Comments of the Day

Lots of great comments today in response to my post from this morning about the immigration ordinance in Fremont, Nebraska.

Tumblr blogger MDL Unit writes:

Wow. They should have called it the “Intimidate the Latinos Out of Town Act”

Mike Gruz says:

May the chances of absolutely zero economic development forever be in their favor.

Brian Shreck chimes in with the voice of experience:

Having been to Fremont many times, I’m not quite sure what they’re trying to protect.

Two different readers, though, wisely take Nebraska fiscals conservatives to task for their support of this legislation:

  1. Nothing screams small government like red tape and bureaucracy.
  2. Plus it’s so fiscally responsible to allocate $1.5 million to chase away a portion of the local tax base.

No comment yet from State Senator Charlie Janssen, the ordinance’s biggest cheerleader, about exactly how this bill is good for Fremont or why it’s worth discrimination lawsuits, alienating Latinos, and spending a ton of taxpayer money on the off chance that a couple hundred undocumented workers won’t be able to rent apartments. He’s probably still too excited about yesterday’s  anti-immigrant vote to spend any time online; perhaps he’s out there right now himself, issuing housing permits to anyone with $5 who solemnly attests that they’re in this country legally

# cotd # Nebraska # immigration # politics # racism

Look how happy these white conservative Nebraskans are!
They’re celebrating because they convinced a small number of other people in a tiny town to vote in favor of keeping an ordinance that’s likely to mire the town in expensive legal battles for several years.
Why does this make them happy? I have no idea.
The ordinance is theoretically designed to make things more difficult for undocumented workers who make up some percentage of a whopping 1,150 noncitizens living in the town. But my sense is that it will mostly make Latinos — all 3,000 of them who live there — feel uncomfortable about living or working in or near the town.
You see, the ordinance requires “anyone who rents a home or apartment to apply for a $5 permit and attest to their legal status, but there is no mandate to show proof. New permits are needed for every move.” The idea that this will prevent undocumented workers from settling in Fremont seems pretty ridiculous on its face.
But it might very well lead to discriminatory practices with regard to Latinos. That’s what the ACLU will be looking for. And it almost certainly will lead Latinos to feel unwelcome, if they don’t already (after three years of battling this ordinance out in the courts and at the ballot box).
But maybe that’s actually what these happy folks want … ?
Here’s what I wrote back in 2010, quoting a story from the New York Times:

Still, some in Fremont point, with worry, to other Nebraska towns — places like Schuyler and Lexington — as communities that no longer look or feel the way they once did.
That last bit there, that’s “code” for “I’m a racist but I shouldn’t say that to the New York Times so I’ll say that my town feels different now.”

Look how happy these white conservative Nebraskans are!

They’re celebrating because they convinced a small number of other people in a tiny town to vote in favor of keeping an ordinance that’s likely to mire the town in expensive legal battles for several years.

Why does this make them happy? I have no idea.

The ordinance is theoretically designed to make things more difficult for undocumented workers who make up some percentage of a whopping 1,150 noncitizens living in the town. But my sense is that it will mostly make Latinos — all 3,000 of them who live there — feel uncomfortable about living or working in or near the town.

You see, the ordinance requires “anyone who rents a home or apartment to apply for a $5 permit and attest to their legal status, but there is no mandate to show proof. New permits are needed for every move.” The idea that this will prevent undocumented workers from settling in Fremont seems pretty ridiculous on its face.

But it might very well lead to discriminatory practices with regard to Latinos. That’s what the ACLU will be looking for. And it almost certainly will lead Latinos to feel unwelcome, if they don’t already (after three years of battling this ordinance out in the courts and at the ballot box).

But maybe that’s actually what these happy folks want … ?

Here’s what I wrote back in 2010, quoting a story from the New York Times:

Still, some in Fremont point, with worry, to other Nebraska towns — places like Schuyler and Lexington — as communities that no longer look or feel the way they once did.

That last bit there, that’s “code” for “I’m a racist but I shouldn’t say that to the New York Times so I’ll say that my town feels different now.”

