EDITOR: | November 16th, 2015 | 22 Comments

The dark clouds over Europe

| November 16, 2015 | 22 Comments
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Bromby-Paris-3

Before leaving Sydney a few weeks ago, I half-joked that we were off to Paris to see Europe once again before it disappeared. Now, sitting in the City of Light, that line doesn’t seem in the least bit funny.

Everybody should be intensely worried. The two most important powers, Germany and France, are showing themselves weak-kneed in dealing with the hoards of Africans, Arabs, Afghanis, Bangladeshis, and so on, flooding across the continent. Only the former Soviet-controlled, ex-communist states – Hungary, Bulgaria, Slovenia, etc. – seem to realise the danger and have erected fences to protect their borders. That and, as I like to keep pointing out, the unresolved financial crisis in the Eurozone, should have everyone around the world concerned.

Before heading off, I had become increasingly astonished at the inability of the European Union to protect its borders. After all, Australia had just shown it could be done: a determined government elected in 2013 (under then Prime Minister Toby Abbott) set out to stop what seemed an endless procession of boats from Indonesia carrying “refugees” who had the forethought to destroy their identity papers so no one knew who they were – but that had not stopped the previous Labor government rolling over and letting them stay, anyway. And then they went on to government welfare, a fortune by the standards of their home countries. No wonder the boats kept coming.

Abbott changed all that. He stopped the boats, having the Australian Navy intercept them, either turning the boats around or packing the so-called asylum seekers off to rather unpleasant camps in Papua New Guinea and Nauru. No free entry, no welfare and the message that under no circumstances would anyone coming by boat ever be automatically in line for residency – no wonder the boats stopped, a lesson that Europe should have heeded but foolishly did not.

And now it has emerged that probably at least two of the terrorists who mounted the Friday attacks in Paris arrived as Syrian “refugees” and were allowed free entry without any attempt to check their stories.

The first I knew that something was wrong on Friday evening is when I boarded the Metro at about 10.30 pm after we had been at a concert and the train was carrying several French marines with automatic weapons. Turning on the television news back at the hotel revealed why.

On Saturday Paris was like a ghost town. All the museums and the large shops were closed, restaurants were mostly empty (and those that did open in many cases served customers inside only, all the outdoor seats being stacked). Police cars were everywhere, the policemen now with machineguns as well as their side arms.

Sunday was subdued too. We went to the Bois de Boulogne (the large park in central Paris) to take the air on a warm, sunny morning and where, it seemed, half the dogs of Paris were out for their walks. But the Metro used to get there was largely empty. The main cafes on the Avenue de Champs-Elysee, usually packed with tourists, were all closed. We found one small one still open – but we were the only customers.

Monday trade in Asia saw gold spike as high as $16/oz – not surprising.

What has stunned Paris, it would seem from watching news reports (including the English language France 24 news channel), is that the Friday attack was something new. The killings at Charlie Hebdo earlier in the year had some explanation: the magazine had published caricatures of the Prophet. But Friday was an attack on Paris at large.

The best-selling historian Niall Ferguson (now a senior fellow of Hoover Institute) wrote a telling piece in London’s The Sunday Times, in which he equated what is happening now to the fall of the Roman Empire, where the Barbarians slaughtered innocent Romans and a civilization was brought down. He quoted Edward Gibbons’ history of the Roman Enpire: “Whenever the Barbarians were provoked by opposition, they extended the promiscuous massacre to the feeble, the innocent, the helpless”. Sound familiar?

As Ferguson points out, Europeans have let their defence forces become weak.

And there is a lack of resolves, as he points out: “I am not going to say that the world stands with France, for it is a hollow phrase,” he begins. “Nor am I going to applaud Francois Hollande’s pledge of pitiless vengeance, for I do not believe it.”

Nor do I. And bombing Syria is not the answer, especially while the refugee boats continued to disgorge thousands more people on the Greek islands.

