Middle East Open Thread

You’ve probably noticed my conspicuous silence about events in the Middle East, especially in Libya.  I simply don’t have anything to add.  I’m a spectator here and, until the coin stops spinning and lands on one side or another, I’m not prepared to opine.

All I’ve got now are hopes and fears, but not opinions.  My hope is that, with the pustulant powers removed from the top, the poison will drain out of those Middle Eastern countries.  My pessimistic fear is that radical Islamism will fill the power vacuum, making them even worse than before.   Another hope is that Obama will figure out that now is the time to sign off on lots of drilling and exploration in America.  My fear is that his dream of $8/gallon gasoline is about to come true.

Share your hopes, fears, information, speculations, opinions, etc., here.  I’m interested.

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  • bizcor

    I doubt that Obama has any interest in signing off on drilling in this country.  He and the Democrats are hell bent on selling the global warming hoax so carbon trading and green energy pursuits will become reality. A Federal Judge in Louisiana said the drilling moratorium in the Gulf was illegal. But the drilling hasn’t resumed. Two Federal Judges have said Obama Care is unconstitutional but Obama Care continues to be implemented.
    Like you I am concerned the old regimes in the Middle East will be replaced with Muslim regimes. With Obama in the White House I fear the worst and pray for the best.
    My greatest concern however is not seeing a viable candidate on the horizon to defeat Obama in 2012. I am still looking. Next Thursday I meet Tim Pawlenty. I’ll let you know what I think.

  • Danny Lemieux

    I am like you, Book. I suspect that each revolution has a life of its own. Some will be for the good, others not. It isn’t written in stone anywhere that this needs to turn out like Iran. It could just as easily be much better…or much worse.
    It is hard to criticize what the Obama people are doing or not doing, as so much that needs to happen must happen behind the scenes.
    We shall have to see how the chips fall. To “fear the worst and pray for the best” is probably the best position we can take.

  • SGT Dave

    My current fears are based solely on the situation I see developing:
    1. Elitist democrat in power
    2. Domestic economic and political unrest
    3. Egregious actions by a foreign power, inspiring world revulsion
    4. Possibility to act in a “humane” manner and divert atttention.

    Last time it was Slick Willy and the Balkans.
    I’m at a 30-35% chance right now of it being NObama and Libya.

    He doesn’t understand the military, military power, or even strong diplomacy; they’ve even said we have people going in to observe (read – special forces teams).

    This is his Balkans moment, and he’s thinking about how Slick Willy made it to two terms using the tail to wag the dog there.  It’s a “short, victorious” and justifiable war in his eyes.

    And mine are going to pay in blood, sweat, and broken families. 

    SSG Dave
    “The problem with those who despise the military is that they do not understand or appreciate how it protects them.  This misunderstanding is not mutual, since one of the key things they do not understand is how knowing the opposition – whatever its field or force – is a key component of a professional, protective military.”

  • Gringo

    When authorities like Bernard Lewis say that they aren’t sure what is happening in the Middle East, only fools will make definitive statements. My hopes and fears on the Middle East are similar to Book.
    In both the US and in Argentina I have known people of Arab descent in categories such as employer, professor, client, classmate, fellow employee, and housemate. I have long been impressed by the contrast between those very reasonable people I knew and the batshit insanity coming out of the Middle East.
    I have known three generations of a Palestinian Christian family, who originated from the Bethlehem area. One family member was born on Christmas Eve in Bethlehem! The grandfather told his children to get out of the West Bank- at a time when it was considered part of Jordan- because as Christians they would always be passed over for promotion. As a Christian in the Jordanian civil service, the grandfather knew what he was talking about. Several of his children ended up in the US before the Six Day War: one an engineer, one a scientist.
    One of the grandsons, who spent most of his life in the US and also became a US citizen, has apparently forgotten what his grandfather said about being a Christian in the West Bank- though he also reveres his grandfather. [Granted, the grandfather did not like living under Israeli rule, so in that sense the grandson is following the grandfather.] The grandson has renounced his professional career in the US to become a crusading propagandist against the evil Israelis. The grandson conveniently ignores the Muslim persecution of some of his Christian cousins – literally cousins and information which I have Googled- in the West Bank. I guess I would not consider the grandson as one of the reasonable ones. He got caught up in the insanity of the area.

