Always on the brink
In his column Germany on the Brink, Ross Douthat gives a convincing description of the social destabilization sure to come from the refugee influx. So many young men so suddenly will not be absorbed peaceably. But what will be the consequences of closing German borders, as he proposes? Not just for Germany, but for all of Europe? Those masses fleeing Syria and elsewhere are not going to stop fleeing as long as their lives are in danger, and they will have to be somewhere. Camps? Where, if no country wants to accept them? The “jungle” of Calais? Or let them drift forever on the Mediterranean, as happened with an earlier refugee crisis, when they were Jews fleeing for their lives?
Europe has never been “stable” but always in flux, with a few decades of calm here and there in the interstices of great convulsions, beginning long before the Hundred Years war and continuing. A wall around Germany will not keep the world out. We’re entering another period of challenge, now that our world is far more closely interconnected than in the 14th century or even during our last two world wars. It’s going to take some clever diplomacy, effective police work, large-scale and sensitive social assistance, tolerance and patience for us to muddle through without destroying what we hold most dear. And not just Germans, or Europeans, because tremors anywhere are now, more suddenly than ever, felt everywhere. We’re all in this together, Syrians as much as Germans or Poles or Hungarians, Lybians, Sudanese and Turks, and everyone else. None of us has the power to halt the changes, but together we can do a lot to mitigate the consequences.