I prepare to leave Paris later this week in a mood of profound pessimism. Where are the Winston Churchills and Charles de Gaulles (or, indeed, Harry Trumans) of our age? Alas, nowhere to be found.


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Comments

  • Raj Shah

    My heart goes out to the innocent people who lost their lives in the violence. The world leaders should come together to take serious steps to ensure that such events do not happen again.

    November 16, 2015 - 11:37 AM

  • Asher Berube

    This is incredibly Tragic, I sympathize for those who have lost loved ones in this atrocious attack.

    November 16, 2015 - 2:11 PM

  • James C. Barker

    Having recently plowed through Peter Heather’s 500 page dissertation ‘The Fall of the Roman Empire’ I couldn’t agree more with your concerns. The events of the fifth century certainly had an impact on the Technology Metals of the time.

    November 17, 2015 - 8:55 AM

  • Volkhart Rudert

    In Syria, whereas in Indonesia is no war, there is war. That makes all the difference. Please don’t blame refugees for bombing attacks, never do that again – it’s heartbraking.

    November 18, 2015 - 7:04 AM

  • Kris

    Robin: 3 reactions.
    1/ Protecting once borders is easier when surrounded by water and boats have to come from far.
    Protecting borders on land is much more difficult, ask the US government how difficult it is to close borders with Mexico.

    2/ Giving food and shelter to people who want to save their childrens live is human. What would you do when your neighbours would have died because of a bomb? You would be gratefull to those who help you when you run away. You can’t blame us for being human. Would you let these children die just before your border?

    3/ The bombs in Paris have been placed by Europeans, not by refugees coming from whereever. They grew up in France and Belgium. These guys are nuts, just like the Boston bomber, the bomb in 1996 in Atlanta or the 2002 Bali bombings killing 202 people.

    November 18, 2015 - 7:33 AM

  • Robin Bromby

    Go back and read what I wrote: it was NOT that the refugees carried out the bombing attacks, but that French news reports say that two of the bombers slipped into Europe as refugees. So don’t come over all sanctimonious with me over something you incorrectly inferred.

    November 18, 2015 - 10:07 AM

  • Robin Bromby

    1.Many of the refugees ARE coming by boat. Just pick up a newspaper and today there are photos of boats arriving at Lesbos

    2. Oh, so who’s bombing the Bangladeshis and Pakistanis who are among the illegal migrants? It is one thing to offer sanctuary to genuine refugees (Syrian minorities for example) and another to open the doors to anyone who just wants to make more money. So when would you impose limits: at 1 million migrants, 2 million, 10 million? Any thoughts on that?

    3. Hold on: that is twisting what I wrote. I was addressing the economic impact of hundreds of thousands of people just rocking up to Europe without being invited. So are you saying that countries don’t have a right to their territorial integrity, to protect their borders. Try selling that idea to the Chinese or Japanese.

    Please don’t misconstrue what I wrote. By all means you can argue that countries should just allow anyone to cross their borders and settle permanently. That has got nothing to do with the Atlanta bomber, etc. My point was addressing that dangers of allowing untrammelled access to borders. Argue with me over that, not putting up imagined points you think I was making.

    November 18, 2015 - 10:15 AM

  • hackenzac

    I for one don’t care for the right wing xenophobia around the issue. Those refugees are human beings.

    November 18, 2015 - 10:24 AM

  • kris

    Robin, quite difficult to react with so little space on what you write. But I will try:

    1/ You write “The two most important powers, Germany and France, are showing themselves weak-kneed in dealing with the hoards of Africans, Arabs, Afghanis, Bangladeshis, and so on, flooding across the continent. Only the former Soviet-controlled, ex-communist states – Hungary, Bulgaria, Slovenia, etc. – seem to realise the danger and have erected fences to protect their borders. …. Before heading off, I had become increasingly astonished at the inability of the European Union to protect its borders – …And now it has emerged that probably at least two of the terrorists who mounted the Friday attacks in Paris arrived as Syrian “refugees” and were allowed free entry without any attempt to check their stories. .. As Ferguson points out, Europeans have let their defence forces become weak”

    2/ You write “… Abbott changed all that. He stopped the boats, having the Australian Navy intercept them, either turning the boats around or packing the so-called asylum seekers off to rather unpleasant camps in Papua New Guinea and Nauru.”

