1. The Autumn of Illusions
There’s something changing in Germany as a land of refugees. The summer was marked by helpfulness and idealism; the immense problems inevitably caused by such an influx were pushed to the backburner. One should have known it from the start, and the politicians should have known it, too: refugees beget more refugees, among them Islamists, terrorists and criminals. Not all of them will abide by the rules in Germany. There will be shortages, confusion and violence. Many didn’t want to see that; now everyone sees it, which is a good thing.
This autumn a different mood is spreading. But it is by no means a shift from idealism to realism, as many claim. On the contrary: when it comes to the refugees, Germany is suffering from an egregious disconnect with reality. Illusions have become more proliferate than they were anytime in the summer. And now people are seeing black. The fear that the influx of one million refugees a year to an 80-million-strong country like Germany could overwhelm us is leading to ever more panic. Unrealistic wishes to cordon off Germany run wild, as do violent fantasies targeting refugees. And under the false flag of Realpolitik more is being invested again in the Middle East – in more illusions – and the voodoo magic of foreign policy is being driven by bombs.
It’s time for Americans and Europeans – and especially Germans – to free themselves from their illusions and obsessions and face their fears.
2. The Arabs no longer want to waste their lives
In the hectic of the present day, what’s being suppressed is the fact that the crisis is about much more than refugees and Syria. What we’re experiencing is an historic, watershed event that’s been looming for two decades. Now that millions of Arabs have made their way to Europe, there’s one thing that can no longer be overlooked: the Middle East is populated not only by oil wells but by people as well. And over the last twenty years, at least, these people have become more and more fed up; they no longer want to die or waste their lives in corrupt, hypocritical dictatorships and chaos.
The end of their patience has taken three forms of expression: Islamist terrorism, the attempt to shake off the dictators in uprisings, and now mass flight. Of course, these three varieties of "enough is enough" must be evaluated differently in moral terms, but their existence can’t be denied. For that reason it is illusory to believe that we can snuff out terrorism or stop the flow of refugees without giving these people prospects for a better life.
Now, in the face of a mass exodus, it is also becoming clear what benefits the dictators of the Middle East once offered the West – and still do. These men guard the oil wells for us and have kept the Arab and African refugees at bay. They do what Western politicians don’t dare to do: they shoot people down and drag them into their torture chambers. They throw poison gas and threaten the relatives of those who flee. This is a functional deterrent.
3. The feeble idea of the ostensibly strong men
Of course, the temptation is great to rebuild this protective wall of bloodthirsty, seemingly stable dictatorships. The court jester of the western courts, who is currently expressing all of the embarrassing truths about our collective unconscious, is Donald Trump, who has clearly said that we’re better off with Saddam and Gaddafi. And Putin, the great seducer of the east, is singing the same song: Come, let’s together destroy everything between Assad and the IS in Syria, then we’ll upend Assad or one of his relatives, and then we’ll do something similar with Libya – and the refugee exodus will never end.
At first, because it’s so brutal and cynical, this might sound like the good old dirty realpolitik of the past. But not everything dirty is realpolitik. Russia’s intervention will only increase the chaos in the region. In the end Putin is doing only what Americans and Europeans, with much greater resources, have repeatedly tried to do in the past: use bombs and guns to turn the Middle East back into a region from which only oil flows, not terrorism and people.