PARIS -- Terrorism couldn't do it. Social tensions weren't enough. Neither was the migrant crisis born of the regime change wars sparked by Western interests in the Middle East and Africa. But now, the COVID-19 panic has managed to achieve what Western leaders have tried to make us all believe was beneath our advanced state of societal sophistication: unilateral border control.
We really owe thanks to the Brits for allowing us to realize our full border-control potential. Leaders of other Western nations didn't hesitate to do to them what they failed to do with China at the outset of this pandemic -- promptly slam the door in their faces. They did so within hours of British Prime Minister Boris Johnson announcing the discovery of a new, more rapidly propagating variant of SARS-CoV-2.
France, Germany, Italy, Spain, the Netherlands, Denmark and Portugal were among the European Union countries to close their borders to U.K. travel. The measure is supposed to be temporary, until they can figure out how to best deal with the problem. Each nation acted individually in its own perceived best interests without waiting around for any of the others.
Here in France, we didn't see this kind of border-control leadership in response to any of the recent terror attacks, which in some cases were perpetrated by individuals who had been traveling between Europe and jihadist hotbeds in the Middle East. Cherif and Said Kouachi, the Algerian-born brothers who took part in the 2015 attack that killed 12 people at the Paris headquarters of Charlie Hebdo magazine after it published satirical images of Prophet Mohammed, managed to go back and forth between Europe and training camps in Yemen. They were killed when cornered by police two days after the attack.
Recent knife attacks in France have been attributed to individuals who came into the country under humanitarian pretexts. On Sept. 25, Zaher Hassan Mahmood, a young Pakistani man who came to France three years ago as an "isolated minor," wounded two people with a butcher knife. Ibrahim Issaoui, a 21-year-old Tunisian refugee who recently came to France via the Italian island of Lampedusa, killed three people near a church in Nice in October.
The majority of the jihadists presumed responsible for the coordinated terrorist attacks in and around Paris on Nov. 13, 2015, that killed 130 people, including the victims of the massacre at the Bataclan theater, reportedly met in a jihadist training camp in Syria. Somehow they all made it into France without much difficulty.
And yet Brits looking to cross into France to visit friends or family this Christmas won't have the chance. It has taken this virus for our leaders to invoke the sovereign right of nation-states to protect their citizens. COVID-19 has exposed a gargantuan lie perpetuated by the European Union for years: that individual nations have to abide by collective rules and can't take unilateral action on behalf of their own people.
Even in the face of terrorist massacres, the EU required meetings, debate, discussion, voting, collaboration, compromise. But when faced with a few Brits stricken by a new variant of COVID-19, the cooperative facade went out the window. Suddenly, it was every country for itself. The media here in France couldn't even keep up. They had just begun reporting that EU nations would soon be discussing a coordinated response to the new U.K. viral threat when they started getting press releases from countries announcing travel bans.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau wouldn't close a loophole that allowed entry into Canada by foreign nationals who had their temporary migrant status in the U.S. revoked by the Donald Trump administration, but he has kept the Canada-U.S. border closed since March under the pretext of COVID-19. Now, he's banned flights from the U.K. into Canada.
"This afternoon, I convened a meeting with the Incident Response Group," Trudeau tweeted on Monday. "We focused on the new variant of COVID-19 identified in the UK, and we have decided to implement new border restrictions in order to keep you -- and people right across the country -- safe."
That's quite a leap from Trudeau's open-borders tweets in response to Trump's decision in January 2017 to temporarily halt immigration to the U.S. from countries associated with terrorism "until we know what's going on."
Now, every country that isn't suicidal wants to take control of its borders to keep its people "safe" until it can get COVID-19 under control. Let's hope this trend of self-preservation over political correctness becomes one of the few lasting positive impacts of this pandemic.