    NOW the answers:

    1/ Indeed many people enter via boats via
    a/ Turkey – Greece. Many come via simple rubberboats with 2 or 3 times the people in it – crossing a sea of few km. Last hundreds of meters they swim since the boats sunk ..
    b/ via Libia boats come to Malta. You know the tactics: they put hundreds of people on a boat the could easely sink, often wihout enough fuel so the boats stop after a few km. Than the smugglers leave and the refugees remain on boat – no food – no fuel – no …

    Stopping people from entering by boats can ony be done if the country they come from accepts them back. Turkey sets unacceptable conditions to do so and Libya, well yes no comment needed I assume .. with whome should one talk and would you sent people back to it? Australia had governments to talk to and those who refused where sent to unpleasant camps in Papua New Guinea and Nauru. Outside Australia thus. Well whereto should Europe bring them?

    Alternative is to leave some people on boats like the Lybian examples but what then … let them starve to death.

    2/ Don’t understand your point to be honest. But of course, it is impossible to accept everyone. The question is that given the circumstances (war in Syria, Afghanistan & many countries in Africa), the fact there is not always a solution to sent them back, … there is often no alternative than accepting them. Many Iraki are sent back but many African countries refuse to accept back the ones who left … reason: they sent money back home.
    What can we do: fly with an airplane and drop them with parachutes? It is a very complex problem and I have the impression you judge without knowledge on the reality.

    By the way: one of the terrorists came indeed from Syria but was checked multiple times – fingerprints, pasport, … but was not a known person. So he could pass but most of them had French – Belgian nationality. My point here is that it are not the Syrians that are the terrorists but the people who are born here. Terrrorist attacks are in many cases executed – all for the world – by local nuts. cfr my exemples.

    3/ Can you point me out in your article where you speak explicitely about the economical impact. Indeed in China it is impossible to enter but that is not a democracy either.

    Europe is perhaps weak, but Europe is also a virtual something. It only exists when all countries want the same … It is surrounded by complex countries, many of them at war. Not always easy to protect.

    November 18, 2015 - 2:27 PM

  • alvarita

    “Those refugees are human beings.” So were the people who planned and carried out the attacks. DUH!

    November 18, 2015 - 2:33 PM

  • hackenzac

    Considering American policy going back more than 75 years is hugely complicit in creating the mess, it’s only fair that we allow for absorbing innocent victims. Besides, angry white guys are so good at shooting things up any violent Islamists that slip through will barely budge the violence needle even in comparison to the violence that police alone mete out daily. In America, you are far more likely to shot by a cop than killed by a terrorist. I see a lot of fear mongering and xenophobia. Your point Alvarita if you have one, is an idiot one. My own family is one of refugees and if not for the prescience of my grandfather, I wouldn’t even be here. Meanwhile Algarita, your parents sent Jews to gas chambers because they opposed like you the refugees of war. We say Never Forget! and indeed we shouldn’t. Immigrants breathing free are what make us great. Angry white guys with guns, not so much. The entire slate of Republican presidential candidates is not fit to lead, certainly not the America that I want.

    November 18, 2015 - 3:22 PM

  • alvarita

    You’ve been warned many times about personal attacks hackenzack. Why you’re still allowed to post here is a bigger mystery than creation itself. The comment about my parents is about as offensive as one can get, and I would hope that Tracy will refuse to tolerate your nonsense in the future.

    November 18, 2015 - 7:36 PM

  • Kris

    alvarita, as I mentioened before. The attacks where executed and planned by people who where born in Europe. Only one came from Syria: one.

