By John Karoly
Chicago, IL, USA
An often-discussed subject and rallying point in the 2016 Presidential race is the Middle East refugee crisis. In fact, few other subjects occupy as much space in the world press, electronic and print, than this crisis of humanity. There is, in fact, little one could contribute to the current state of affairs which has not been discussed in one form or another. Yet, there remains at least one surprising prediction. As reported, Klaus Schwab, President and Founder of the World Economic Forum, which holds its annual meetings in Davos, Switzerland with invitees of leaders of governments, science and industry from countries around the world, predicted that one (1) billion refugees from the Middle East and Africa will head north, presumably trying to escape wars, extreme poverty and starvation.
This, by as prominent a person as Schwab, should be taken seriously. He is not talking about migrants in thousands, hundreds of thousands or millions. He is talking about a billion heading north, that is, to Europe. That is a staggering number of refugees! The present global discussions are for somewhat over a million, maybe two; a billion is nearly a thousand times more than currently contemplated.
The European Union is discussing, arguing about how many refugees each country will accept. It ranges from none to a few thousand to the 1.1 million Germany has accepted. Further emigration to Germany is in serious doubt as Germany is now in the deportation phase. The Germans are very upset with the number of refugees: the disruption they cause to their lives and a different culture in their midst. Pre-Trump, the US would have accepted 10,000, a drop in this huge bucket. But what happens when the refugees' number approaches a billion? What can any country or countries do to stop the masses from crossing through their borders? It is hard to imagine, in the face of such enormous numbers, that barbed wire fences, laws or law enforcement would matter. When they come, they will overwhelm any of this by virtue of the law of very large numbers.
One billion is in excess of Europe's current population. Many of the European countries are close to being overpopulated, others have a comfortable level of population but, of course, none could accept well over double the size of their current population without a total collapse. Even if this number ends up to be way too large, even half of it would end European civilization, as it is known today. A pretty formidable prospect.
The question arises: Why would such a magnitude of migration happen? According to one commentator (Ivan Krastev, Financial Times, 7 April 2016), the thousands who crossed and the many more thousands that are ready to cross into Europe are not refugees from a failed uprising of the Arab Spring. They are part of a uniquely 21st century revolution, aided by social media and the internet, that informs the people of the Middle East and Africa that they can live under much better circumstances by migrating to countries with a better standard of living while maintaining their own culture and beliefs. But this revolution inspires a counter-revolution of a fear of open borders, destruction of liberal democracies and radically changing European views, as the Europeans feel overwhelmed by the masses of a different culture unable and unwilling to assimilate. But whether the masses' inspiration is for a better economic life or a fear of their home country's circumstance of fighting, brutality, starvation, it is significant in some respect.
The bottom line, however, remains that many, including presumably Schwab, have a justified the fear of huge masses accumulating at the borders of Europe. Add to this the situation created and caused by the increase of oil supply which caused a huge drop in oil prices with no sign of recovery, perhaps for many years, and the always possible further escalation of the Middle East crises, with accompanying fall of major regimes and the destruction of major oil fields, and this gives further impetus for people to leave their hopeless circumstances.
The collapse of oil prices impoverished many states whose principal income came from crude oil, natural gas, etc. The population of these states is suffering the results. These States rely on commodities which are in the doldrums and likely to stay there for quite some time. Commodity cycles are long and the down cycle started just about a year-and-a-half ago and probably has many more years to go. The nationals in these war-torn regions with tribal warfare, extreme poverty and famine, destruction and brutality are uprooting themselves and heading out of their countries. The quaint deliberations of the European Union of proposed actions, such as "temporary" suspension of the Schengen Agreement, which is the backbone of the EU's elimination of borders, or agreement to keep refugees in Turkey, by paying the country to keep them out of the EU, could not do anything to stop the masses if their number approaches anywhere even near a fraction of the one billion mark. Refugees massing in Turkey and Greece and in Jordan and Lebanon and all over the Middle East and in Africa, however, will need to find a place to go.
What happens next? It is not hard to imagine that the Europeans with their long history of wars and migration will be rather disinclined to wait for the arrival of the masses from the South. Europe now lives in the fear of continuous terrorist attacks and the knowledge that their security services are not really equipped to prevent such attacks from the outside or the inside. With a system of laws set up for liberal democracies that were not designed for the new requirements of a society with terrorists, and judges seemingly eager to release terrorists captured at high cost to the police and the army. While living in fear is entirely possible, a choice of another existence, if available, is preferable. The threat of approaching masses will remind that Rome fell to barbarian invasion and that Roman civilization was wiped out.
People watching the developments must fear that the fall of the European civilization could also be a possible outcome. The wealthy in Europe must be considering this. They might be looking to establish second residences oceans away. The military is also likely to make preparations for a defense, knowing that the defense cannot include mass casualties. The treating of millions of wounded or burying millions of dead is not really a choice. But how to defend without using weapons?
The chaos created in the Middle East with Islamist fighting and crude and commodity deflation could spread through the entire world. The European situation is likely to cause dislocation of major proportions to lands once originally populated by Europeans and could spread across the oceans to other continents. Few countries will be untouched.
In Germany, the once-popular Chancellor's party is losing in elections and her popularity is plummeting. The fall of Angela Merkel could spell the fall of liberal democracies. So-called right wing hooligans and self-declared "patriots" will rise, as they are already starting to rise, and take the law in their own hands. If that is the case, riots and anarchy will further encourage the indigenous European population to flea a hopeless situation and migrate from the mess.
Of course, it is always possible that the various measures instituted by the EU and other European nations will be sufficient to stop the migration of refugees: a borderless EU could be re-established; payments made to Turkey will be enough to keep the refugees there until they are repatriated to their homeland after the tribal wars in the Middle East end in peace, not known for hundreds of years; and, commodity prices could climb to levels where countries relying on them for their living could reasonably provide for their citizens. All that is possible, however, it seems rather unlikely.