When countries fall apart, all bets are off. Somalia has at least three independent segments, one of which (Puntland) is a pirate haven. Syria may be heading in that direction, as a Western-friendly opposition government is given the back of the hands of Islamists in the second city of Aleppo-
Islamist rebels are unimpressed with the new grouping.
In a video posted online, an unidentified speaker sits at the head of a long table with at least 20 others, in front of a black Islamist flag. He lists some 13 armed Islamist groups who reject the opposition coalition.
"We are the representatives of the fighting formations in Aleppo and we declare our rejection of the conspiratorial project, the so-called national alliance," he says. "We have unanimously agreed to urgently establish an Islamic state."
Aleppo isn't far from the Turkish border, nor is it too far from the Mediterranean. The former could make it a thorn to Turkey, or allow Turkey to make it a thorn to an unfreindly Syrian government. There is no grand rule requiring Syria to stay unified once the Assad team is shown the door, and an Islamist-run Aleppo might not be easily ousted without outside help, especially if one of their neighbors is interested in keeping them in power.
If that Aleppo faction can swing west and set up shop on the Med, it could wind up acting a bit like Puntland and make the western Med a no-go zone like the entrance to the Red Sea and the route to the Suez Canal was terrorized by Somali pirates. That's a bit of a long-shot, but the prospects of an Islamic Jack Sparrow doing Pirates of the Mediterranean isn't that big of a stretch if Somalia is any lession.
Mali doesn't get a lot of news coverage in normal times. The old shaggy-dog pun that comes to mind was the stainless-steel basin sold there, the unbrownable Mali sink.
Mali's northern parts, including the historic city of Timbuktu, has been taken over by jihadis who trash anything that they don't like; since they're just south of Libya, they might well have had a hand in the Benghazi embassy attack.
The president, whoever he might be come January, will have this one on his plate; the local African countries can provide some troops and diplomatic cover, but a Western responce seems to be needed, as Mr. Totten points out in his piece. If Yemen has become the drone capital of the world with their lawless wastes, Mali will be getting there in short order.
P.S.- here's your Timbuk3 earwig from the title.
Qatar's PM might not quite get the concept of genocide-
"What is happening in Syria is not a civil war but a genocide, a war of extermination with a license to kill by the Syrian government and the international community," he said, according to the official Qatar News Agency.
Whoa, mule. Last I checked, the definition of genocide is
"the deliberate and systematic destruction, in whole or in part, of an ethnic, racial, religious, or national group"
Can a country's government do genocide on itself? Not quite; we might have a bit of religious warfare in play, as the government leans pro-Alwaite, but the government attacks its oppostion, not so much orthodox Shia and Sunni believers.
It's Friday, so something regarding a mosque is sure to be in play; today, it's a bombing of a mosque in northern Afghanistan-
A suicide bomber targeted worshippers who had gathered at a mosque in north Afghanistan for prayers to mark Eid al-Adha, killing at least 41 people.
More than 50 people were wounded in the attack, which happened as people were leaving the Eid Gah mosque in Maymana, capital of Faryab province.
Note that this is in the north, where the Taliban have less of a following. During the post-Soviet civil war, the northern part of the country stayed independent of the Taliban government; the US used a combination of air power, special forces and Northern Alliance fighters to roll back the Taliban a decade ago.
The tragic part is that it came on one of Islam's big holidays; Eid al-Adha celebrate's Abraham's willingness to sacrifice his son, although the Koran twists the Genesis story to have Ishmael as the would-be sacrifice rather than Isaac. It's a bigger party than the end of Ramadan.
"We had just finished Eid al-Adha prayers and we were congratulating and hugging each other," deputy provincial governor Abdul Satar Barez told the AFP news agency.
"Suddenly a big explosion took place and the area was full of dust and smoke and body parts of police and civilians were all over the place. It was a very powerful explosion."