  • http://ymarsakar.wordpress.com Ymarsakar

    We know all about short and victorious wars, Dave, don’t we.

  • suek

    >>He doesn’t understand the military, military power, or even strong diplomacy; they’ve even said we have people going in to observe>>
    Sure he does.  They’re cannon fodder.
    I say…send in the Unions!  Lots of communist leaning brethren over there, it appears – so let the unions send over a bunch of their protesters to support their fellow organizers.  The violence should be nothing new to them…give them an outlet.  The military should supply the transport…

  • jj

    I’m with you: I share a watching brief – but mine is leavened with a bit of pessimism.  I’m very suspicious of, and don’t much like “democracy” movements in the streets.  They seem never to have ended well, from St. Petersburg at the beginning of the last century to Cuba in the middle to Venezuela at the end: when the people hit the streets it’s only rarely a good outcome, either for the people or for the rest of the world.  Our own Founders despised and feared democracy, as federalist #10 and any number of lesser sources make perfectly clear.  (As everybody forgets, and most of the overpaid, under-worked, and under-brained clowns in classrooms apparently never teach, [because they don’t know it?] this country is in fact not a democracy: it is a representative republic.)
    It is hard to see such a development – either a republic or a democracy for that matter – taking root in places where there has never been a history of such forms – or any other form – of participatory government.  The middle east has known kings, dictators, emperors, pharaohs, strongmen of all description – but not ever once have the people had a constructive say in running anything themselves.  They have no experience with the concept of doing so.  One of the leading strongmen and desert bandits went so far as to found his own religion which among its other numerous virtues does nothing to even hint that there might be a way other than being a pebble beneath the wheel of whichever overlord is currently driving.
    Running yourselves takes practice, and if you’ve had none for thousands of years, the odds of making an instant success of it are pretty remote.  The odds of having your revolution hijacked by the next strongman-in-waiting are pretty high.  In that region of the world, the next strongman-in-waiting is always waiting, and once he puts that charming “religion” on his side, then whatever he does to anybody who dares to disagree is justified.
    It’ll be interesting.  It probably won’t be good.  And our response, which has been predictably – (“predictably” because look who we have generating our response and reaction) – incoherent, combined with out steadfast refusal to try and make some sense for our own best interests (can’t go find our own abundant oil, but we can ban incandescent light-bulbs!) is a combination that will make for an interesting ride.


    Eight years in Iraq, a country with oil and with the guidance and full support of the US military, training and anything and everything else you can think of to establish an elected government – would you call it a success? Would you call your travel agent to book a vacation in Baghdad? The lead from the linked article reflects my own personal view.
    “Today the world watches enthralled as the Arab world – from Morocco to Yemen – gropes its way towards… what? Two tyrants have been toppled and a third is teetering on the brink. The post-colonial order of feudal monarchs and military dictators is crumbling. But only a Prozac-addicted optimist would put money on the emergence of anything resembling Western-style democracy from the current revolutionary upheaval”.


    If I recall, correctly (always a challenge at this stage of life) you had once mentioned moving to Costa Rica. and thought you would find this non reported story of interest.
    This past November, two anti-American governments each committed an act of aggression against the island territory of a neighboring democracy. North Korea shelled the South Korean island of Yeonpyeong, killing two soldiers and two civilians. Nicaragua’s well-staffed and armed military forces invaded and occupied the Costa Rican island of Calero. The North Korean aggression prompted full-throated international condemnations and calls for U.N. action. The Nicaraguan aggression, however, was largely ignored.