(Source: bigstory.ap.org)

# racism # Nebraska # immigration # politics

Singing in American

As the child and grandchild of immigrants, who worked to make a place for themselves in this country and who spent considerable resources on my education so that I would be able to fluently speak the language they spoke when they arrived here, I absolutely cannot figure out why last night’s Coke commercial or the idea of multiculturalism has so unhinged so many people.

This desperate drive to make “America” or “Americans” into a single thing that matches one’s own personal experience seems so futile, such a waste of time and energy.

What’s worse, so many of the comments I’ve read in the past few hours in favor of assimilation — the utter derision of the concept of the “salad bowl” rather than the “melting pot” — have been mixed with such blatant xenophobia and racism against the very people who are being advised (or ordered) to assimilate.

"Everyone can be American, so long as they don’t look too Jewish or Muslim or sound too Mexican or Chinese." In other words, "Be yourself, but also fit in completely with the white Christian majority or else our real feelings about you are likely to come shining through."

# racism # politics # advertising # immigration # religion # language

In the wake of an absolutely horrific and brutal crime in Omaha, one local politician raced to make the tragedy all about immigration.
Gubernatorial candidate Charlie Janssen took to Twitter to blame “illegal immigration” for the crime. Days later he took to the opinion page of the Lincoln Journal-Star to respond to a letter written by Lincoln resident Daniel Moser:

Daniel R. Moser (“Janssen stirs up hate,” letter, July 29) correctly states my position that the brutal rape and murder of a 93-year-old Omaha woman at the hands of an illegal immigrant should be part of our ongoing discussion of immigration policy.
Whenever a crime of this magnitude occurs, the societal factors that contributed to the crime are discussed and analyzed endlessly. To omit or ignore the illegal immigration issue in relation to this tragedy is politically correct nonsense.
Those who share my opinion will not be surprised to hear I’ve been labeled a racist threat to the Republican Party for holding this view, but I am undeterred and will continue to speak out despite these lazy and ignorant criticisms of my character.
I have visited with Nebraskans across the state and can say with certainty that our citizens are deeply concerned about the ramifications of illegal immigration in our communities. Last week’s sad and horrific events are no exception.
This crime is undeniable evidence that our borders are not secure and we have no idea who is entering our country. The result of the federal government’s failure here — not only criminal violence but human trafficking and drug smuggling — has cost our state immeasurably.
Nebraskans have demanded leadership on this issue, and I will continue to regard their command and concern as my top priority.

Now, the editorial board of the Journal-Star has issued their own opinion on Janssen’s move to suggest that a particular crime at the hands of a particular individual is indicative of the broader immigration problem:

In marked contrast to the apology issued by State Auditor Mike Foley stand the actions of gubernatorial candidate Charlie Janssen.
No sooner did officials hint that the assailant in the heinous rape and beating of a 93-year-old Omaha woman, who later died of her injuries, was in the country illegally than Janssen tried to tie the crime to immigration policy.
Clearly Janssen has no compunction about making a sweeping and damaging generalization.
By painting immigrants with such a broad brush Janssen does a disservice to genuine and productive discussion of immigration policy, which people on both ends of the political spectrum agree is a mess.

If there’s one thing we can learn about crime from this absolutely awful case, Janssen suggests, it’s that the real culprit is every single Mexican person who wants to come to the U.S.

In the wake of an absolutely horrific and brutal crime in Omaha, one local politician raced to make the tragedy all about immigration.

Gubernatorial candidate Charlie Janssen took to Twitter to blame “illegal immigration” for the crime. Days later he took to the opinion page of the Lincoln Journal-Star to respond to a letter written by Lincoln resident Daniel Moser:

Daniel R. Moser (“Janssen stirs up hate,” letter, July 29) correctly states my position that the brutal rape and murder of a 93-year-old Omaha woman at the hands of an illegal immigrant should be part of our ongoing discussion of immigration policy.

