Belmont Club

The Return of the Nations

The decision by Austria and 9 Balkan countries to unilaterally draft their own border controls as the EU stands “paralyzed” by the refugee crisis triggered a variety of interesting reactions. François Crépeau, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants regrets that “Europe is creating a scary new ‘normal.'”.

Borders are back.  Belgium became the latest country to suspend the rules of the Schengen accord following restrictions imposed by Germany, France, Sweden and Norway.  Hungary will hold a referendum on whether to impose migrant quotas and rejected criticism by the EU as emanating from the “ivory tower of Brussels”.

How the world has changed.  When president Obama assumed office in 2008, a borderless Europe — even a world without nuclear weapons — was seriously on the agenda.  Now even Brussels sees the handwriting on the wall.  “Europe’s cherished free-travel zone will shut down unless Turkey acts to cut the number of migrants heading north through Greece by March 7, European Union officials said on Thursday.”

The EU underestimated the cost of creating a welfare state to which anyone could be admitted.  Accepting the refugees was a moral feast for which it turned out no European country is now willing or able to pay.  With a growing number of countries refusing the bill and a demented kitchen producing ever more dishes that no one will accept some EU member countries now fear they will be stuck holding the bag.   Greece, where most migrants first enter the EU on their way to northern Europe, has warned it would not be converted into a “warehouse for souls”.

More than 800,000 people last year arrived from Turkey on the Greek islands, where they got boats to Athens and then headed to the Balkans and continued their journeys up through Europe.

But the tough new restrictions being enforced by Macedonia, which is only letting 200 people through a day, have created a bottleneck with thousands continuing to arrive each day in the country but with no way to leave.

Arithmetic clashed with European Law and arithmetic won.  The situation has now become reminiscent of the famous introduction from the movie “Casablanca” with Greece playing the part of French Morocco. “With the coming of the Second World War, many eyes in imprisoned Europe turned hopefully, or desperately, toward the freedom of the Americas. Lisbon became the great embarkation point. But not everybody could get to Lisbon directly, and so, a tortuous, roundabout refugee trail sprang up. Paris to Marseilles, across the Mediterranean to Oran, then by train, or auto, or foot, across the rim of Africa to Casablanca in French Morocco. Here, the fortunate ones, through money, or influence, or luck, might obtain exit visas and scurry to Lisbon, and from Lisbon to the New World. But the others wait in Casablanca — and wait — and wait — and wait.”

Whether a Third World War is in the offing is open to debate.  But unquestionably it is in Greece  where people wait — and wait — and wait. Borders are going up all over the world and the shocked elites can’t believe what is happening. Recently former Mexican president Vicente Fox indignantly told Jorge Ramos’ Univision network what he thought of Trump’s border wall.

“I’m not going to pay for that fucking wall! He should pay for it. He’s got the money,” Fox said.

“Are you afraid that he’s going to be the next President of the United States?” Ramos asked. “What would that mean for Mexico?”

“No no no, democracy can not take that, crazy people that don’t know what is going on in the world today. This worries me, the last caucus in Nevada… he won 44 percent of Hispanics.”

Once that would have brought cries of shame upon the Donald. But now Trump responded to Fox at a political rally by saying, “the wall just got 10 feet higher” a statement which brought cheers from the crowd, which one senses would elect Trump just to see the priceless look on Vicente Fox’s face.   It is Vicente Fox that “doesn’t know what is going on in the world today”. The incredible speed with which Schengen collapsed, the sudden possibility of a British Exit from the European Union (BREXIT) and the belated realization by the American punditry that Trump may actually gain the Republican presidential nomination is an indication of how badly the mainstream has misjudged the popular mood.

The inmates of the castle are beginning to understand that the strange lighted dots in the distance represent men with torches and pitchforks on the move. The old deference to authority has weakened suddenly and catastrophically.  In 1989 America bestrode the world.  Now, Syrian Kurds are now attacking U.S.-supported rebels, leaving U.S. officials to wondering whether the Kurds have switched sides.  Roy Gutman writing in Politico says “after nearly five years of watching Washington fumble the Syria crisis, Turkish officials say they are giving up on the Obama administration and will await its successor to craft a strategy for sorting out the Middle East’s expanding conflict.”   Japan’s prime minister Shinzo Abe, has decided to push through with his summit with Vladimir Putin over the objections of Barack Obama. The Japan Times reports:

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has snubbed an appeal by U.S. President Barack Obama, who asked that he not visit Russia in May, sources close to Japan-Russia relations said Tuesday.

Obama made the appeal by phone on Feb. 9, but Abe rejected it and will press ahead as planned with a visit to the Russian city of Sochi for talks with President Vladimir Putin, likely in early May, the sources said.

