Another argument that open-borders types sometimes invoke is that Germany has in some way caused the problems from which migrants are fleeing and therefore has an ethical obligation to grant all of them permanent residency in Germany.
My experience is when this feel-good argument is exposed to the slightest pressure, it crumbles like gossamer. If proponents try to back it up, they fall into two errors: (1) vastly exaggerating Germany's actual influence in the world; and (2) conveniently erasing huge tracts of recent world history which point to factors other than German policy to be the genuine causes of the problems they cite.
Let's take a look at the countries which make up the top 10 in current asylum applications. It fluctuates from month to month, but is generally: Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, Eritrea, and 5 or 6 West Balkan countries.
Now, the first thing to note is that all of these countries receive development assistance from Germany to the extent safety conditions permit. Germany gives away .37% of its GDP in development assistancein 2013. That amounts to €14.06 billion, making Germany the world's third-largest state donor of development aid. Germany has a sprawling foreign-aid bureaucracy employing thousands of people. I know dozens of them personally: engineers, architects, lawyers. Working for German government aid organizations is a prestigious, well-paid job. There is much competition for these spots, and those who get the jobs tend to be very intelligent and hard-working.
Here the casual cynic will observe: 'Yeah, but don't most of the products they provide come from Germany?' The short answer is yes. The longer answer is: Leave the womb-like comfort of the graduate seminar room, André-Maximilian. Remove your nose ring. Put down the Adorno. Put on your big-boy pants and emerge into the real world. Every aid donor country mandates a preference for its own products. Standard practice. And as long as they're fit for purpose, so what? If Germany is going to give Zenobia a € 1 million hydroelectric turbine generator, it might as well be a €1 million Siemens hydroelectric turbine generator. German machines are renowned all over the world, so nobody's getting ripped off. And I guarantee you the Zenobians care more about the extra 5 hours of electricity they get every day than who made the generator.
Now there's plenty of legitimate debate about the effectiveness of foreign aid and its recipients, etc. But at a very basic level, it's significant that a country decides to basically give away € 14 billion a year to strangers across the globe. German aid programs are generally highly regarded in the international community and often used as best-practices benchmarks. Is one of the reasons for giving the aid to burnish Germany's reputation? Yes, André-Maximilian, it is. Welcome again to the real world, where individuals and nations always have multiple motives for their actions, some of which are self-interested. In any case, if Germany's trying to build its reputation, it's working, since Germany is the most-admired nation in the world right now.
But even if Germany gave no development aid, the argument that Germany's actions are causing the current migration waves does not hold water. Let's look at it country-by-country:
Iraq. Iraq's current problems are the result of the 2003 invasion. Germany loudly opposed this invasion and did not send troops. Although Germany provided tiny amounts of logistical cooperation owing to previous commitments, the invasion of Iraq was a US and UK show, full stop.
Syria. Syria descended into civil war in 2011. Wars in that part of the region can last a while, the Lebanese civil war lasted 15 years. Germany did not encourage or condone, and could not prevent, this occurrence.
Afghanistan. Germany participated in the occupation of Afghanistan for a few years. That participation was minimal. It's an open secret that German troops are not combat-ready, so they were sent to the largely-peaceful north to do routine patrols. In any event, Afghans who are leaving their country are, I guarantee you, not fleeing oppression by Western troops. They are leaving active conflict zones or Taliban rule.
Eritrea. Eritrea is currently a repressive dictatorship. Germany did not encourage or condone, and could not prevent, this turn of affairs.
The West Balkans. There are generally 2 arguments here. First, that Germany devastated the former Yugoslavia during its occupation in World War II. Actually, what was once Yugoslavia was occupied by all the Axis powers, not just Germany and often ruled by native Fascist movements.
In any case, as nasty as that military policy was, it ended 70 years ago. 70 years is a long time. The current status of the states of the former Yugoslavia has almost nothing to do with World War II. Take Slovenia, for example. Most historians would agree that Slovenia got the worst of it:
The Province of Ljubljana (Italian: Provincia di Lubiana, Slovene: Ljubljanska pokrajina, German: Provinz Laibach) was the central-southern area of Slovenia, the only present-day European nation and the only part of Yugoslavia that was trisected and completely annexed into neighboring Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy, and Hungary during World War II.
97,000 Slovenes were killed during these brutal occupations. The capital of Slovenia, Laibach in German, was surrounded by barbed wire, turned into a massive camp and cut off from the world. Tens of thousands died of starvation and disease. And now? Slovenia, renowned as the 'Switzerland of Yugoslavia', is by far the richest and most stable state of the former Yugoslavia, not only an EU member but also a Eurozone member. The recovery from the depredations of World War II has much more to do with the history, culture, and talents of the people in the occupied country than with events 70 years ago. Modern Slovenes are interested in doing business with and studying in Germany, not rehashing events from last century. It also helped that Yugoslavia was government by one of the 20th century's most ingenious statesmen, Tito.
The current relatively backward condition of many states in the former Yugoslavia is due overwhelmingly to the 10-year civil war during the 1990s. A baffling kaleidoscope of different armies, militias, and paramilitaries swept back and forth, destroying billions in infrastructure and causing massive human suffering. Germany did not encourage or condone, and could not prevent this occurrence. In fact, by its rapid and decisive recognition of Slovenia and Croatia, it is quite likely that German policy helped prevent war and destruction in these countries. That is certainly how most modern Slovenes and Croatians see it, and many historians agree.
Now, what about the bombing campaign in Kosovo in 1999? Germany certainly participated in that. That campaign involved 78 days of bombing targets in Serbia and Kosovo, and killed somewhere around 500 people. A legitimate debate still flourishes over the legitimacy of that action. However, proper perspective requires acknowledging several incontrovertible facts. First of all, the amount of damage caused by the bombing campaign is a drop in the bucket compared to the damage caused by the decade-long civil war that preceded it. Second, German participation in the bombing campaign was barely above the symbolic level. Blaming Germany for the after-effects of wholesale chaos in the Balkans in the 1990s is like blaming a seagull crapping on a wave for the 2011 Japanese tsunami.
Third, the bombing campaign successfully ended hostilities in Kosovo. In 1999, Serbian forces and the KLA were preparing for a bloody, epic battle to the last over Kosovo. Both sides were well-armed, battle-tested, and hated each other's fucking guts with a glowing, incandescent, white-hot rage. Both sides were prepared to engage in terrorism, atrocities and ethnic cleansing. A full-scale war over Kosovo would certainly have done infinitely more damage than the NATO bombing campaign.
So, the argument that Germany has played any significant role in creating the conditions in countries from which current migrants are arriving is simply unfounded. This doesn't mean that Germany should or should not accept migrants from these countries -- that is a separate question. It simply means that the argument that Germany (1) has a moral obligation to do so because (2) Germany caused the problems from which the refugees are fleeing is unconvincing.