challenge to the U.S. in stepping back is the risk of the near-term collapse of Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Tunisia and Turkey.
The worst outcome of all is for the U.S. to continue muddling through, committing enough resources to enlarge its burden without increasing the likelihood of making things better.
The current European refugee crisis is perhaps the most glaring example of what happens when the U.S. fails to provide the leadership of which only it is capable. Let’s hope that our next president has the ability to turn around the chaotic situation which currently exists in the Middle East.
What happened in Paris could also easily happen in London, New York City or Washington D.C. and soon will if our President does not adequately respond to the threat of terrorism. As the Wall Street Journal declared yesterday, “For seven years Mr. Obama has used the unpopularity of the Iraq war as a shield for his retreat from anti-terror leadership and the Middle East.” The American Enterprise Institute’s Danielle Pletka informs us that:
NATO aircraft scrambled more than 500 times in 2014, with only a few exceptions, in reaction to Russian incursions into NATO member airspace.
In 2014, Japan scrambled aircraft almost 1000 times, with all but a few of these incidents attributed to either Russian or Chinese warplanes.
Russian bombers entered US airspace 10 times in 2014, double the previous average.
Ms. Pletka also suggests how we should respond to four years of carnage in the Middle East:
The first step is to actually have a strategy, rather than a series of reactive tactics and incremental escalations.
The second step is to build a coalition with sub-state and national partners that we trust and that trust us to stick with the job.
The good news is that there is still time to lead a decisive war against ISIS.
There is no need to launch broadsides against all Muslims, the Syrian people and refugees in general. It is Islam extremists who are attacking us, not mainstream Islamists.
The world is a dangerous place and we have many enemies. On this website I am mostly focused on our own fiscal and economic problems which are very serious and need to be dealt with in a timely manner. However the immediate safety and security of our country is the highest priority of all and, on occasion, takes precedence over everything else. Now is a time for such heightened vigilance.