The drowning of 3-year-old Syrian Aylan Kurdi, the boy who washed up dead this week on a Turkish beach, is a human tragedy. But his photo, which appeared on the front pages of newspapers around the globe, is a metaphor for the wreck of Western liberalism. Aylan gives a face to the otherwise faceless and a name to the otherwise nameless.
Hundreds of thousands of refugees are streaming into Europe in pursuit of safety and better lives. But these are unwelcome visitors. While France and Germany are calling for a new European Union framework to grant refugees like Aylan safe harbor, many other EU nations are unmoved. Britain, for example, is reluctant to accept migrants. Hungary, a key hub for the flow of Syrian migrants, simply says the crisis is “a German problem.” As I say, Western liberalism is in crisis. Still, it’s wrong to simply blame EU governments for this situation. The real problem is centered in three deeper issues.
First — with the exception of Jordan, which is struggling to support millions of refugees — most Middle Eastern governments are ignoring their fellow Muslims. This general disinterest of regional leaders to the immense human suffering around them signifies the moral crisis within political Islam.
Second, Europeans don’t want migrants. More precisely, they don’t want to pay for them. As welfare states, many EU nations are crippled by ballooning government expenditures and economic stagnation. Facing aging populations across the continent, demands on government services will only increase — as will the tax demands on workers.
Yet with sensible welfare reform and strong protections for national identities — language requirements, social inclusion, and so forth — migrants could help Europe rediscover economic growth. In this sense, everyone would win: migrants and Europe would find a secure future together.
Unfortunately, having long believed that big government rather than an inclusive national identity (as in America) binds individuals together, EU nations have struggled to successfully integrate immigrants. This has fostered social alienation and social immobility, and in some cases serious counterterrorism challenges. And it has made many Europeans deeply skeptical of further immigration.
There’s a broader lesson here. Socialism and society are not the same thing. One is built upon the premise that government is the source of morality; the other allows common interests to pursue common good.
Nevertheless, it’s also true that this surge of migration is a consequence of the West’s willful neglect of global chaos. And here, the Obama administration must take a significant share of the blame. Cloaking its defining amorality with Twitter hashtags and vacuous “multilateralist” platitudes, the Obama administration has abandoned Syria to Assad’s mayhem, and Russian and Iranian imperialism.
Of course, some in the West have other excuses for Syria’s great exodus. Take Piers Morgan, who blames the Syrian refugee crisis on the 2003 invasion of Iraq “that started the region’s slide into barbarity.” Because Saddam Hussein’s massacres of hundreds of thousands were security, not barbarity, right? Yes, we must scrutinize the 2003 invasion of Iraq. But we must also realize that our self-flagellation over Iraq — and the isolationism that has followed — has inflamed rather than restrained global injustice.
As I argued at the end of 2013, the world is divided between three narratives of power: statist authoritarians, ideological fascists and democracies. Defending the third narrative, America’s influence is indispensable as a global anchor for freedom: an anchor that supports innocents in their pursuit of individual freedom. And today, absent that anchor for humanity, innocents like Aylan are drowning in seas of injustice.
Tom Rogan is a contributor for Opportunity Lives and writes for National Review. He is a panelist on The McLaughlin Group and a fellow at the Steamboat Institute. Follow him on Twitter @TomRtweets.