We are witnessing the largest mass migration of refugees and oppressed people since World War II and it is only the beginning. If decisive action is not taken soon to arrest the causes of this migration at its source, it will reach tens of millions in very short order. Without doubt, over time this will produce a major economic and cultural calamity for Western Europe, one that it cannot afford.
What should be done? First, we should deal with the immediate humanitarian crisis as America always does–with compassion, medical attention, food, shelter, and sanctuary for those who are truly refugees from oppression. But we must also recognize that our failed policy of retreat in the Middle East has been a significant cause of the problem. All wars create refugees, but this problem could have and should have been mitigated by maintaining a significant U. S. presence in Iraq and by American intervention in the Syrian civil war at a time when it would have been decisive in taking out the Assad regime and reducing the threat of ISIS. Now we face the additional consequence of announced Russian support of the Assad regime in Syria, making any decision to intervene much more problematic.
In a recent Wall Street Journal essay by Bret Stephens, he references a 2003 book by Robert Kagan, Of Paradise and Power, in which Kagan noted the philosophical divide between Americans and Europeans. He wrote that Americans occupied the world of Thomas Hobbes, in which “true security and the defense and promotion of a liberal order still depend on the possession and use of military power.” By contrast, Europeans, according to Kagan, live in the world of Immanuel Kant, in which “perpetual peace” is guaranteed by a set of cultural conventions, consensually agreed rules and a belief in the virtues of social solidarity overseen by a redistributive state. The problem now, as assessed by Stephens, is that Barack Obama has adopted the Kantian view so that America and Europe have been in concert on most of the critical foreign policy issues–get out of Iraq, stay out of Syria, negotiate with Iran–retreat, retreat, retreat.
The primary overall consequence of this is world disorder and it will not end until America returns to its proper role in world leadership. And after eight years of the Obama administration we will have a lot of work to do to restore our credibility with both our allies and our adversaries.