Whenever a crime of this magnitude occurs, the societal factors that contributed to the crime are discussed and analyzed endlessly. To omit or ignore the illegal immigration issue in relation to this tragedy is politically correct nonsense.

Those who share my opinion will not be surprised to hear I’ve been labeled a racist threat to the Republican Party for holding this view, but I am undeterred and will continue to speak out despite these lazy and ignorant criticisms of my character.

I have visited with Nebraskans across the state and can say with certainty that our citizens are deeply concerned about the ramifications of illegal immigration in our communities. Last week’s sad and horrific events are no exception.

This crime is undeniable evidence that our borders are not secure and we have no idea who is entering our country. The result of the federal government’s failure here — not only criminal violence but human trafficking and drug smuggling — has cost our state immeasurably.

Nebraskans have demanded leadership on this issue, and I will continue to regard their command and concern as my top priority.

Now, the editorial board of the Journal-Star has issued their own opinion on Janssen’s move to suggest that a particular crime at the hands of a particular individual is indicative of the broader immigration problem:

In marked contrast to the apology issued by State Auditor Mike Foley stand the actions of gubernatorial candidate Charlie Janssen.

No sooner did officials hint that the assailant in the heinous rape and beating of a 93-year-old Omaha woman, who later died of her injuries, was in the country illegally than Janssen tried to tie the crime to immigration policy.

Clearly Janssen has no compunction about making a sweeping and damaging generalization.

By painting immigrants with such a broad brush Janssen does a disservice to genuine and productive discussion of immigration policy, which people on both ends of the political spectrum agree is a mess.

If there’s one thing we can learn about crime from this absolutely awful case, Janssen suggests, it’s that the real culprit is every single Mexican person who wants to come to the U.S.

# politics # Nebraska # immigration # criminal justice # news # Omaha # Janssen # media # Twitter

Most Reprehensible Reaction Award

In the aftermath of any tragedy — whether man-made or natural — it’s not hard to find the finalists for the “Most Reprehensible Reaction” award.

People like Senator Lindsey Graham, who urged the Obama administration to label the suspect an enemy combatant so we could more easily ignore his rights, thought they had this award locked down. But they’ve got competition.

At the top of the list is surely “journalist” Howie Carr, who wrote a deliriously Islamophobic, anti-immigrant, anti-refugee, anti-liberal opinion piece for the Boston Herald today that begins with this:

So once again, no good deed goes unpunished.

Uncle Sam lets another bunch of leeching future terrorists into the country who have absolutely no business being here, gives them “asylum,” making them immediately eligible for welfare, and this is the thanks we get?

They turn into mass murderers.

We bring in thousands of Muslims from a primitive society that has been battling Christians for centuries, and put them into a peaceful Christian society — what could possible go wrong?

But before we pronounce Carr the outright winner, let’s not forget New York State Senator Greg Ball, who took to Twitter to suggest that our government ought to hurry up and torture the Boston bombing suspect:

When he faced criticism for this position, he doubled down: “If people find that offensive, they’re going to have to check their own conscience.”

He then managed to turn the whole episode into a good example of why New York needs the death penalty, reminding us that, while we might have some moral qualms about torture, we can all rally behind executions.

I’m sure these few examples are just the beginning; of course, we have plenty of time before we have to actually announce the winner of the “Most Reprensible Reaction” award … and I haven’t even really looked at Facebook yet.

# torture # death penalty # politics # Boston # Tsarnaev # human rights # Carr # Ball # New York # Twitter # immigration # news # religion # Islam # Facebook

The Stylebook no longer sanctions the term “illegal immigrant” or the use of “illegal” to describe a person. Instead, it tells users that “illegal” should describe only an action, such as living in or immigrating to a country illegally.

The Associated Press announced Thursday that it will no longer suggest the use of the term “illegal immigrant.”

At the Online News Association Conference held in September, 2012, journalist Jose Antonio Vargas asked media companies — specifically The New York Times and the Associated Press — to stop using the term. Watch his ONA12 keynote speech.

In response to AP’s decision Thursday, Antonio Vargas tweeted:

The New York Times Public Editor, Margaret Sullivan, wrote Thursday that The Times was also “reconsidering” the term.

