Stranded refugees and migrants try to bring down part of the border fence during a protest at the Greek-Macedonian border, near the Greek village of Idomeni, February 29, 2016. REUTERS/Alexandros Avramidis
When future historians try to understand today’s global era, they would be wise to study our borders. What they would find are telling symptoms of a world in retreat. Across Europe, an influx of migrants combined with a growing threat of terrorism may lead to a collapse of the border-free Schengen area—a potential Brexit would only make matters worse. Meanwhile, borders across the Middle East are in tatters. The Syrian civil war is ripping the region apart, and Russia’s recent maneuvering makes a political resolution seem distant. In the United States, we are seeing a growing movement to close off borders, for trade and security reasons. This would be a marked departure from over a half-century’s worth of US foreign policy. How did we get here? And what’s at stake? This week’s recommended reads help shed light on these questions and more.
EUROPE ON THE BRINK
Wolfgang Münchau/Financial Times
Münchau examines how a policy of minimal agreement has hamstrung the European Union’s capability to deal with security threats. Identifying four ways in which compromise has led to instability, he describes why distrust in the EU, and the possibility of disintegration, are rational reactions to current European crises.
David Ignatius/The Washington Post
Ignatius lists five requirements that must be undertaken, from the grassroots to the international levels, to build a more secure Europe. Without significant changes, such as the assistance of immigrant communities to law enforcement agencies, intelligence sharing between European states, and better transatlantic partnerships, the future of Europe as we know it is in question.
Steven Erlanger/The New York Times
A dual response to the fight against ISIS is needed to avoid another Paris- or Brussels-style attack, according to Erlanger. Many of the perpetrators from both of these attacks were radicalized in poor and immigrant communities that feel alienated from the state, which fosters resentment. Easing the impoverished conditions of these self-isolated communities is vital to prevent a societal civil war.
Sam Jones/Financial Times
European intelligence agencies underestimated the capabilities of domestic jihadist cells, which are now considered more of a threat to national security than the ability of ISIS to seize physical territory. The ISIS network is difficult to pinpoint due to independent operations and attack cells, each with its own mission and contacts. As ISIS loses territory in the Middle East, experienced fighters returning to Europe are likely to focus their attention on domestic campaigns.
Gideon Rachman/Financial Times
The strength behind Britain’s Vote Leave campaign has surprised London’s political establishment; unless pro-EU supporters speak up, a Brexit is likely. Escalating problems within the EU have provoked strong reactions from the British public, and those in the Vote Remain camp are less inclined to speak out than their counterparts. Rachman argues the pro-EU campaign will have to be bolstered by foreign leaders, including President Obama, if they want to avoid a Brexit.
TAKING STOCK IN SYRIA
Anne Barnard/The New York Times
Russian’s military withdrawal from Syria coupled with Iran’s increasing support has made it nearly impossible to oust Assad. The Syrian president has proven his ability to play allies against each other and stall negotiations to his advantage, despite a protracted civil war and the West’s concerns with ISIS.
Bret Stephens/The Wall Street Journal
Stephens succinctly describes what the United States can learn from the Russian military intervention in Syria, concluding that the United States needs to rethink its strategies and goals if it wants to remain relevant in negotiations. While Putin’s methods have admittedly been reckless and violent, they have produced more concrete results and left Russia with more diplomatic influence in the region than the United States.
ON TERRORISM AND TRADE
Benjamin, the former State Department coordinator for counterterrorism, says there’s a reason these terror attacks keep happening in Europe and not the United States. The differences between American and European Muslim populations, counterterrorism spending, and border security indicate a smaller chance of similar attacks on American soil.
Frederick W. Smith/The Wall Street Journal
Smith gives a history of how trade has evolved and expanded since the Great Depression and how technological advances have contributed to the status and wealth of the United States. Open markets and a significant reduction in the cost of international travel have helped produce a multitrillion-dollar global trade market. The United States has benefited from past trade expansion and should continue to advocate for it.
Simon Kuper/Financial Times
Dutch footballer Johan Cruyff was one of the true greats. He created what foreigners described as ‘Total Football,’ transforming AFC Ajax and the Dutch 1974 squad into a world-class teams. Also known for his argumentative style and tough demeanor, Cruyff’s legacy lives on in new generations of European football players.