  • Kirk Strong

    I think your analysis is spot on.  I pray that I am wrong, but I think it very unlikely that any of these upheavals will result in any kind of representative government once the dust has settled.  As you say, there are always strongmen waiting to ride the wave of anger against the current dictatorship in order to replace it with a new dictatorship of their own.
    It is hard for me to escape the notion that these strongmen-in-waiting are all members of — or at least supported by — the Muslim Brotherhood.  It is also hard for me to escape the notion that the Muslim Brotherhood is somehow behind all this unrest.  Whether or not this unrest is the result of a long-term strategy on their part, it is certainly to their benefit.  There is no downside for them in all this chaos and great potential for significant gains in power.
    If this is so, then Obama’s unwillingness to recognize and deal with the Muslim Brotherhood as an enemy may go down as the greatest catastrophe of his administration — and perhaps of this century.

  • jj

    Sadie –
    Yes, everybody knows about Calero.  (Well, obviously, “everybody” doesn’t know about it, but you know what I mean – everybody there does.)
    Calero sort of sits between two rivers, and crosses two borders because of where it is.  There are about three kilometers of one end of it that are really inside the Nicaraguan border – or, perhaps, to be more accurate: if the border ran in a continuous line there would be about three kilometers of the island that sit inside Nicaragua.  The border has traditionally sort of done a turn there, to put all of the island inside Costa Rican territory.  Nicaragua has been shouldering the burden of dredging the river channel, and they moved people and equipment onto “their” part of Calero to use it as a staging area for the dredging operation.  Once there they decided that it is, in fact, their end of the island, so they’ve decided to stay.  No one quite knows why – it’s not like it’s valuable territory – but it’s difficult to see it as much of an invasion.  It’s a tip of the island, the rest of the island remains in Costa Rican hands, the “occupying army” consists of about fifty guys – but we’ll see.
    It’s kind of like the knucklehead who drew the US/Canada border right through the little peninsula that forms Point Roberts, in the Pacific northwest.  The tip of the peninsula is American – the rest of it is Canadian.  It’s one of those places where going to the market or the drugstore really does require an international journey.  You look at it and your first thought is: “what knothead didn’t just make a jog in the border to put it all in Canada and avoid this lunacy?  He did jog the border around Mayne Island, Saturna island, and North Pender Island, just to the west of the peninsula – but  just slammed it straight through the peninsula.  Huh?”  Apparently the border was drawn by someone who was plastered at the time.  Both countries get to pay an annual fortune to keep border guards and customs people on duty in Petticoat Junction – which is pretty much what the American side of Point Roberts is.
    On Calero they thought they’d avoid that situation, and did make the border do a jog around the island to avoid dividing off the tip.  This has been a source of (really low-level) dispute for centuries.  There is a widely held belief, by the way, that because Google Earth screwed it up and drew the border straight across the island, showing divided ownership, that’s Nicaragua’s justification for “occupying” that little tip.  “You see?  It’s ours – look at Google Earth!”
    But it’s a funny border anyway.  For example, it follows the San Juan westward from the Atlantic side, until it gets to El Castillo de las Concepcion, where the border drifts south of the river a few miles.  Why?  Obviously the river’s the natural border, no?  Well, this is to allow the border to pass south of, instead of along, the southern shore of Lake Nicaragua (Lago de Nicaragua), thereby allowing all of Lake Nicaragua to in fact be inside Nicaragua.  There is a dopey little strip of Nicaraguan territory running in what should obviously be Costa Rica south of the southern shore of the lake.  And even then, instead of going straight across the isthmus, when you get to the border town of Penas Blancas, it does a ninety-degree turn to the Pacific.  Weird.
    So who knows – in the long run who knows anything – but it isn’t much of a problem, and it really doesn’t look like Nicaragua’s gearing up for much of anything.  It doesn’t actually require the response that the Korean issue did.  Or does.

  • Kirk Strong

    Here you go jj —
    No less a light than Dennis Prager agrees with you.