The Times, for the past couple of months, has also been considering changes to its stylebook entry on this term and will probably announce them to staff members this week. (A stylebook is the definitive guide to usage, relied upon by writers and editors, for the purpose of consistency.)

From what I can gather, The Times’s changes will not be nearly as sweeping as The A.P.’s. 

My own thoughts on the matter:

I use this quote of Richard Rorty’s (published in the Virginia Law Review in 1992) with some frequency on this blog, but it’s worth quoting one more time:

A lot of things that some of the powerful believe in their hearts – e.g., that men have the right to beat up on women whenever they need to bolster their own self-confidence – are things they can no longer say in public, and can barely admit to themselves. We have a long way to go in this direction, obviously, but I see no better political rhetoric available than the kind that pretends “we” have a virtue even when we do not have it yet. That sort of pretense and rhetoric is just how new and better “we’s” get constructed. For what people cannot say in public becomes, eventually, what they cannot say even in private, and then, still later, what they cannot even believe in their hearts (725-726).

As someone who has taught immigration issues in a class on human rights for the past decade — and who has been using and explaining the term “undocumented” for all those years — it’s good to see this change.

# news # media # politics # immigration # Rorty

reblogged from ONA Issues
First off, I’m a parent. And I obviously am deeply concerned about children — especially my own.

That’s Nebraska State Senator Charlie Janssen, discussing the reasoning behind a bill he introduced yesterday to repeal a state law that provides prenatal care for low-income women, some of whom are undocumented immigrants. And don’t worry, there’s a “But …” that comes right after this sentence of Janssen’s:

"But we’re looking at the fact that Nebraska is the only state that offers this, so if somebody’s in this country illegally in one of our border states, the natural inclination is going to be to come to Nebraska and further sap the Nebraska taxpayers."

Janssen is concerned that undocumented women will choose to migrate to Nebraska (rather than Iowa or Kansas, say) in order to receive our unprecedented no-cost prenatal care, thereby shackling the state’s honest, hard-working taxpayers with the astronomical cost of caring for the well-being of their fetuses.

Last year, Janssen introduced a bill proposing an Arizona-style immigration law here. The bill (LB48) was called the Illegal Immigration Enforcement Act and would have required police officers who stopped or arrested a person to check whether he or she was in the country legally if the officers had reasonable suspicion to think otherwise. Anyone who could not prove he or she is here legally would be held, and federal immigration authorities would be notified.

So … what Janssen meant to say, in the quote above, was that he’s deeply concerned about children, his own and those who look like his own.

Critics of last year’s bill, like Janssen and Gov. Dave Heineman, claim that it’s far too costly and that Nebraskans shouldn’t be taxed to pay for undocumented immigrants; they seem not to notice — or care — that the money is actually going to care for fetuses (whose protection, they almost always argue, is the most obviously shirked responsibilty of our government). They also don’t seem to notice — or care — that, once born, these babies will be American citizens. Here’s what we’re paying:

Last year’s measure provides prenatal care to an estimated 1,162 unborn babies each year at a cost of about $654,000 in state money and $1.9 million in federal tax dollars.

Of course, it’s actually far more expensive to care for the tiny American citizens who will be born without having received proper prenatal care during their time as undocumented fetuses than it is to provide prenatal care to the few women who can’t afford it. But Janssen and Heineman, who talk all about the money, must also mostly be interested in the principle of the matter, namely that fetuses have no rights and need not be cared for in any way.

Oh, wait, that’s the exact opposite of their position on fetuses, generally. I meant low-income fetuses and Mexican fetuses, about whom they care not at all.

More on the subject here, here, here, here, and here.

(Source: journalstar.com)

# Nebraska # immigration # racism # baby # health care # politics # news # women # Janssen

Think Progress notes:

This is 96-year-old Raúl Héctor Castro — a former Arizona Governor and a U.S. citizen — who was detained by border patrol in 100 degree heat.

