Europe’s greatest crisis isn’t Greece or Ukraine, and it may have no solution

April 22, 2015
Boys chat as they arrive with migrants at the Sicilian harbor of Augusta

Boys chat as they arrive at the Sicilian harbor of Augusta April 22, 2015. REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi

The migrants streaming across the Mediterranean to Italy, who buy their freedom from war and hunger from traffickers and die by the thousands doing so, confront Europe with its most hideous dilemma. The issue is sharper than the Greek crisis, the euro crisis or even the Ukraine crisis. Sharper because it is measured in a daily toll of corpses, most never found. It is palpable, human, pitiful.

And estimated 800 migrants died last weekend when a boat transporting them capsized. Most of the people, who came largely from Africa and Bangladesh, were locked in the boat’s hold by the traffickers.

The dilemma faced by Western Europe’s liberal democracies is that there are no good choices, no intervention of any kind that can staunch the conflicts and brutalities from which these migrants flee.

The truth is, all options have been tried before.

Those who supported the British-American intervention in Iraq in 2003, including myself, did so because of the horror of Saddam Hussein. His record of oppression of his own people, of rapacity toward his neighbors and encouragement of terrorists was unparalleled.

Much the same rationale was mobilized in a less contentious (and much less extensive) intervention by the British and French in Libya, giving air and logistic support to rebels fighting to oust Moammar Gadhafi.

In both cases, the dictator was found and killed. In both cases, the hell that was unleashed against the dictators has been magnified and prolonged after the “mission accomplished” message went out on Western TV screens.

In both cases, too, the promoters and supporters of intervention were assailed for their bellicosity, their ignorance and their neo-imperialism. This despite the fact that a majority of lawmakers in the countries approved the moves and had majorities of their populations behind them.

Then came Syria, and no outside power intervened in its civil war. The killing has gone on, remorselessly, for four years, with a death toll estimated at some quarter of a million and with millions of Syrians now refugees. Some of them fled to the people smugglers in North Africa; some are now drowned.

This dilemma certainly has horns, and the West is impaled on them. On the one side, intervention unleashes horror. On the other, nonintervention permits it. In both cases, the winners have been the most extreme jihadists, Islamic State metastasizing from al Qaeda into a multinational army that rules part of Libya and advertises its barbarity on social media — medieval cruelty on iPhone 6s. And the consequences — the men and women who would risk drowning rather than stay in place — are the bitter liquor distilled from the grapes of wrath of the past decade.

Europe remains transfixed before the issue. The solutions mooted to date have been themselves cruel. One was to scale back the “Mare Nostrum” exercise — under which the Italian navy and coast guard patrolled the stretch of sea between Libya and the first Italian landfall — on the ground that the more dangerous the crossing became, the fewer migrants would cross. Ignorant of this, or uncaring, the migrants increased. The present plan,  under consideration  by European Union ministers, is to destroy the traffickers’ boats and detain the traffickers themselves, as Italian police have already begun to do.

Europe is, grudgingly, beginning to accept some of the thousands of migrants who flood into Italy, with large differences in generosity. Germany has specified 30,000; Britain — its Conservative-led government facing an election in early May in which immigration fears are a large issue — a few hundred.

Libya, where migrants and traffickers meet, is now a site of warring groups. The elected government has fled Tripoli and is huddled in the eastern city of Tobruk. The traffickers negotiate their way across this landscape, paying off the warlords as they go with the migrants’ money.

Mohamed Mahdi Hoderi, a member of Libya’s powerless parliament, said: “They [traffickers] are a network of armed gangs, not militias. They take people from one border to another and then to the Libyan coast and then across the sea. We can’t stop this because authorities are weaker than those gangs.” Italy, which has the most to lose from an extremist-governed Libya, will not intervene militarily.

But even if the West chooses to intervene, the recent past offers clear evidence that the outcome may be no better than the current circumstances.


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Europe’s greatest crisis is that they let in too many angry Muslims already and are about to pay dearly for that mistake. When you have a college kid about to assault a church that is a real crisis.

Posted by LetBalanceCome | Report as abusive

The author John Lloyd admits that he supported the American-British invasion of Iraq in 2003.

That fact alone casts doubt on his good sense, and anything he may try to convince us of in his article today.

Posted by AdamSmith | Report as abusive

They are only a collateral damage per McCain …

Posted by Macedonian | Report as abusive

There is a track record of Muslim violence being taken abroad. Countries are right to be very cautious about who they let in. If Islam is so great and safe…. why are people leaving Muslim countries by the millions?

