Sunday, March 20, 2011

Too much going on!

Perhaps this is just my problem, but I feel that too much is happening in too many places to keep track of it all. And almost all of it is unexpected. When Barack Obama was elected in 2008 did anyone expect him to approve American airstrikes on another Muslim country? And that those airstrikes would begin on the eighth anniversary of the start of the Iraq War in 2003? And that there would be a loud, resounding silence from the American left?

As Michael Totten wrote today - No one could have predicted any of this in January.
We should all resist trying to predict what will happen next in the Middle East because so much of what happens makes no sense at all in advance of it actually happening.

Who would have thought two months ago that France would lead a Western military coalition, that the United Nations would pass a Chapter VII resolution authorizing the use of force against a country that was elected to its own Human Rights Commission, that Barack Obama would fire missiles at an Arab country when less than thirty percent of Americans approve, and that Qaddafi loyalists would burn Lebanese rather than American or Israeli flags in the capital?
And it's not as if the US is being consistent. Where has been our voice for the democratization of Bahrain? In Bahrain, a proxy battle between Saudi Arabia and Iran. In the beginning of the protests in Bahrain we urged the king to stop attacking the protesters - but now, of course, he's called in troops from Saudi Arabia to support him in ruthlessly putting down the protests. I understand that the situation and location of Bahrain are different than Libya - but the principle is the same, of supporting democracy and human rights for the people of all the Arab countries. If we did not depend on oil from Saudi Arabia and the other Gulf countries, we could stand much more forthrightly for democracy.

Update - is the Arab League really supporting the attack on Libya?
The head of the Arab League has criticized international strikes on Libya, saying they caused civilian deaths.

The Arab League's support for a no-fly zone last week helped overcome reluctance in the West for action in Libya. The U.N. authorized not only a no-fly zone but also "all necessary measures" to protect civilians.

Amr Moussa says the military operations have gone beyond what the Arab League backed. Moussa has told reporters Sunday that "what happened differs from the no-fly zone objectives." He says "what we want is civilians' protection not shelling more civilians."
But have civilians been shelled? What did Amr Moussa think would be the result of the resolution approved on Thursday? He was at the meeting in Paris yesterday where the attacks were discussed. It seems to me that he's trying to play both sides, perhaps because he's running for the presidency of Egypt. See today's report from the New York Times: "In a field of flowers, the wreckage of war in Libya." The article is about the wreckage from air attacks on Libyan loyalist troops attacking Benghazi.
Littered across the landscape, some 30 miles south of Benghazi, the detritus of the allied airstrikes on Saturday and Sunday morning offered a panorama of destruction: tanks, charred and battered, their turrets blasted clean off, one with a body still caught in its remnants; a small Toyota truck with its roof torn away; a tank transporter still on fire. But it did not end there.

For miles leading south, the roadsides were littered with burned trucks and burned civilian cars. In some places battle tanks had simply been abandoned, intact, as their crews fled. One thing, though, seemed evident: the units closest to Benghazi seemed to have been hit with their cannons and machine guns still pointing towards the rebel capital.

1 comment:

  1. The contradiction between the approach to Libya and the approach to Bahrain may have some precedent. At more or less the time that the first President Bush decided to push Iraq out of Kuwait, Syria occupied Lebanon. This was likely tolerated because Syria was made part of the coalition to drive Iraq out of Kuwait. Perhaps, there was a deal of sorts reached with Bahrain and Saudi Arabia regarding protecting Saudi Arabia's intervention as the price of the Arab League seeming to go along with the attack on Libya.

    As for the seeming cold feet of the Arab League, it represents the governments of the region. The governments, by and large, have no interest in the spread of democracy. In that, they are like the Islamists, who want to replace the existing order with even more repressive rule. Be that as it may, these very important forces in the region would, it seems to me, want to distract the world, particularly the West, from their effort to undermine the more democratically oriented groups who seem to be rising up across the region. So, they would send the West to fight Libya while, in the heart of the Arab world, the anti-democratic forces can regroup and return to the forefront. At the same time, they want to condemn the West, via traditional anti-colonial arguments that have legs in the region.

    Note, per Michael Walzer: Egypt has not joined the fight. That, notwithstanding its huge military. That, to me, suggests that the military is not on board the democratic movement such that Barry Rubin may be right, viz., the reason the revolt in Egypt was able to get rid of Mubarrak is that the military wanted to prevent his son from coming to power and that, in due course, they will pull the strings, undermining the Democracy demonstrators, bit by bit.