Since a lot of officials and police were at the mosque, it was a target for the Taliban as a way of getting at the powers-that-be. That's the underlying theme of a lot of Muslim-on-Muslim violence as of late (note the part V), where the jihadis go after the establishment Muslims.
I remember a Ron Silver story from the Clinton innaugual in 1993; as a good liberal, he had a bit of disdain towards the military after 12 years of GOP rule and military build-ups. When some planes flew over Washington in a salute, he stated that "they're our planes now."
That vignette came to mind when I read this story about the Syrian civil war-
Pity the Syrian people. They had been given to believe that fighter jets in the arsenal of the state - those Russian-made MIGs they once viewed with pride - were there for the stand-off with Israel.
Now they know better. The runs over Aleppo, the bombings of Idlib, have laid bare the truth. It is no accident that the founder of this regime, Hafez al-Assad, emerged from the ranks of the air force, which is not often an incubator of coup-makers. There would come a day, the masters of this minority regime doubtless knew, when fighter jets would be used at home.
The planes seemed to be "theirs" when the threat was an assertive Israel making sure they stayed put on their southwestern border. However, government power doesn't just extend to external enimies, especially when it is a dictatorship unbounded by consitutions and elections.
That use of force brings to mind the libertarian disdain of the military, knowing that all that hardware and training could be turned on them if they were on the wrong side of a power-hungry government who was willing to play nasty. That's where the checks and balances of American government come into play, along with a long-standing standard against using the military in a domestic setting, whether it be border mainanance or disaster-relief.
Good news and odd news out of Mexico; the head of the Zetas, Heriberto Lazcano, had a bad case of lead poisoning at the hands of Mexican marines. Here's the odd news-
In a twist, a group of armed men stole Lazcano's body from a funeral home, though authorities had already taken fingerprints and photographs to confirm his identity.
Unfortunately, there is a second in command to take over for the bloody cartel which started as the hit men for another cartel but decided to run the whole show themselves. You don't want to cheer any death, but death is the Zeta's stock in trade; dying in a hail of bullets is the natural end for them.
Here's a telling piece from the business section; #1 container shipping company Maersk has stopped doing business with Iran. It was doing relatively little business before now, as many of the main ports were on a US no-go list, but even the secondary port that it was using got service discontinued.
The more widely noted piece involved the Iranian government making private foreign currency exchanges illegal; now, if you want to move in and out of the rial, you do it with a government agency. The rial has been rialing down as of late-
Early last week the rial was trading around 37,500 to the dollar, having lost about a third of its value in 10 days and two thirds in 15 months.
The level of government control is design to ration the available hard currency for things the government really needs. That rationing means that consumer imports will be hard to get through legit avenues and smuggling goods into a black market is a likely outcome.
That creates an interesting dilemma. If the government is reeling and might be ditched in favor of a different regime if things get much worse, might it be worth holding off on a preemptive strike at their nuke facilities in the hope that a more reasonable and less interested in forcing the Mahdi out of hiding by starting WW3 will come into power.
On the flipside, an Ahmadinejad regime on its last leg could try to play to the last refuge of a scoundrel and start a war with Israel and the US in order to gin up support. There's enough going on where making an informed decision is hard since there is a lot of information flowing in at once.
"Code Pink to Protest Drone Strikes."
Here's an interesting passage-
Code Pink members donned giant vagina costumes at the Republican National Convention in August, but according to two group members contacted by U.S. News, participants will be modestly dressed in the conservative Muslim area.
Odd coalition of over-the-top left-feminists and sharia-lovers; the latter would be happy to kill the former as infidel scum except that they have a common foe in the US millitary. The ladies are modest only when it is expedient to do so.
I'm of two minds on how to handle Egypt and other emerging Arab democracies. The first is the hopeful, small-d democrat side, that wants to see folks have an honest shot at picking their leaders rather than dictating from the outside who those leaders can and can't be.
Here's a role-reversal that comes to mind; would we stomach seeing the Europeans and Japanese cutting off relations with a Romney administration because he's too culturally conservative, too Christian for civilized people to deal with? Would we tolerate outsiders saying that our leaders had to not be religious conservatives?