Well, surely that was a mistake! And one that the border patrol isn’t likely to make more than once, right?

What makes this worse? Guess how many times he’s been detained.

Did you guess three times? If you did, you’re the winner!
Boy, it’s a good thing we can all be sure there are no racial profiling concerns with any of the immigration legislation we keep seeing …

Think Progress notes:

This is 96-year-old Raúl Héctor Castro — a former Arizona Governor and a U.S. citizen — who was detained by border patrol in 100 degree heat.

Well, surely that was a mistake! And one that the border patrol isn’t likely to make more than once, right?

What makes this worse? Guess how many times he’s been detained.

Did you guess three times? If you did, you’re the winner!

Boy, it’s a good thing we can all be sure there are no racial profiling concerns with any of the immigration legislation we keep seeing …

# news # politics # racism # Arizona # immigration

reblogged from Think Progress

Health Care, Prenatal Care, and Pro-Life Hypocrisy: Response to Critics

In the days since I wrote several strongly-worded posts (here and here) about Nebraska’s prenatal care bill, I’ve received some interesting feedback. I wanted to take just a few minutes to outline the complaints and then to respond.

Those who complain tend to fall into two categories:

  1. People who object in some way to my rhetoric about pro-life hypocrisy;
  2. People who object in some way to government involvement in our lives.

I’ll take Justin Green to be a representative of the first group, though he ultimately falls into the second group as well. Green writes:

The premise for providing such neonatal care is that the fetuses being cared for are deserving of legal protection. If the political left wants to use pro-life language to justify spending state tax dollars on undocumented residents, that’s fine and dandy. In fact, I’m rather pleased with this legislation.

It’s just that you can’t use fetuses as objects worthy of legal protection in one instance while opposing them in another. The argument that providing state neonatal care assistance is pro life requires one to be pro-life, no?

My response is pretty straightforward, I think, as I’m simply pointing out that people who claim to be pro-life ought to vote for pro-life legislation.

I’m nowhere arguing that fetuses have claims to health care rights; they do not. What I’m saying is that women have a right to choose whether or not to carry fetuses to term … and, if they choose to do so, the state has a compelling interest in the health of those fetuses since not to care for them in utero often means caring for them at much greater expense thereafter (when they very clearly have rights).

Of course, I’m also arguing that the very same elected officials who voted against restoring funding for prenatal care believe that the state has a compelling interest in protecting the lives of fetuses. In other words, they want the state to find ways to prevent anyone from harming fetuses whose mothers either can’t or won’t carry them to term … but they see no reason for the state to actually help fetuses whose mothers want to carry them to term.

Ultimately, Green thinks that my complaints about hypocrisy are really just a red herring and that, at bottom, the issue is about whether or not the government ought to be in the health care business. Though Green actually supported the Nebraska prenatal care bill, his questions about the role of the state are shared (and expressed more forcefully) by several others, including a Tumblr blogger and some friends (both Facebook and actual). This critique generally takes the form of a libertarian argument about taxation, the morality of enforced charity, the inefficiency of government, and the need for people to pay for the services they use. It is put forward in more and in less caring language, depending on the person.

Here’s one of the less caring examples:

No, I don’t think society should consist of having members leech off each other; the oncoming and inevitable bust of SS and Medicare as well as the European welfare state confirms this is impractical. If you think society’s duty is to take care of its weakest, then I have a quote from someone with whom you should be intimately familiar with - “I have often laughed at the weaklings who thought themselves good because they had no claws”.

Here’s one of the more caring examples:

I do not agree that healthcare is a right that the government is obligated to provide to everyone. Instead I think of it as a very important product (like food, shelter) where the goal should be to have everyone have the opportunity to buy it, but the individual should pay for it not the government.

Leaving aside the fact that I’m not actually talking about universal health care coverage or socialized medicine or anything like that in my prenatal care posts -– I’m only talking about the bill in Nebraska to restore prenatal care to indigent women -– let me set out a response.

