Writing in the Wall Street Journal, Walter Russell Mead puts the European immigration crisis into context:
What we are witnessing today is a crisis of two civilizations: The Middle East and Europe are both facing deep cultural and political problems that they cannot solve. The intersection of their failures and shortcomings has made this crisis much more destructive and dangerous than it needed to be—and carries with it the risk of more instability and more war in a widening spiral.
The crisis in the Middle East has to do with much more than the breakdown of order in Syria and Libya. It runs deeper than the poisonous sectarian and ethnic hatreds behind the series of wars stretching from Pakistan to North Africa. At bottom, we are witnessing the consequences of a civilization’s failure either to overcome or to accommodate the forces of modernity. One hundred years after the fall of the Ottoman Empire and 50 years after the French left Algeria, the Middle East has failed to build economies that allow ordinary people to live with dignity, has failed to build modern political institutions and has failed to carve out the place of honor and respect in world affairs that its peoples seek.
Meanwhile, in Europe, the Great Wave of immigration from the Middle East and North Africa is crashing into a continent beset with its own problems:
In Europe and the West, the crisis is quieter but no less profound. Europe today often doesn’t seem to know where it is going, what Western civilization is for, or even whether or how it can or should be defended. Increasingly, the contemporary version of Enlightenment liberalism sees itself as fundamentally opposed to the religious, political and economic foundations of Western society. Liberal values such as free expression, individual self-determination and a broad array of human rights have become detached in the minds of many from the institutional and civilizational context that shaped them.
Capitalism, the social engine without which neither Europe nor the U.S. would have the wealth or strength to embrace liberal values with any hope of success, is often seen as a cruel, anti-human system that is leading the world to a Malthusian climate catastrophe. Military strength, without which the liberal states would be overwhelmed, is regarded with suspicion in the U.S. and with abhorrence in much of Europe. Too many people in the West interpret pluralism and tolerance in ways that forbid or unrealistically constrain the active defense of these values against illiberal states like Russia or illiberal movements like radical Islam.
Europe’s approach to the migration crisis brings these failures into sharp relief. The European Union bureaucracy in Brussels has erected a set of legal doctrines stated in terms of absolute right and has tried to build policy on this basis. Taking its cue from the U.N.’s 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other ambitious declarations and treaties, the EU holds that qualified applicants have an absolute human right to asylum. European bureaucrats tend to see asylum as a legal question, not a political one, and they expect political authorities to implement the legal mandate, not quibble with it or constrain it.
As ever, we highly recommend you read the whole thing.