COMMENTARY: ‘Humanitarianism’ to blame for Libyan migrant crisis

Earlier this week, a field researcher in Africa sent me a video text message showing young African men in a cage with their hands tied behind their backs and cloth gags in their mouths as someone yelled at them in Arabic. According to my source, the video was secretly taken inside a camp in Libya, where migrants from all over Africa hoping to reach Europe are being blocked from doing so. Taken at face value, this video shows how Western humanitarianism has gone awry to the detriment of the very people it’s supposed to help.

Europe recently began putting its foot down and stopping the uncontrolled invasion of its continent. But then a CNN report last week showed migrants in Libya being auctioned off as slaves. After the report was picked up by the French media, protests erupted in Paris.

On Monday, French President Emmanuel Macron tweeted (in French): “A (French and United Nations mission) has just traveled to Niger after Chad to protect refugees including those evacuated from Libya. I call our partners to join France in this mobilization to avoid the horrible abuses suffered on the migratory routes.”

The French media has reported that many of the migrants will be coming to France.

If the citizens of Europe were growing weary of the massive influx of migrants, images depicting the deplorable treatment of these migrants will no doubt help shift public opinion. The ferrying of migrants across the Mediterranean to Europe by charity groups had all but stopped as Europe increased pressure on the Libyan coast guard to intercept the boats. That may now change, but public policy based on emotional heartstring-tugging is dangerous and absolutely not the answer. We’ve already seen one such example, and it’s directly related to the current crisis in Libya.

COMMENTARY: Cutting off the Clean Power Plan will just hurt us all

In 2011, when former French President Nicolas Sarkozy led the bombing of Libya with the blessing of NATO, his most prominent support for the intervention didn’t come from the right but rather from the humanitarian left, which believed that removing Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi would allow Libya to flourish.

We learned Gaddafi was killed by opposition rebels, but who exactly was responsible? Libya’s former transitional government prime minister, Mahmoud Jibril, told Egypt’s Dream TV in 2012 that “a foreign agent infiltrated into the revolutionary brigades killed Gaddafi.” Corriere della Sera, a major newspaper in Italy — the European country with the longest and deepest ties to Libya — reported that diplomats in Tripoli had pointed the finger at the French secret services.

While the people of France may have been cheering the elimination of a dictator (possibly at the hands of their own country’s agents), they failed to foresee how the rest of this chess match would play out. African sources say Gaddafi gave many Africans work and ensured a basic level of stability and security in the region.

With the French still being driven by emotion, we’re once again being dragged by the heartstrings into bad policy — this time by acquiescing to a more open immigration policy because of some admittedly disturbing images.

There are better solutions. First off, how about taking a break from spreading democracy throughout the world via bombing campaigns? I supported the Iraq War back in 2003, but that was before realizing that these freedom-spreading and democracy-building projects sound great in theory but are total failures in reality. It feels like we’re playing a money-sucking casino slot machine and waiting for a jackpot that never comes, yet we’re still reluctant to walk away and cut our losses.

COMMENTARY: Impeach Trump? Why top Democrats say it’s too soon

And let’s stop all the nonsense of development aid that’s supposed to support these people in their home countries when it seems to be doing everything but. Why does assistance always have to be funneled through dodgy schemes like “climate change projects” that focus on abstract goals like “fighting” against carbon in the atmosphere rather than remedying actual poverty? And why does so much of the aid have to be entrusted to bloated bureaucracies like the United Nations?

We allow our leaders to sell us on humanitarianism that doesn’t pass the smell test, and then we’re surprised when it’s ineffective or even detrimental. The answer isn’t to empower these leaders to enact more such policies.

Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter picked up a hammer and built houses for people with Habitat for Humanity International. Humanitarianism really shouldn’t be any more complicated than that.

Rachel Marsden is a columnist, political strategist and former Fox News host based in Paris.

Reader Comments ...

Next Up in Opinion

Opinion: Foes of renewable energy increase risk of climate catastrophe

Peter Thiel, Facebook investor and Donald Trump supporter, is by all accounts a terrible person. He did, however, come up with one classic line about the disappointments of modern technology: “We wanted flying cars, instead we got 140 characters.” OK, now it’s 280, but who’s counting? The point of his quip was that while we&rsquo...
Opinion: ‘Little Pink House’ speaks truth to power

Coming soon to a cinema near you — you can make this happen; read on — is a bite-your-nails true-story thriller featuring heroes, villains and a history-making struggle over … the Constitution’s Takings Clause. Next Feb. 24, “Little Pink House” will win the Oscar for best picture if Hollywood’s political preening...
Opinion: What happened in Starbucks isn’t really about Starbucks

I don’t drink coffee, so I can’t boycott Starbucks. But I wouldn’t if I could. Yes, I understand — and share — the national anger over viral video of last week’s arrest of two African-American men at one of the company’s Philadelphia stores. The men, who have yet to be identified, were reportedly doing nothing...
Opinion: Trump’s Syria strike was meant to project strength

WASHINGTON — In 2013, after Syrian dictator Bashar Assad crossed President Obama’s red line and used chemical weapons on innocent civilians, a U.S. official told the Los Angeles Times that Obama’s retaliatory strike would likely be “just muscular enough not to get mocked” but not so devastating that it would elicit a response...
Opinion: Our gold-leaf presidency

Let’s talk for a minute about Mar-a-Lago. Donald Trump was there this week, hosting a get-together with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan. Important stuff to be discussed — North Korea, trade. The two men held a brief press conference on Tuesday, at which the president revealed: “Many of the world’s great leaders request to...
More Stories