That's how some of the rhetoric from some quarters of the right would sound like to Abdul Q Public. If you tell him he has to vote for either the Mubarak leftovers or some egghead who spent more time in London and Palo Alto than in Cairo, that's not going to go over well.
What will a Muslim Brotherhood government look like? I'm not sure that it won't devolve into an Iranian style bounded-democracy, where you have to be approved by the Islamic powers that be to run and with civil rights only applying if you're what passes for a good Muslim. If it does, then plan B kicks in, but trying to do some Cold-War style coup and installing Mubarak 2.0 right now won't quite work.
Plan B could well look like making Islam the enemy if the bodies politic of enough Arab countries become radicalized and elect governments actively hostile to Western Civ. However, that's not how America rolls when it's on the side of the angels; the "he's a SOB but he's our SOB" school is best avoided.
I had the facts wrong on yesterday's post. It was actually a Israeli-American filmmaker who made the film that got folks hot and bothered in Egypt; a Coptic-American merely blogged on it, which them got notice from anti-Coptic Egyptian Muslims looking to have something to rouse the rabble with.
Rouse the rabble it did; while the Egyptian protests were largely peaceful, Libyan's rabble wasn't quite as civilized, killing the US ambassador and three others. Amb. Chris Stevens looks like a young Jack Ryan in CNN's picture, an earnest diplomat looking to help the Libyan people ditch Gaddafi. To the rabble of the Libyan street, that and $2 will buy a latte in Hell.
To borrow from SNL-it's always something. There seems to be no shortage of outrage-able moments in the west to make Muslims mad at. All it takes is one rabble-rousing cleric to put the sparking news item (or non-news item in this case) into his Friday sermon and point the crowd to the embassy of the country in the news; this one happened on a Tuesday, so the meme didn't quite work to script.
Here's a change worth noting. When Iranian rabble seized the US embassy back in 1979, they didn't kill anyone. What a difference a third of a century makes.
The Arab democrats might be setting themselves up for glorious isolation if they want to divorce themselves from the world by letting these events happen and make them a no-go zone for westerners. Killing off ambassadors is something the dictators of the area haven't done to date, but they at least wanted to interact with the rest of the world.
Here's one bullet point in Afghanizing things (a play on Vietnamization during the Nixon years); we've handed most of Bagram prison over to the Afghan government. The fine print has us keeping at least one wing, with some of the more problematic Taliban, under US control. The US is a bit leery of seeing the locals setting up a catch-and-release system, so they're slow in handing things over; it's a cheap shot, but they might be afraid that they'll treat the Taliban like an illegal immigrant stateside and want to get him out of the system ASAP.
Maybe I play too much Scrabble online (Facebook has a nice version), but I broke down Bagram into Bag Ram... as in Hizzonor Emanuel, (which means "Obama with us" in Chicagoese). The teachers are on strike despite having some of the best paychecks in the business.
Teachers also want to block changes to their health benefits and win concessions on classroom conditions.
Pay is also an issue. However, the union said the two sides are close to a pay agreement after school officials offered to increase salaries 16% over four years on average for most teachers. The average teacher salary in Chicago was $74,839 for the 2011-2012 school year, according to the district.
Shared sacrifice in tough economic times? Not here. Especially not when going up against them insures a very tough primary challenge in your next election.
The teachers conveniently waited until after the Democratic convention, so as to avoid having the issue play out where all the pundits could grill pols about it, but before the election, so that they can hold Democrats hostage, blaming the penny-pinching bosses for Johnny and Susie being home alone during the strike.
Would Hizzoner have the [insert PG chutzpah synonym] to fire the teachers and get replacements? Not too many Democrats would; Ed Koch might have tried that and Jerry Brown might, but Obama With Us is seemingly too much an operator to go that route.
