How Barack Obama Sparked the European Refugee Crisis

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While the issue of illegal immigration is rocking the presidential elections in the United States, across the Atlantic a refugee crisis of biblical proportions has started. Hundreds of thousands of desperate people are taking to fragile boats and are attempting to flee the war-torn regions of North Africa and the Middle East to what they think is the sanctuary of Europe. The Europeans, who have economic problems of their own, are faced with the task of rescuing these people in the middle of the Mediterranean as they try to make it to Italy or Greece and then housing and feeding them afterwards.

The Associated Press reports that the death toll has been horrific, with 2636 people known to have died trying to cross the sea in 2015, from Libya and Turkey into Europe, with likely a lot more having drowned out of sight of any other human being. In 2014, 219,000 people managed to get to Europe alive. Thus far, in 2015, the number is in excess of 300,000. The refugees are at the tender mercies of human traffickers who are not very attentive to their safety and well-being once they have been paid.

The influx of refugees, which is straining the resources of already cash-strapped European countries, has sparked a wave of anti-foreigner sentiment. The hostility is even taking place in Germany, which is still the richest country in Europe. Most European countries harbor significant populations of unassimilated immigrants from Muslim countries. The resentment, long simmering, has started to boil over.

As with many disasters of the past few years, the refugee crisis in Europe can be laid squarely at the doorstep of the Obama administration. A number of foreign policy blunders have set a torch to North Africa as well as Syria and Iraq. People caught up in the fighting, suffering the monstrous oppression of terrorist groups such as ISIS, have an understandable desire to be elsewhere.

In the wake of the Arab Spring, a rebellion broke out in Libya against the rule of Muammar Kaddafi. Seeing a chance to rid the world of a long-standing thorn in the side of civilization, the Obama administration supported the rebellion with air strikes from America’s NATO allies. In the fullness of time, the rebels swept into power, and Kaddafi met with a well-deserved, grisly end.

However, instead of a peaceful, pro-western government taking power, Libya was plunged into chaos. Terrorist militias, many controlled by ISIS, roam the desert, fighting it out. America’s ambassador to Libya, Chris Stevens, was murdered in the town of Benghazi along with three companions under murky circumstances. The chaos has spread to neighboring countries in sub-Saharan Africa.

In the meantime, in 2011, President Obama boastfully withdrew all American troops from Iraq, thus ending American involvement in the most contentious war since Vietnam. Plans to leave a 10,000-person residual force to stabilize the country and support the new Iraqi government were scrapped.

Finally, the regime of Bashar al-Assad in Syria faced an open revolt, The Obama administration dithered over the question of supporting pro-western elements among the rebels, perhaps still smarting over the experience in Libya.

Now, a large part of northern Syria and northern Iraq has been overrun by ISIS, a terrorist army whose atrocities are so barbaric that they defy description. Thus far, the Obama administration seems uncertain what to do about the rise of this new threat, outside of a few pinprick air strikes and ineffective support of the Iraqi Army. The United States government has stayed away, for the most part, from the one group that is putting up an effective fight, the Kurdish militia.

Thus, the next president, whoever that person turns out to be, will have the unpleasant task of trying to bring order to chaos, without too much expenditure of blood and treasure. The lesson is that Americans should consider with care who they elect to be the leader of the free world. Choose unwisely, and it will inevitably end in tears.

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Mark R. Whittington writes about world politics for Capitalist Review. He is the author of Why Is It So Hard to Go Back to the Moon? a study of the politics of lunar exploration.

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