Posted by AlkalineState | Report as abusive

A short history of Ukraine during the last 23 years:
– 5 December 1991: Down with the bloody thieves Muscovites and criminal government! Long live freedom and Kravchuk!
– 19 June 1994 : Down with the bloody thief Kravchuk and his criminal government! Long live freedom and Kuchma !
– 23 January 2005: Down with the bloody thief Kuchma and his criminal government! Muscovites go away! Long live freedom and Yushchenko!
– 25 February 2010: Down with the bloody thief Yushchenko and his criminal government! Death to Muscovites! Long live freedom and Yanukovych !
– 24 January 2014: Down with the bloody thief Yanukovych and his criminal government! Muscovites on guillotine! Long live freedom and Yatsenyouk!

Posted by JEN21 | Report as abusive

Congress approved the 2003 invasion because they were lied to. It’s easy for people like George W Bush, Dick Cheney and yourself (who never served anywhere) to think sending troops is the answer. Trillions of dollars, 3,000 plus dead and look at the mess left behind. Yep, real good work.

Posted by bcum2day | Report as abusive

“Those who supported the British-American intervention in Iraq in 2003, including myself, did so because of the horror of Saddam Hussein.”

Hello Mr Lloyd? Where is the “weapons of mass destruction” pretext of the intervention in Iraq? Why UK/USA were not condemned and sanctioned for the intervention under false the pretext? As we see now, the falsified pretext which is now narrated into “horror of Saddam Hussein” has led to much bigger horrors which continue to the present day.

So we rather should stop cheating ourselves. The real reason for the intervention in Iraq was to change the strategic balance in the Middle East. This by far has not been achieved too.

Posted by wirk | Report as abusive

Bush / Cheney legacy of flourishing democracies in the middle east.

Posted by AlkalineState | Report as abusive

As soon as Western Europe is mired in ” ..the conflicts and brutalities..war and hunger..” migrant`s influx will dry up.

Posted by inMyView | Report as abusive

Well, AdamSmith, do you support the total destruction of Aleppo?

Posted by agamemnus | Report as abusive

This writer supported the stupid removal of Saddam Hussein. And he has the nerve to comment on Russian and Southern European affairs!!!

Posted by Marcoborg | Report as abusive

Way to go, Europe.

By the time Ukraine explodes due to your most recent interference there with your insatiable NATO friend (who is a safe distance across the water), you should be well rehearsed with how to deal with the mass of angry refuges from there…

Posted by Lavrentii | Report as abusive

This is just the beginning of what is about to happen globally as Climate Change accelerates and seven billion-plus hungry and jobless people, to be nine or 10 billion within two or three decades, with nothing to lose stampede and sail towards places that offer possible survival hope. Neither fences, armies, warships, or fighter bombers will be able to halt this expanding horror that is besetting the planet. This is just the beginning.

Posted by RudyHaugeneder | Report as abusive

As the planet warms and various regions become less habitable, those societies will destabilize and people will migrate in search of food, water, land, and stable governments.

This is just the beginning.

Posted by Hopsgegangen | Report as abusive

I like his correctness – Johan Lloyd’s statement related to Iraq and Libya “This despite the fact that a majority of lawmakers in the countries approved the moves and had majorities of their populations behind them.” He is excusing war crimes and breaking of international laws by few people from few western countries. With that justification you could bomb us/french/british cities and people, but in these case is just imperialistic mindset speaking to excuse the crime

Posted by wpotocki | Report as abusive

“Then came Syria, and no outside power intervened in its civil war”

Oh no really. You’re only funding and supplying Al Nusra, fer chrissake

Posted by bee1459 | Report as abusive

Unchecked immigration will destroy Nations. It has already happened in history. To keep taking in immigrants, uneducated, sick, and cultures that are based on a faith systems, rather than a political system will cause major damage to a society. Costs will accelerate, language problems, cultural problems all will occur. Terrorism will also increase. Take note.
In 2010 the current population in the United States was 308,745,538 according to the census bureau. In 2009 Pew Research reported that in America there was a 2.5 million Muslim population. That is 0.8% of the U.S. population.

A 2007 Pew Research report, reported that 23% of Muslims are illegal aliens (575,000). In the same study they said that 78% of Americans are concerned about Islamic extremist in the U.S. The study also said that younger U.S. Muslims are more readily accepted suicide bombing in defense of Islam that older Muslims.


Pew Research Center

Posted by americangrizzly | Report as abusive

Bush’s “Global Democratic Revolution.” icles/A7991-2003Nov6.html

2 trillion taxpayer dollar. 4,000 young American lives. To give ISIS a new home in Iraq. Never forget.

Posted by AlkalineState | Report as abusive

Of course there is a solution…don’t accept them…turn them back…just say no

Posted by SirSmitty | Report as abusive

Send them to russia…that population is aging and could use some new, fresh islamic blood….

Posted by SirSmitty | Report as abusive