Interesting spillover of the Syrian civil car into Lebanon, where Sunni and Alawite factions are shooting it out in Tripoli, north of Beirut. That translates to anti-Assad and pro-Assad, since the Assads are Alawite.
The ruling government in Lebanon doesn't have a dog in the fight on ethnic grounds, since they are Shia (Hezbollah is their main party) with some pro-Syrian Christians thrown in; the rival Sunnis and heterodox Alawites aren't liked by the Shia, thus it's a bit like Catholics looking on while Protestants and Mormons have at it. To the extent that Syria is pro-Shia in Lebanese politics, the Shia like Assad, but it's possible that they are keeping their distance from things in order to be on the good side of whoever emerges out of the Syrian mess.
The prime minister is a Sunni, but that's because he has to be per Lebanon's constitution; however, he's likely politically on board with the Shia-dominated government.
Lebanese troops have moved in along what might become Tripoli's Green Line between the factions. How much effort they do to keep them apart remains to be seen.
It looks like Curiosity might be getting some company on the Red Planet-
The Indian government has approved a mission to Mars in what would be the country's first visit to the red planet. The news comes just four years after India launched its maiden mission to the Moon – Chandrayaan-1 – and days after NASA landed the Curiosity car-sized rover on Mars.
The £70m mission will be launched in November 2013 from India's spaceport at the Satish Dhawan Space Centre on the island of Sriharikota using the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle. The mission, which will orbit Mars and study the planet's geology and climate, has already been allocated £26m in the country's science budget.
"I think they look at this in a similar way [to how] the US looked at Apollo – in that they are trying to demonstrate that they are a technologically advanced country and a leader in Asia," adds [John Hopkins' scientist David] Plescia. "Space programmes are not really about science, they are about national prestige and national security. The mission would also be a source of pride and excitement to the country, much like the Curiosity mission is in the US."
With China going forward with an aggresive space program, playing 40 years of catchup with the US and Russia, India doesn't want to be left behind. It's got a heck of a tech presence and can use this as a tool to show that India can do big-power things and possibly create a space industry of their own.
Someone in the Romney campaign, while visting the UK, talked about a shared Anglo-Saxon heritage.
“We are part of an Anglo-Saxon heritage, and he feels that the special relationship is special,” the adviser said of Mr Romney, adding: “The White House didn’t fully appreciate the shared history we have”.
The problem with that is that folks on the left will think it's a racial dig at the half-Kenyan guy in the White House; we don't use WASP much anymore, but that was short for White Anglo-Saxon Protestant. Since the P part is near-meaningless as a political descriptor, we don't hear it much these days. Whether you go to church is more of an indicator that which one you're affiliated with.
The real problem for Obama is that he's a 21st century liberal; he's half WASP via his mom, but she was an anthropologist. He seems to have absorbed a liberal-intelligentsia questioning of American power and siding with other cultures as a reflex action.
Buying into that "special relationship" runs counter to liberal thinking, since they are more multilateral than bilateral, don't care for the free market meme that even leftists in the US and UK largely accept, and reflexively want to back the former colonies and developing countries from the old colonial power and its hegemonic offspring. Thus, the fans of what has come be called the Anglosphere in conservative blog circles are neoliberal at worst and generally right of center.
Note that this isn't a racial thing per se. Lots of liberal whites don't buy in, while plenty of blacks and Asians are with the program. Eileen's been reading a couple of books from Ramesh Ponnuru, an Indian-American; he's a child of the American heartland even if he's got rather dark skin. Republicans have put two Indian-Americans into governorships and were poised to send Herman Cain to the White House had sex scandals not got in the way. To top it off, Republicans have had two black Secretaries of State, two more than Democrats have had; somewhat moderate Republicans to be sure (Powell might be better described as an independent these days) , but still Anglospherian.
Thankfully, the US press seems not to have ran with this A-S story. I saw the story first in the Globe and Mail and the BBC had it in high rotation, albeit with the Romney trip being the primary lead.
