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El Dorado and Al Quaida(4 posts)

El Dorado and Al Quaidatorquer
Apr 2, 2003 9:12 AM
The NY Times magazine published and article about a year ago (I'm a little behind in my reading, I know) about the desperate measures would-be asylum seekers take as they attempt to stow away on the high-speed trains running from France to England through the "Chunnel." Electrocution, decapitation etc. are the risks faced as these refugees try to hang onto tiny handholds or narrow under-carriage shelves as the trains roar through the tunnel at 100 mph; the passenger trains accelerate to 175 mph after leaving the tunnel. And this after spending $10,000 or more to pay smugglers to facilitate transportation as far as the refugee shelter at the French end of the tunnel. In the case of one of the article's subjects' his wife and parents sold all of their possessions in order to raise money for his journey. His goal: "I just wanted a small job, a small profession. I just wanted to be safe."

What struck me was the nationalities of many of the refugees: Afghans, Iranians, Kurds. People from the front line of our "war on terror."

I also found it notable that just as these refugees are literally risking life and limb to get into "El Dorado" (their term for England), some of their countrymen, co-religionists, neighbors are apparently equally committed to attacking the forces and symbols of the West. I think most of us would have some trouble distinguishing the suicide bombers and aircraft hijackers from these economic refugees; similar ethnicities, antithetical attitudes towards the West.

(Forgive me if I use too broad a brush; I'm well aware of the difference between Iraqis and Iranians, that the Kurds are our allies, the hijackers were Saudis, etc. I'm just trying to make a statement about both the West and the Third World's perceptions of each other, even if those perceptions are distorted.)

So, just as these diametrically opposed views of the West can coexist amidst neighbors, are our own behavior and attitudes equally contradictory? While we have aggressively exported our economic system, and now have taken on the role of World Cop, at the same time we try our best to exclude these very people from our midst. Can this work? Can we project our economic and military might to every last corner of the globe, without at the same time at least implicitly throwing open our borders to our formal or informal imperial subjects?

Or do you think that our efforts will result in a Pax Americana, with pacified hinterlands no longer subject to the turmoil that spawns refugees? As I recall reading, the tribes causing most of the trouble at the Roman Empire's borders were not hostile to Rome so much as clamoring to be allowed entry to the El Dorado of the first half millennium.

A link to a US government abstract of articles about the smuggling of refugees (including the Times article, which is unfortunately archived and will cost you $1.75 to retrieve):
asylum seekers?mohair_chair
Apr 2, 2003 10:37 AM
I think you are connecting a bunch of things that are not connected. The people who are trying to sneak into England are not victims of American policy. They are simply people who are seeking a better life than the one they have now. People have been doing this for a lot longer than American and Britain have been around. Didn't the Hebrews get out of Egypt thousands of years ago for the same reason? You can't blame that on America.

It's not America's or Britain's fault that there are nations in this world that are still tribal and feudal in nature. It's not the fault of the west that there are nations in this world whose entire economy is based on a single crop or resource. In fact, there are nations in the west (i.e, Central and South America) that fall into this category. Famine and world events affect these nations far more severely than nations that are, for lack of a better term, "blessed" with other economic options.

You are falling into the same trap that Osama Bin Laden exploits, which is that American success and dominance must come at someone else's expense, and that's simply untrue.
Apr 2, 2003 12:08 PM
Who called anyone a victim, or this migration anyone's fault? I can find much that is blameworthy about our way of life, but being economically attractive to the disposessed is not among them. I've got my father's first-hand account of emigration to set me straight on that score.

The point I was trying to make was that America's newfound engagement in the world (in the sense of direct military action) raises questions about our responsibility to those "liberated" from those tribal and feudal societies. That liberation is a good thing; I was just moved by the article's descriptions of the desperation of those eager to make the final leg of the voyage to modernity.

That I should also note the similar desperation of those for whom this liberation is unwelcome (OBL et al) is hardly to endorse or excuse that view.
Apr 2, 2003 3:50 PM
Just because America liberates a nation from some kind of tyranny, doesn't mean it should open its borders to everyone who wants to leave.

If anything, America, Britain, and the West in general should discourage or prevent emigration for some time so that the best and brightest don't leave the newly liberated land. Someone will have to run the place when the troops pull out, and it can't be the only people too poor or too uneducated or too lazy to get out. We don't want another band of uneducated idiots like the Taliban.