The United Nations Climate Change Conference (UNCCC) will someday be regarded as the spire placed atop a towering edifice of mendacity and hubris. It will momentarily reward the vanity of those who built it, but it will seem as out of place with the time and events that followed as the newly constructed Empire State Building must have seemed to New Yorkers during the depths of the Great Depression. While the aspirational quality of the Empire State Building was incongruous with the bleak Depression, at least that building contributed, and continues to contribute, to human well-being, and its soaring lines remains aspirational. The figurative UNCCC tower is like the Dark Tower in Lord of the Rings, an obsidian monument to the nether regions of the human soul, erected on a foundation that will eventually crumble.
It is ironic that the UNCCC is being held in Paris, a font of European civilization, a little over two weeks after terrorists plunged the city into chaos and bloodshed. Participants will congratulate themselves for—among many self-evident virtues—their intrepid refusal to submit to fear, neither canceling nor moving the conference, thus denying terrorism a symbolic victory. Only a curmudgeon would point out the incongruity: a gathering of egos and powers who believe they can control the world and its climate contrasted to the recent carnage, yet another demonstration of their impotence.
The command and control paradigm is being stretched to its breaking point everywhere, no place more than Europe. The continent’s intellectual elite has always looked with condescension on the American “fetish” for individual rights and liberty. Europe is the birthplace of Marxism, welfare-statism, National Socialism, Fascism, and Keynesianism. Whatever the “free trade zone” rhetoric that attended the establishment of the European Union, it was envisioned by its originators as the gateway to pan-European supranational governance.
After World War II, Europe’s non-Warsaw Pact nations made a Faustian bargain: under NATO they would outsource their defense to the US, but give up much of their autonomy in foreign and military affairs. With minimal defense spending, the European nations funded lavish welfare states. Economies were extensively regulated by national governments, and the European Union evolved into another set of bureaucrats promulgating rules. Labor regulations are particularly stultifying, making it difficult and expensive for companies to reorganize, close money-losing operations, and fire unnecessary or unproductive workers. Trend growth rates in Europe have been below those of the US and Asia. Notwithstanding the implicit US defense subsidy, many European nations run deficits and their ratios of debt to GDP have steadily climbed.
Most European nations have played a subsidiary role in the US’s war on terror. Even those that have refused to join the US have not publicly opposed it. Unfortunately for Europe, its history—from the Crusades to its acquiescence to US intervention—puts it in Islamist crosshairs. Hatred of Europe runs as deep as hatred of the US, with a special animus for the French, British, and Russians. They carved up the region for their own advantage after World War I and share a legacy of colonialism and backing corrupt puppet regimes.
Even before the latest refugee influx, many European nations had substantial Islamic populations. The percentages will inexorably grow; Muslims have far higher birthrates than native Europeans. The debt burdens, regulatory strangulation, and welfare state benefits that have driven youth unemployment rates above 50 percent in some countries have also kept many Muslims, young and old, out of the labor force, on the dole, and living in ghettos. This is not a recipe for satisfaction. Resentment has been magnified by the tendency of many of the migrants to reject assimilation and to embrace violent and often apocalyptic Islamic ideologies. The swelling flood of refugees fleeing lands that have been made uninhabitable by war and chaos stoked by US and Europe intervention, some attracted by welfare state benefits, some vowing jihad, throws nitroglycerin on the fire.
Leaders of countries who are—confronted with slow-to-no-growth economies plagued by debt, unemployment, regulatory overkill, and unaffordable benefits; playing host to hundreds of thousands of Muslim refugees joining combustible local Muslim populations and placing further demands on already strained-to-the-breaking-point immigration, police (not all of the immigrants are law-abiding), and social services; faced with the understandable and increasingly virulent backlash all this engenders—will somehow solve the problem of global climate change, a problem for which it has not been established that humanity is the cause nor that it can be the solution. Sure they will. Long before the polar ice caps melt, coastal regions submerge, and equatorial regions become uninhabitable frying pans—if any of these things ever occur—the continent as we know it will collapse. Europe is toast.
These so-called leaders have met the looming disasters (and there will be a multiplicity) with politically correct gobbledygook orchestrated by the continent’s preeminence, Angela Merkel. Big-hearted Europe can open its borders and wallets to the refugees. (It can’t; it’s bankrupt and there are millions more coming.) They’re here to work, not soak up benefits. (Some are, but even those who want to work find it tough sledding in Europe’s sclerotic economies.) They are refugees, not terrorists (True of many, but not all, and it only took a few to wreak havoc in Paris. One does not have to accept Matthew Bracken’s nightmare scenario to concede that an appreciable percentage of refugees pose a danger.) In the long run, they will assimilate and become part of Europe’s rich and diverse culture. (Who knows? In the short run, thugs among them are robbing, beating, raping, murdering, and otherwise terrorizing local populations.)
Europe has no monopoly on hubris, ideology-induced myopia, and grandiose visions detached from reality. The American representative at the UNCCC is, after all, Barack Obama. While an ocean physically separates Europe and America, they are next-door neighbors philosophically. The US is following European footsteps: intervening in the Middle East and its historic enmities and conflicts, inserting itself in myriad unsavory machinations and intrigues, and establishing ostensible puppets that invariably end up pulling the strings of their supposed puppet masters. The US marches down Europe’s ruinous economic path as well.
There is a point of no return, when the consequences of actions taken pursuant to fallacy, pretension, and venality overwhelm those who have taken them. Europe has passed that point—its fate is sealed—and fences, walls, lock downs, identity cards, surveillance, segregation, deportation, and military retaliation will not shut the Pandora’s box of evils it has opened on itself. There is no assurance that if the US leaves the Middle East and Northern Africa the flow of refugees will abate or the threat of terrorism diminish, although those outcomes are quite plausible. However, the status quo guarantees escalation, and guarantees that the US will eventually share Europe’s fate.
WHY SETTLE FOR LESS?