Personally, I think we would do well to have a system that ensures some baseline level of care for everyone in no small part because preventive care is actually cheaper for the whole society and because, in the absence of health care options, people don’t get this preventive care. Instead, they get the far more expensive emergency care when something avoidable isn’t avoided. And, of course, I just generally think that it’s good for people to have access to preventive medicine, costs aside.

I think that private charities and organizations are insufficient and I don’t see any reason that they’d be able to do a better job taking care of more people in the future. It’s a nice idea and I know that it’s the fall-back position of every libertarian, but I can’t subscribe to it because it makes caring for others voluntary (which means that the option exists for that care not to happen). Most people simply aren’t charitable enough, not to the level that is required in order to keep people off the streets and in good health. It would be great if we could assume that people would substantially alter their behavior in the utopian libertarian future, but I have nowhere seen any reason that suggests I should think this would happen.

People want to take care of their own and people are notoriously bad about closing off the circle of moral accountability so that it doesn’t include people of other races and religions, the poor, immigrants, and so on. And this isn’t anything new. This is, most likely, hard-wired into us from many, many thousands of years ago. We want our genes to pass on to the next generation; we don’t much care about the genes of others (who are, by our lights, genetic competitors). I would love to believe the libertarian idea that we’d all be more charitable if we weren’t paying the taxes we currently pay. But, in this libertarian future, there’s no one to keep an eye on our charitable giving and so we’ve got ourselves a classic collective action problem. If the government doesn’t insist that I help and I don’t choose to help, what happens? People suffer. Not me and mine, of course; we’re fine. It’s other people who suffer, people who are different from me and with whom I probably have little contact.

It’s easy to ignore these people and their suffering, and I think we almost certainly would. As an example, look at those elected officials in Nebraska who so strongly opposed restoring prenatal care for indigent women; the principle reason for their opposition to a bill that saves taxpayer dollars and cares for fetuses, by their own admission, rests on the notion that such care might end up benefitting undocumented immigrants.

# politics # Nebraska # healh care # women # immigration # libertarians

I strongly disagree with their decisions. Providing preferential treatment to illegals while increasing taxes on legal Nebraska citizens is misguided, misplaced and inappropriate.

So says Nebraska Governor Dave Heineman, in a prepared statement, after having two of his four vetoes overriden in the final day of the legislature’s session.

The governor predicted that the 2012 legislative session will be remembered most for providing free health care for illegal residents while allowing cities to raise sales taxes on legal residents — referring to the lawmakers’ override of another veto.

[…]

Despite lobbying by Heineman and other foes of the bill, only one previous supporter — Sen. Tom Seiler of Hastings — switched from supporting the measure to opposing the override.

A gasp could be heard in the legislative chamber when the 30th vote — the minimum needed to override the veto — was cast. Tears filled the eyes of supporters like Skolkin, as they exchanged hugs outside the chamber.

Heineman warned of long-lasting political ramifications for senators who supported the overrides of the prenatal care bill and half-cent local-option sales tax measure.

Nothing like a little Doomsday forecasting by Governor Heineman for those politicians who disagreed with him. After all, how could anyone possibly come to a different conclusion about what it means to be pro-life in this instance? Heineman somehow seems to believe that state support for prenatal care is the obvious pro-life position:

Governor Dave Heineman said he agrees with a recent email from one Nebraskan, which said, “I’m pro-life, I’m Catholic and what part of illegal do you not understand.”

Heineman himself clarified that he really does support prenatal care for everyone … so long as the state isn’t paying for it (and, therefore, it’s not guaranteed to everyone):

"We support prenatal care, but in the case of illegals, it should be done by private charities or private organizations."

Calling this a “pro-life” position is, I wager, one of more impressive abuses of language you’ll see today.

Read more here.

Then, if you’d like, read what I wrote about the whole affair as it evolved (here and here).

# Nebraska # politics # women # health care # news # baby # immigration

Hi Ari - I keep reading that the US continues to support its NATO allies in Libya, even without it possessing "vital interests" there. Do you have a link or direct info to explain Europe's specific, vital interests in Libya and why they decided to side with the rebels? Thanks in advance.

