The Connectivity War
Recent migration tragedies in the English Channel and on Belarus's western borders underscore the extent to which civilians have become unwitting weapons in a new era of perpetual conflict. With governments reciprocating bad behavior under a cloud of hypocrisy and plausible deniability, a race to the bottom is already under way.
BERLIN – Many observers have long assumed that the future of geopolitics will be decided in a sea battle over the Taiwan Strait or some rocky outcropping or atoll in the South China Sea. Yet we could probably learn more by examining the treatment of a few thousand desperate refugees in the twenty-first century’s geopolitical backwaters.
Start with the English Channel. Once the site of some of the most dramatic confrontations in history – from the Spanish Armada and the Napoleonic Wars to the Normandy Landings – it is no longer a theater for great-power politics. Instead, the recent deaths of 27 civilians whose inflatable boat capsized after leaving the French coast has turned the channel into a site of humanitarian tragedy.
Rather than working together in solidarity with France to root out the migrant smugglers responsible for the deaths, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson immediately sought to play to a domestic political audience by blaming the French in an open letter published on Twitter. Far from just another juvenile political stunt, Johnson’s dereliction of leadership will most likely have dreadful and far-reaching consequences.