Obama delivered the appeal in a conversation primarily about cooperation between Tokyo and Washington over North Korea’s launch of a rocket two days earlier. The Foreign Ministry has not publicly revealed what the two leaders discussed regarding Abe’s trip to Russia.

The sources quoted Obama as urging Abe to postpone the trip, citing Russia’s differences with the United States over its actions in Ukraine and Syria.

Abe is keen to settle a long-standing dispute over islands off Hokkaido seized by the Soviet Union after Japan’s surrender in World War II. The matter has prevented Moscow and Tokyo from signing a peace treaty.

The name of “Barack Obama” has become “Barack Who-bama?” The Washington Post, which is as reliable bellwether of established opinion as can be found anywhere,  writes “Trump is the GOP’s Frankenstein Monster”; which he is, cobbled together from all the unfulfilled promises of the 2010 and 2014 elections.  But the same might be said of Sanders and the revolt over borders now shaking the EU to its core.  Trump is just one of the monsters.  They’re all over the place.  The trouble with Frankenstein’s monsters — and most historical revolutions  — is the revenge they visit on the aristocracy is almost always attended by excess.  When they hit a lot of plates are broken.

A lot can go wrong.

The global hubbub is the revival of things assumed lost forever: borders, nations, creeds.  In their wake will march the crowds, expectant, cheering, menacing.  But the same crowds which can create can also destroy. In hindsight the superiority of the American founding fathers over our present leadership — apart from anticipating an upheaveal whose counterpart the mainstream media seems to have entirely missed — was to appreciate how dangerous a quantity revolution was.

For all our modern technological advantages the Founders had the edge over contemporary  Social Justice Warriors in the understanding of human nature. They feared revolution just as much as they desired it. John Adams told a crowd in 1772 that “there is danger from all men. The only maxim of a free government ought to be to trust no man living with power to endanger the public liberty.”  Even the eve of the declaration of independence Adams warned that the nation was about to enter a fire which could destroy it even as it sought salvation within:

I am surprised at the suddenness as well as the greatness of this revolution… It may be the will of Heaven that America shall suffer calamities still more wasting, and distresses yet more dreadful. If this is to be the case it will have this good effect at least. It will inspire us with many virtues which we have not, and correct many errors, follies, and vices which threaten to disturb, dishonor, and destroy us. The furnace of affliction produces refinement in states as well as individuals. And the new Governments we are assuming in every part will require a purification from our vices, and an augmentation of our virtues, or they will be no blessings. The people will have unbounded power, and the people are extremely addicted to corruption and venality, as well as the great. But I must submit all my hopes and fears to an overruling Providence, in which, unfashionable as the faith may be, I firmly believe.


Today, on the cusp of the return of the nations, the challenge is to seize the opportunities while managing the dangers.  It was once widely accepted that revolutions were like Russian roulette which a player might not survive.  People prepared for the eventuality with checks and balances.  Today the danger is forgotten.  It’s instructive that Ivy league educated Hillary Clinton was surprised by the tragic outcome of the Arab Spring when Edward Markham, the mere 19th century product of the San Jose State Normal School and the Christian College in Santa Rosa would not.  In his poem “Man with the Hoe”, Markham asked:

O masters, lords and rulers in all lands
How will the Future reckon with this Man?
How answer his brute question in that hour
When whirlwinds of rebellion shake all shores?

How will it be with kingdoms and with kings —
With those who shaped him to the thing he is —
When this dumb Terror shall rise to judge the world.
After the silence of the centuries?

How Hillary?  How? That is the problem the present day leaders  are struggling to come to grips with, yet which many are singularly unprepared to answer. The world has been safe for so long nobody knows how to open a box whose contents may be unexploded ordnance.  But open it they must.  Charles Dickens once saw taking chances as an act of faith.  The character Sydney Carton, when asked what he saw as he mounted the guillotine answered with a vision:

“I see Barsad, and Cly, Defarge, The Vengeance, the Juryman, the Judge, long ranks of the new oppressors who have risen on the destruction of the old, perishing by this retributive instrument, before it shall cease out of its present use.

“I see the lives for which I lay down my life, peaceful, useful, prosperous and happy, in that England which I shall see no more. I see Her with a child upon her bosom, who bears my name.

“I see that child who lay upon her bosom and who bore my name, a man winning his way up in that path of life … winning it so well, that my name is made illustrious there by the light of his. I see him, fore-most of just judges and honoured men, bringing a boy of my name, with a forehead that I know and golden hair, to this place—then fair to look upon, with not a trace of this day’s disfigurement—and I hear him tell the child my story, with a tender and a faltering voice.

“It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known.”

But men lived in two worlds once and had a second sight. Today, many would climb that scaffold only to demand they be let down since it was an “unsafe space”.

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