    Countries could way: we refuse everyone – the only way to be sure. But what then: sink the boats, let the children die in front of the gates, …

    We don’t need warnings: we know it. Better then those outside Europe. But how to do this and remain human at the same time. Not easy.

    By the way: what does one mean by Europe? European continent? European union? Eurozone? is Russia part of Europe? And what about Turkey?

    November 19, 2015 - 2:38 AM

  • Robin Bromby

    Right-wing? Give me a break. Over 1000 people (many children) drowned on their way to Australia by boat. Since the boats have been stopped, not one death (including no children drowning). Do you see something wrong with that result?

    November 19, 2015 - 7:26 AM

  • Robin Bromby

    Oh, and another thing. The stopping of the boats allowed Australia to accept an additional 25,000 genuine refugees from camps in Syria, Jordan and Lebanon. More nasty right-wing attitudes, do you think?

    November 19, 2015 - 7:41 AM

  • John Kelly

    Extraordinarily stupid commentary here on what is an excellent article. And the people lying on slabs in the morgues in Paris and in hospital beds WERE and are human beings too.

    November 19, 2015 - 9:17 PM

  • hackenzac

    All the tea in China is consumed by human beings. What’s your point? My point is that we are in fact a country of armed to the teeth mass murderers already and it’s not being perpetrated by middle eastern terrorist cells. It’s 95% disgruntled white guys with fetishized weapons caches shooting up schools, churches, theaters and shopping centers, scores of incidents. If you reach back to Columbine, there are hundreds. That doesn’t include police executions. Why do you think there are cries for body cams on cops now? The Watchmen need watching. We have a problem with domestic ‘terrorism’, a xenophobic word in itself. They’re all in fact, criminals. The humans I’m talking about are refugees. That’s the topic. We don’t endanger ourselves by protecting the weak. Rather, we raise ourselves when we do. Those humans, not the criminals, not the ones dead on the slab and not the ones sipping tea in China, if they get sent back to ruined Aleppo etc, they will die just like the Jews on the Exodus did 75 years ago when America was faced similarly. Maybe you can live with that but I can’t. As far as I’m concerned, Trump and that ilk are psychopaths. That’s worse than idiocy which is maybe excusable in your case.

    November 19, 2015 - 10:20 PM

  • Kris

    @John, since you find our comments stupid, can you point out which elements in the article are perfect?

    November 20, 2015 - 5:31 AM

  • kris

    @John, I have the impression that making statements like ‘excellent article’ are easier than having a discussion on content. Don’t you like a challenge?

    Bombing Syria is not the answer, writing articles with slogans without knowledge are not helping us either.

    November 21, 2015 - 3:52 AM

  • Robin Bromby

    Just for the record — and before my post become even more misconstrued — I did write that “bombing of Syria is not the answer”. Repeat, not.

    November 21, 2015 - 4:01 AM

  • nevada george

    Western Cultures have been infected with a virus called ‘Normalcy Bias’.
    Europe will never be the same.

    November 22, 2015 - 8:52 PM

  • Eric M. Klier

    Mr. Bromby, excellent article, we must indeed look to history so we can avoid past mistakes. In this case, following in the footsteps of Australia would be a wise move. Oh for the character of a Winston Churchill in place of the current occupant of the White House.

    @hackenzac…talk about xenophobia…I think you are one suffering…fear of “angry white guys”. Your ignorance and prejudice of virtually all “angry white guys” and the Republican presidential candidates is pathetic. And yet, with all that ignorance and prejudice, you demand access to everyone for that which was built and is still maintained by those “angry white guys”. It is too bad that you and your parasitic ilk didn’t have the moral fortitude and guts to stay in your own country and fight for what you believe is right…like all those “angry white guys”. You would much rather criticize those who merely want to be left alone to live productive lives, provide for their families, and protect their families and personal property.

    November 23, 2015 - 6:18 PM

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