From the Middle East

I decided to separate out my coverage of events in the Middle East from the usual stuff I find on the internet and repost here in Amateur Diplomat. After all, the primary focus of this blog is supposed to be on America’s foreign affairs, and not random items of amusement, however interesting they may be. I actually haven’t been doing my job very well (ironically, I’m actually writing this at my professional job) but, what I mean, is that analysis of foreign affairs is not just the reposting of articles others have written, however brilliant or insightful they may be. I should really be providing some sort of coherent critique here.

First off, there’s been a lot of discussion in the national media regarding the Obama Administration’s response to the situations in Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen, Bahrain, and now Libya. President Obama didn’t even mention Egypt in his State of the Union and three days after Mubarak was taken out of power. Obviously, the issue inside of the administration right now is attempting to reconcile the interests of the United States, especially when it comes to maintaining regional relationships regarding resources and defense, with our principles, which dictate that we support human rights, democracy, liberty, and the rule of law. Regardless of how this balancing act has played out recently, it occurred to me recently, that I honestly don’t think the Obama Administration, nor perhaps any institution that has a hand in U.S. foreign policy making, had contingency plans in place to answer the fundamental questions of “what do we do if…. regimes are toppled by popular unrest – and the Middle East is swept by a wave of democratic uprisings”. I think our foreign policy establishment was entirely unprepared to answer that question. It’s pretty clear that was the case given the sporadic and inconsistent response by the American government to each of the revolutions in the Middle East. It’s somewhat startling as well. Think about how much time and effort the Bush Administration devoted to its “Freedom Agenda” – two wars and billions of dollars later and where did we stand? Worse off than where we began. The Obama Administration began its tenure in office by initiating a 6-month review of the Afghan War. I mean, was there really no preparation done to answer the question of what the U.S. should do if revolution started of its own accord in the Middle East? It’s slightly mind-boggling, and makes me wonder if there was some sort of mis-guided perception that’s dominated the American perspective of world affairs that essentially causes us to view outside events through the prism of American/Western action – basically – that major events such as these don’t take place without some sort of catalyst on our part.

I don’t know.

Anyway, here is some of the latest and most interest coverage of events in the Middle East…
In Cradle of Libya’s Uprising, the Rebels Learn to Govern Themselves

On Thursday, the fruits of that effort were beginning to take a rough shape. A judge, still wearing his robes, wandered through traffic, ordering drivers to put on their seat belts. At another intersection, three young men helped an elderly police officer direct a traffic jam.

In Benghazi’s new order, the court building overlooking the Mediterranean has become both a seat of rebel power and the town hall.

U.S. Trying to Pick Winners in New Middle East

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton was unable to reach the foreign minister, Moussa Koussa, Mr. Crowley said, citing a technical glitch.

That’s also my cat’s name.

The administration has urged Saudi Arabia not to impede King Hamad’s attempt to undertake reforms in Bahrain, an island connected to Saudi Arabia by a causeway and dependent on the Saudis for political and economic support.

I also wonder if that does not include military support as well. It’s not just the military support Saudi Arabia receives from the United States, in terms of weapons and other defensive equipment, but also the reliance of Bahrain’s ruling family on an internal security service composed primarily of foreigners. I recently heard a suggestion that perhaps Saudi was sending some of its notorious religious police into Bahrain, over the bridge connecting the two countries.

An incredible video from CNN’s only correspondent in Libya, Ben Wedeman…
Gawker: The Incredible First News Footage from Liberated Benghazi, Libya
Look at all those people hallucinating on Nescafe.

WSJ: Our Bargain With The New Gadhafi

Gadhafi’s vicious regime has left Libya far worse than he found it on the day of his coup in 1969. King Idriss was at least a unifying figure for a country that had not long been unified and had been independent only since 1951. Gadhafi has established no national institutions, not even allowing a fake parliament of the Mubarak or Ben Ali variety that could perhaps be turned into something real.

Nor is there an army such as in Egypt, with the prestige and unity to intervene, restore calm and (we all hope) set the country on a better path. Gadhafi, who took power in a military coup, was too clever to allow a well-organized army that might do the same to him. Many units are organized along tribal lines, which has kept Gadhafi safe but may be his undoing now. If the tribes are central to defeating him, the next government will have to balance them carefully, using Libya’s oil wealth to buy support and time to address its many crises.

Like Idi Amin and Emperor Bokassa, Gadhafi will soon join the pantheon of grotesque dictators who leave their countries in ruins. Given the last years—when quiet disapproval replaced forceful denunciation as U.S. policy—we can only hope that Libyans remember the decades when we were Gadhafi’s worst enemy.

Roger Cohen’s latest Op-Ed in the Times…
NYT: From Oklahoma to Tobruk

I could only think of the long journey traveled by the United States from its “original sin” of slavery, through the civil war and Jim Crow, on through the long civil rights campaign and the King assassination, to the once unthinkable thing: the election of an African American to the nation’s highest office.

It takes a long time — centuries — to establish that all men really are created equal; and that “certain unalienable rights” belong to all citizens rather than to all citizens except those of a certain color.

The Arab world has embarked on a very long road to enfranchisement. It will be tempestuous but the direction taken is irreversible.


 

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