The military gets a lot of church-state cross-fire, as religous liberals and secularists complain when chaplians get too evangelistic and religious symbolism and rhetoric slide into things. However, this Earl Tilford piece points out some of the downside of de-godding the military that liberals would not like.
[A]ll wars are quintessentially human endeavors. It’s impossible to kill inanimate objects like MiGs, tanks, trucks and missile sites. But we do kill people. To make “crispy crittering” easier, we noted, we dehumanize the enemy with terms like “Japs,” “Dinks,” “Gomers,” “Krauts,” “Huns,” “Injuns,” “Rebs” and “Yanks.” We noted the Nazis refereed to the genocide of Jews as “evacuation” and the murder of the mentally and physically handicapped, homosexuals, and other “inferiors” as “medical re-socialization.”
We can quickly dehumanize the enemy in an God-free setting. Religion often does bring conflict, but in most Christian flavors, it treats even the enemy as fellow creations of God worthy of respect.
Tilford closes with this thought-
When absent God, human advancement—whether ideological, political, philosophical or technological—reflects our intrinsic nature, which is evil. Better we fly with a wing and a prayer.
Secularizing the military would tend to make it more brutish rather than less, so peace-lovers on the left should be careful what they wish for in our military.
Here's an interesting statement from Dr. Bashir-
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has said the US is trying to destabilise Syria by providing political protection for "gangs" operating in the country.
In an interview for German TV, Mr Assad also said Saudi Arabia and Qatar were arming "terrorists" in Syria. He also accused Turkey of giving the "terrorists" logistical support.
What is the Baathist Party other than a very well-armed gang? Granted, it is a gang that has been the recognized government of Syria for a few decades, but one that gained that power by gun-point rather than the open support of its people.
Yes, most nations start that way, having kicked out the previous rulers in some extra-legal fashion, but the good ones establish themselves and earn their legitimacy at the ballot box. The bad ones either don't bother with democracy or set up a one-party state to give the facade of popular support.
Also, the winners don't get tagged terrorists. Try calling the Boston Tea Party a terrorist act and see their modern namesakes start to take offense; if a Syrian resistance group did that to a load of Russian goods in Aleppo harbor, that would be a terrorist act, albeit one that was bloodless.
I've been a bit under the weather over the weekend, so it's catch-up time.
Greece-postponing the crash that needs to happen; I don't see the Greeks making the cuts needed to balance things especially with the establishment parties that are now in charge. The second election surprised me, as their mainstream conservative New Democracy party got an expanded plurality, enough to patch together a majority with the mainstream socialist PASOK.
I was kinda rooting for the hard-left Syriza to win, since they'd give the ECB and IMF the MDS (middle digit salute) and get back to normal sooner, if normal includes nationalizing the banks.
Egypt-Have Murci! Mohammed Mursi, the Muslim Brotherhood candidate, beat out the general's choice 52-48. The next question is how much authority the generals will let him have and whether they'll make their autocoup throwing out the parliamentary elections stick. Neither option seems all that palatable and Israel is seeing their Sinai border get more problematic; whatever happens in Egypt will have spillovers to the east, especially if the MB start to back their sister-movement Hamas.
Syria-the Russians are sending a gator freighter there. The cover is to allow for the evacuation of Russian nationals, but it also give a shield to Assad and friends if the west does want to intervene; they might have to shoot at Russians to do so.
The Egyptian analogue to the Supreme Court just declared the Muslim Brotherhood-led parliament unconstitutional and disbanded it, giving power back to the military interim government. That's bad news for democracy, but might be good geopolitics for the US and Christians in the region.
The court is made up of Mubarak appointees, so they have something of a vested interest into the pre-2011 status quo. What we're seeing is something akin to Turkey, where the military there has stepped in to toss governments that look too un-secular, although the current government seems to have escaped that fate as it tries to give Muslims more room to maneuver in the public square.