GR Bud West
Anonymous

There are a number of “strategic interest” stories to be told about Europe; I’ve quickly linked, below, to three pieces from back in March, when there was a great deal of debate in Europe about military action in Libya. There’s also one piece below from the end of May.

First, here are some possible reasons behind France’s involvement:

Sarkozy’s enthusiasm for action rested not only on his interest in protecting Libyan protesters from slaughter at the hands of Moammar Khadafy. It also reflected his desire for complete regime change, and the rest of the world has been catching up ever since.

France has a strategic interest in what happens in Libya. Geography matters, and a Mediterranean crisis, which would impact European access to Libyan oil and gas, poses a tangible security threat to the French. Already coping with immigrants from other Mediterranean nations like Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia, France was facing another wave of North African refugees.

For Sarkozy, the action in Libya also represents an opportunity to redeem his government’s missteps in the revolution in Tunisia. Sarkozy, after all, recently fired his foreign minister because of allegations she was too close to Tunisia’s deposed president, Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.

Most importantly, events in Libya represent a perfect moment to redefine France as the center of Europe. For years, France has competed with, and essentially lost to, Germany for attention of the European Union and its newer members. Central Europe, and not southern Europe, was where the real action resided and Sarkozy found it difficult to shift that orientation away from his main competitor.

There is also, of course, Sarkozy’s heavy investment — of political capital, especially — in the idea of a Mediterranean Union:

During his second year in office, French President Nicolas Sarkozy initiated the formation of a Union for the Mediterranean (UfM) as part of a strategy to promote stability and prosperity in the eastern Mediterranean and North Africa.

Under Mr. Sarkozy’s proposed UfM, European, Middle Eastern, and North African countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea would form a loose economic community. It would promote political and economic liberalization and also address immigration, energy, and security issues. Sarkozy’s initiative reflects the concerns that France, Italy, and the rest of the European Union (EU) have in securing their interests in a region that is in their geographical neighborhood – and is the source of 40 percent of EU oil imports.

While oil and gas are certainly important concerns for Europe, the issue of North African immigration ought not to be downplayed:

The European strategic interest in the Arab Spring is immense. If North African economies take off now that they are no longer at the service of ruling families and their coteries, the flow of desperate immigrants into Europe will diminish.

And here, finally, is some info on the rift that opened up between European countries on Libya:

One of five nations to abstain at Thursday’s UN vote, Germany reiterated its objections to the London-Paris move to enforce a no-fly zone.

"We remain eminently sceptical on the option of military intervention," said Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle. "We see in it considerable risks and dangers… German soldiers will not take part."

But Westerwelle sought to reassure, saying Germany “had respect and understanding” from its partners for its position, “even from those that voted in favour.”

Italy, Libya’s former colonial ruler and top trade partner, also took a softly-softly approach to the possibility of military action, but finally said it would allow its air bases to help enforce a no-fly zone if a decision were approved at the United Nations.

"In reality, the conduct of a foreign policy is how you see your strategic interests. Are the strategic interests of European countries the same?" said Brady.

Malta too has been cautious, Sweden is dragging its feet, and Austria predictably is sticking to its neutrality.

In the end, then, there are critical oil and gas issues for Europe. But this doesn’t give us the full picture of why the ouster of Gaddafi became a goal for some members of the EU. After all, there’s no reason for France and Italy to assume that siding with the Libyan rebels will mean better terms or undisturbed access to resources; siding with Gaddafi, on the other hand, might have been a better bet on this single issue. There’s the immigration issue, of course, which is a central one for Europe. And, perhaps most interestingly, there’s the idea of France — and perhaps Italy, which has long had a role in Libya — attempting to be assertive about reclaiming a role as an important actor on the world stage, especially with regard to issues affecting the Mediterranean.

Any one of these things is probably insufficient to motivate action that risks angering allies and voters, but taken together they’ve added up to the kind of vital interest that puts planes in the air.

# Europe # France # Gaddafi # Germany # Italy # Libya # Questions # immigration # politics

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