The EUROPEAN REFUGEE DEBATE (UPDATE): Looks bad after Cologne? But don’t give up. There’s historic opportunity here?


Maybe there’s another narrative? (continued)


 FEATURED IMAGE: Kazimir Malevich 1916 Suprematist composition (blue rectangle over purple beam) 88 x 70.5cm, private collection

SUPPORTING IMAGES: Peter Blume. The Rock, 1944–1948, oil on canvas, 146.4 x 188.9 cm, The Art Institute of Chicago; Edgar Degas, 1890, Russet landscape, pastel over monotype, 30 x 40 cm, private; Fernand Léger, 1913 Contrast of Forms (Contraste de formes), oil on burlap, 98.8 x 125 cm, Guggenheim Museum, New York; Fernand Léger, 1948-49 Leisure (Homage to Jacques-Louis David), Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris.



Easy to get downhearted? As Roy Orbison sang once.

And easy to lose Perspective, sight of the Opportunity.

Yes NYE Cologne was ugly. Not near as bad as Bataclan et al, but ugly, given also it follows so soon after the recent refugee influx, and that this influx has apparently contributed culprits.

One clear problem is the cohort apparently responsible, Delinquent Foreign Young Men, ie recently arrived socially challenged young men, bringing a moronic anti-social mindset from wherever. This group is very different say to Young Families. And largely different to most young Muslim men already living in Germany?

But it’s early days



We need to keep perspective, an eye on pathbreaking historic opportunity.

Europe has an inherent, systemic demographic problem. Ageing population structures.

And Islam has a major problem, shaking off the Islamist fanatics feeding off the wholesale violent disruption in the MidEast.

Successfully integratng 1-2 million more Muslims with plus 80 million Germans is a major opportunity for both sides, and for greater Europe and world beyond.

Germany gains a shot of enterprising youth.

And the mainstream Muslims gain a meaningful measure of Peace and Prosperity, and a defusing of the fanatics.

So IF it works it sends a huge signal to all Muslims everywhere, and the world.

But “working” means acceptance by the refugees of the liberal, pluralistic Western model, including respect of the rule of law, and the separation of religion and State.

But yes it will not be easy, yes there are major transitional issues – like New Year’s Eve Cologne, like the risk IS will infiltrate the influx, like language, like “behavioural culture”, like gaining job skills -, so yes it needs careful management and resources, by all sides concerned, and over some years, not months.

And this especially means moderate Muslims in Germany (at levels, private citizen to all relevant collective organisations) and Europe working to achieve workable integration. Events in the MidEast have allowed the fanatics to hijack their religion. So they have a vital interest in working with all relevant authorities to make integrating the refugee influx work.



There is an excellent comment on the German reaction to New Year’s Eve Cologne by Anna Sauerbrey (An editor on the opinion page of the newspaper Der Tagesspiegel and a contributing opinion writer), see Germany’s Post-Cologne Hysteria, Anna Sauerbrey, New York Times, JAN. 8, 2016. In particular she notes the Left and Right factions in Germany have been quick to pass judgement, before all the facts are in.

She summarises the challenge of integration: “Integration will fail if Germany cannot resolve the tension between its secular, liberal laws and culture and the patriarchal and religiously conservative worldviews that some refugees bring with them.”.

And asks is Germany going about it the right way:”The real question we should be asking is not whether there is something inherently wrong with the refugees, but whether Germany is doing an effective job of integrating them — and if not, whether something can be done to change that.”



The prize is historic rapprochement between the West and moderate mainstream Islam.

So perhaps here there is a trap for the Islamic fanatics, the violent radical dreamers of a new Caliphate? Such dreams for Europe and beyond can backfire because the wealthier and freer regions like Europe will have strong meaningful appeal to many Muslim refugees, not just for food and shelter, and for economic opportunity, but importantly too for the much freer religious and political atmosphere offered, especially longer term, especially for the now young children when they grow up



The big risk is that as after WW1 the moderates (Western and Muslim) lose out to the extremists on both sides, the Islamists and the “fascist” Far Right.

Thus for the dangers here read Robert O. Paxton (Professor Emeritus of History at Columbia University) recently: January 7th, 2016 on Project Syndicate, “Is Fascism Back?” Who knows one or two things about Fascism in France and Europe in the 20th C.



1/ End of the day most average people from whatever religious or political context do not favour terroristic violence of whatever stripe as part of their daily fare. They mostly prefer a quieter life, focussed on family and work, as well as whatever religious activity fits.


2/ There is clear evidence (especially in the West) that rising education and affluence undermines religious zeal, and even detaches many from meaningful regular religious observance, though the pattern varies.


3/ Whether we like it or not, the results of the recent “bbots on the ground” Western military intervention in the MidEast and nearby (Iraq 2003, Libya 2011) have been disastrous.

Yes a couple of dictators were removed but at an unimaginable and ongoing cost. It has unleashed a torrent of violence:

a/ it wrecked existing national power structures, however unpalatable these were to the Western democratic model,

b/ it exposed the underlying profound Shia-Sunni sectarian fissure, now exploited by extremists on all sides, and which fissure importantly has national characteristics as well as religious, which thus now sees Iran and the Saudis squaring off, and each supported by / overseeing various proxy extremist sub-groups, IS, Hezbollah etc.

c/ it has directly promoted the rise of Islamist extremist violence in the MidEast and in the West, committed intranecinely among themselves, and committed by both sides against the West.

4/ Thus widespread current violent fanaticism is not inherent in Islam, and rather relates directly to the complex total MidEast situation, especially including the West’s long term episodic interaction with the region, which has allowed violent fanaticism to take root and spread.


LESSONS FROM HISTORY: A case study. Ancient Rome

There is relevant insight here in Mary Beard’s new history of old Rome (“SPQR: A History of Ancient Rome”, Profile, 606 pp).

Ancient Rome’s singularly disproportionate impact on affairs then remains never far from attention today.

But Rome’s major achievement, and the reason it was so successful in expanding, was not military proficiency or aqueducts but ideas, in particular its “inclusiveness”.

Rome grew not just by conquest but by then consolidating, but bargaining constructively with the losers: you join the team and work for us (as soldiers and farmers) then you share in the growing pie, ultimately as “citizens”. As Tacitus wrote in Agricola: the Romans, ‘they make a desolation and call it peace’.

This radical notion, applying even to many slaves, was missed by the clever Greeks.


In probing the future there is a temptation to project trends, as if they are immutable. As if there will be no countervailing response.

And also to misread lessons from history.

Also there are big surprises, negative and positive.

Happy surprises like: 1/ the post WW2 outcome for West Europe?! 2/ The fall of the Wall. 3/ the outcome of the Balkans War in the 1990s! This success, after appalling bloodshed, was cited by some in supporting the 2003 Iraq War. But the underling reality was far different to the MidEast.

Unhappy surprises like: 1/ outcome of the 2003 Iraq War, and countless other wars.


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