That sounds good from a freedom-of-religion standpoint, but it has also resulted in a less-pro-western government in Turkey, as they have ditched previously friendly relations with Israel. A MB government in Egypt will be more anti-Israel and more pro-Hamas than the current one, which leaves small-d democrats rooting for the MB and conservative foreign-policy types rooting for the Mubarak holdovers.
Adding to the mix is the Coptic Christians in Egypt who weren't exactly best buddies with Mubarak but were treated with some deference; the more radical Muslims in the new parliament might be inclined to put severe restrictions on the Copts if not forcing them underground. A similar dynamic is going down in Syria, where the Assads, religious minorities themselves as a Muslim analogue to Mormons (if I can take some poetic license; the Alwaitis are looked at as apostate by Shia and Sunni alike), treat their Christians much better than the opposition would; part of Russia's backing of Assad could well flow from an honorable looking after fellow Orthodox churchmen in Syria.
Thus, conservatives would have some things to be happy about if the military stays in power in Egypt, except that the neocon vision of spreading democracy around the world takes it in the chops. One could see the Pat Buchanans in the realm cheering but the Weekly Standard crowd being of mixed thoughts.
It might well be worth letting one of these popularly-elected Islamist government actually be allowed to govern and see if they can coexist with the rest of the world. If they can coexist, that will take a lot of the steam out of al Qaeda and their ilk if we can give would-be jihadis a political outlet to change corrupt systems rather than forcing them to arms to get their way. If the powers that be keep pulling the plug when they win, they'll stop being part of the political process and take up arms or bombs.
There is an election coming up for president, pitting a MB guy versus a Mubarak leftover; the winner would be in position to move things in their direction, although a MB president going up against the military might result in a civil war far bloodier than we saw last year.
The Drone Ranger rides again, dispatching al Qaeda second-in-command and Internet front-man Abu Yahya al-Libi. Pakistan's wild, wild Northwest was where our buddy was located.
The Monday strike was the third such deadly attack in as many days and the 21st suspected U.S. drone strike in Pakistan this year. At least six missiles were fired at a militant compound near the town of Mir Ali in the North Waziristan region near the Afghanistan border.
This guy beat me to the title pun; and christened the mechanical merchants of death the Rolling Drones.
Seriously, we're essentially looking at Pakistan as enemy territory, at least the NW part of the country which is all but run by the Taliban.
The Russians are talking trash over missile defense systems in Eastern Europe... at least, one hopes they're just talking trash.
Russia says it is prepared to use "destructive force pre-emptively" if the US goes ahead with controversial plans for a missile defence system based in Central Europe.
The warning came after the Russian defence minister said talks on missile defence were nearing a dead end. Moscow fears that missile interceptors would be a threat to Russia's security. But the US and Nato say they are intended to protect against attacks from Iran or North Korea.
"A decision to use destructive force pre-emptively will be taken if the situation worsens," chief of the Russian defence staff Gen Nikolai Makarov said.
Such ABM batteries are only a threat to Russia if they are planning on re-invading Eastern Europe in the near future or are envisioning a US invasion or want a Islamic nuke to head towards the US.
What is likely at play is a desire for Russia to get back the hegemon status in its old imperial domains. If they play hardball with Eastern Europe, they might move them to cast their lot with Russia if those countries think they can get more from the Russians than they can from the US and the rest of Europe.
US-Russian relations haven't been good as of late, as the Putin team has been playing the bad cop in world affairs quite a bit, partly to look tough back home and partly to keep buisness interests with rogue players like Iran and Syria going. This move just brings that bad blood out into the open.
The Syrian civil war is taking interesting turns, as we saw an amphibious raid by rebels; I can't recall seeing that anywhere in my adult lifetime, which has to go back to the ill-fated Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba by dissidents with US help for a matching reference. Somehow, using "Bay of Pigs" in a battle between Muslim factions has a bit of irony.
Syrian rebel gunmen in inflatable dinghies have attacked a military unit on the Mediterranean coast, with deaths on both sides, state media report.
It is thought to be the first rebel assault from the sea. Separately, Lebanon says its navy has seized weapons destined for the rebels.
Clashes between security forces and deserting troops left heavy casualties near Damascus and Aleppo, reports say.
The issues are beginning to take a regional angle, as the rebels have support in northern Lebanon, where Tripoli's Sunni majority is often at odds with its Alawite minority; that enmity might well extend to fighting the Alawite Assad clan running Syria. The containers of arms was heading to Tripoli and thence to the rebels, something that the pro-Syrian Lebanese government would like to stop.
The good news for the fans of the rebels is that support is getting in. The bad news is that the Lebanese government is trying to stop things, which might wind up turning the fight into an international one.
Hopes that a heart transplant would change Dick Cheney have proven unfounded- he's hit the hyperbole a bit heavy in declaring Obama "an unmitigated disaster to the country."
On domestic policy, he comes close to that. On foreign policy, he's actually done an OK job, letting the security forces do their job in getting Osama and keeping Club Gitmo open. With the exception of taking a more pro-Palestinian line on Holy Land policy and being a bit too eager to bug out of Afghanistan, he's been not too far from what a McCain administration would have done.
Of course, Mitt-igation of these errors is coming if the voters so choose. One hopes the changes mitigate things as well.
Here's a thoughtful yet disturbing line from Charles Krauthammer over the current Egyptian dilemma-
The military is the only guarantor of a democratic system in the future, the same way that in Turkey the military for 50 years after the Ataturk revolution in the early ’20s guaranteed a secular, open society. If the military is gone, as Obama had urged — and it’s a good thing the military didn’t listen to him — then what you are going to get is the rule of the Islamists. If you add up the vote, [they have] over 60 percent of the vote. They can essentially… write a constitution that could be extremely repressive….
The problem is the transition has to be over time. We saw the French Revolution, the Russian, and Iranian. The liberals go out in the street and start it, and then it’s the ideologues — organized like the Islamists or communists (in Russia) — who seize power. So you want the military as a stabilizing influence. And we have to hope that it allows the evolutionary process over time….
A democracy is a place where you have a second election. And the question is: Will Egypt have a second election or not? I think the military is likely to ensure a second. I’m not sure Islamists would.
That last paragraph has some salience when you look south to the rest of Africa for evidence. The anti-colonial leaders would win the first election, then proceed to set up a one-party state, with the Big Man ruling for a generation before leaving either feet first or with the mobs swarming the tarmac as he flies off to the Riviera or Saudi Arabia. "One man, one vote, one time" was the old saw for that dynamic.
In the US, we have a constitution as the backstop for government misdeeds. However, other countries don't have that rule-of-law mentality and some other vehicle needs to keep government in check. In many countries, the military serves as that backstop, stepping in when the system becomes dysfunctional or steps over a line that cannot be crossed. Pakistan comes to mind, as does Turkey, as Krauthammer mentioned.
The Arab world seems to have a string of Big Men, either generals or monarchs, that keep political Islam at bay or (in the case of the Saudis) bring the Islamists into the tent. That offends the senses of a Western liberal (in this case, Anglosphere conservatives are usually liberals) that they deserve better than a dictatorship.
If the alternatives are a slightly malevolent dictatorship or a very malevolent Islamist democracy, are we in the position to push democracy under the bus? Given that a lot of the Founding Fathers were not thrilled with direct democracy, even the US has its safeguards in place.
The early returns have about a 60% vote for Islamic-centric parties, with the semi-moderate Islamic Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party getting 37% and a more hard-core Nour party getting 24%. That could lead to, depending on whether F&J looks for secular allies or not, something akin to Iran's bounded democracy.
However, could we also see the F&J turn into, if I can borrow from European politics, Islamic Democrats, analoging from the Christian Democratic parties that litter the mainland European center-right. One can only hope that can happen, for if we have countries that are majority anti-western Islamic, geopolitics gets very strained very quickly.
I don't think there is a lot that the US could have done to reverse this result. Given that the were no solid political movements to back here, the Brotherhood filled that vacuum. The more secular groups didn't have the social services network of the Brotherhood to give them street cred.
Stateside, liberals might not like the Salvation Army for their old-school stance on sexuality, but there aren't too many secular alternatives to the more evangelically-inclined soup kitchens and homeless shelters. The same applies somewhat well in Egypt, where the schools and hospitals that the IB have set up gave them a big heads-up. It would have taken decades of effort for secular outsiders have set up a parallel network, even if the Mubarak regime would have allowed such a fifth column to be created.
The only good alternative to having some Islamic-flavored presence in the governments of places like Tunisia and Egypt is to have the old secular strong-men still in charge. That smacks a bit too much of the "he's an SOB, but he's our SOB" strategy we saw in the Cold War; in a way, Mubarak was a throwback to that era, where he and his predecessor Anwar Sadat opted to cast their lot with the US in the Cold War after first being in the Soviet sphere until the early 70s.
We might get some new Irans, but we might get some Islamic Democratic parties. It's worth taking a stab and seeing if we can see some sort of Islamic equivalent of "Judeo-Christian values" in Arab countries.
Here's an interesting story of American assimilation; the Jacksonville Jaguars are about to be sold to Shahid Khan, an Illinois-based auto-parts tycoon. As the name implies, he's of Pakistani descent, having moved to the US to go to U of Illinois; he got an engineering degree and wound up buying the company he was designing parts for. It reminds me a tad of how Bobby Jindal's parents came over from India to go to LSU and saw their son grow up to run the state.
You'd expect a guy with a last name of Khan to be owning a 20/20 cricket team rather than an NFL club, but that's not the case. Khan has become a generous member of the UI community, donating to a lot of college efforts as well as politicians on both sides of the aisle.
Given the current pleasantries between the US and Pakistan, his nationality might set some good-ol-boys off. However, Khan has an American wife and seemingly has gone native, looking to buy the Rams a bit closer to home before doing a Jag snag.
Here's an interesting brawl fixin' to happen; the hacktivists at Anonymous are going after the Zetas-
A group claiming affiliation with the international hacking group Anonymous posted a video demanding that the Zetas release a hostage in Veracruz. The person in the video claims to have information about the names of the Zetas and of corrupt public officials working with the Zetas. They say they will release the names and addresses of people linked to the Zetas online.
The group then hacked the website of the former attorney general of the state of Tabasco, someone who has previously been accused of ties to criminal organizations, and posted a note claiming he works for the Zetas.
Here we have two folks on the dark side of the law going mano-a-mano. In most recent cases, Anonymous has been a pest from the anti-powers-that-be left, often hacking to pay back foes of Wikileaks. Here, they seem to be on the side of the angels for a change, assuming their outings are legit.
However, the outings will likely cause a few folks to die at the hands of rival gangs or the new Mata Zeta hit squads, assuing those two are not one and the same. Rough justice, indeed.
This might get lost in the noting/celebrating of the demise of Gaddafi; the Basque terror group ETA is hanging it up, opting to take the example of the IRA and become part of Spanish politics peacefully.
That should help Spain quite a bit, for the fear of terrorism will go down. There will still be the stray Islamic terror, but homegrown terror will decrease. If the lessons in Northern Ireland are any indication, there will still be a few ETA hard cases who want to keep at it, but they can morph into something like Sinn Fein or the Scottish and Welch nationalist parties.
Meanwhile, Gaddafi went out feet first as promised. A trial might have been better, as this Globe and Mail piece notes, but there is a sense of closure in a corpse.
The death of Gaddafi (how may variant spellings do we have for him?) should allow Libya to move on towards a more democratic government. There is a power vacuum here, as the old regime was a one-man show. Also, tribalism can be a factor, so we could see a decentralized government with a lot of local autonomy.
The one big fear for a lot of folks is that Islamists will try to fill that vacuum. They aren't a majority, but a violent minority can often get their way.