Category: Middle East


By , March 30, 2011 11:59 pm

Joseph Felter and Brian Fishman, in Foreign Affairs, pose the following question:

Libya contributed hundreds of the fiercest foreign fighters to Iraq’s al Qaeda-led insurgency. Should Washington be worried that it’s now backing these guys against Qaddafi?


By , February 27, 2011 1:08 pm

I haven’t been paying as close attention to Libya as Christopher Hitchens has, but I share
his impressions
of Obama’s performance.

Grand speeches do not a President make. Grand principles do.

My Son Used to Fantasize About This Guy

By , February 22, 2011 10:55 am

In grade school, my now 33-years old son, used to fantasize about sneaking into Libya and knocking off this guy:

He obviously never got beyond the fantasy, so now Libyans are having a nightmare.

Internet Kill Switches

By , February 18, 2011 12:04 am

Egypt has one.

Bahrain apparently has one.

And the US is thinking about one or might even have one?

As Glenn Reynolds often says, the country is in the very best of hands.

Even Obama’s Wrong, He’s Right: Part II

By , February 13, 2011 2:46 pm

Slate’s John Dickerson weighs in on Obama’s performance in the events leading up to Mubarak’s ouster, and he rips a page out of Thomas Friedman’s playbook.

As Dickerson writes in a piece titled Was Obama Too Indecisive on Egypt?
Or did his refusal to meddle actually speed Mubarak’s fall?

Whether by design or dithering, U.S. policy makers didn’t get in the way of events in Cairo. That strategy appears to have been successful. That may mean that in a world where developments can move so quickly, TBD is the new SOP.

Dickerson’s piece is more nuanced than the conclusion, and he does take some shots at the administration’s handling of the crisis; nevertheless, he comes off as making excuses for the President’s handling of the matter. I just hope he didn’t feel a tingle running up his leg as events unfolded.

Coup News: Honduras Then, Egypt Now

By , February 13, 2011 1:38 pm

Summer 2009, I wrote a series of posts about the coup (or not to coup) in Honduras. I’ve kind of lost track of whether the Obama administration finally declared that what happened down there was a coup or not.

That said, I have not forgotten that the administration opposed what happened and actively campaigned for the return of Manuel Zelaya to power, even though that country’s Congress and Supreme Court approved his approval. In short, what appeared, at least to me, to be a constitutional transfer of power by constitutionally constituted bodies–a transfer necessitated by the fear that Zelaya was attempting to become the region’s next Chavez–was some sort of coup to our administration.

With this in mind, consider the news of the last few days out of Egypt: Mubarak surrendered power to the Egyptian military, which today dissolved parliament, suspended the nation’s constitution, and promised elections in 6 months–in what The New York Times reports the military called “a democratic transition.”

Now I support what is happening in Egypt. It appears at this point that the military is acting in harmony with the public’s will, justifying, in the military’s mind at least, its claim of a democratic transition. What I’m waiting for now is for the Obama administration to call this a coup.

What? They’re not going to do that?

Then why all the fuss over Honduras, where a democratically elected congress and the supreme court transferred power?

Critics of the Obama administration have questioned why he didn’t offer similar support for those who protested in Iran in 2009-2010. They should add Honduras to the list of inconsistencies.

Mosque at Ground Zero

By , February 12, 2011 12:48 pm

Last August, Stephen Prothero, a religion professor at Boston University and a blogger on CNN, wrote two different posts about the Mormon reaction to a Muslim group’s efforts to build a mosque at Ground Zero. The first lamented the fact that some prominent Mormons–Mitt Romney and Harry Reid–had both spoken against the mosque. So had Glenn Beck. Prothero was particularly disturbed that Romney had done so (through a spokesperson) because he had been so impressed by Romney’s religion speech during the most recent presidential campaign and because of Romney’s experience with the opposition to the Boston Temple. (Prothero, by the way, seems to have a good grasp on Latter-day Saint history.) He writes,

As I wrote in my 2007 piece on this speech, for Romney, the moral of this history lesson was clear:

Americans today should rise above religious bigotry, not least by evaluating presidential candidates on the basis of their credentials instead of their religious tradition. After all, Romney said, “Religious tolerance would be a shallow principle indeed if it were reserved only for faiths with which we agree.”

These were the words that came to me when Newt Gingrich and Sarah Palin and other Republican leaders started to double down on the anti-Islamic rhetoric.

I thought that Romney, as a Mormon, might speak out passionately for the First Amendment. I thought he might remember how the founder of his religion, Joseph Smith Jr., was murdered by an anti-Mormon mob. I thought he might recall how the U.S. government brought down much of its coercive power against the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the last decades of the nineteenth century.

Apparently not. According to a statement released on August 10 by his spokesperson Eric Fehrnstrom, “Governor Romney opposes the construction of the mosque at Ground Zero. The wishes of the families of the deceased and the potential for extremists to use the mosque for global recruiting and propaganda compel rejection of this site.”

The second discussed Senator Hatch’s position, which was captured by Salt Lake City’s Fox News 13:


Prothero’s reaction to Romney’s and Hatch’s statements prompted me to think about what my stance on the proposed mosque was back then. I realized that I disagreed with Romney. My stance was then and is now similar to Hatch’s: it would be a nice gesture if the mosque’s proponents chose to build elsewhere out of respect for what happened on 9/11; however, I recognize and support their 1st Amendment rights to build where they are planning to build.

I have a long memory, a memory that extends back to the persecution of my Church in the 19th and early 20th centuries, a memory of recent times when people in Boston, Billings, Denver, and places north and south, east and west, opposed the building of a Mormon temple–always for allegedly non-religious reasons. That opposition was a predictable as the rising sun was an irony that always escaped the protestors.

I suspect that religious bigotry imbues most of the opposition to the mosque as well. I don’t think Romney is bigoted. I do think he is in a rush to the Right, however, in his pursuit of the presidency. I have defended him in the past from the flip criticism that he flip flops a lot. I’ll take a flip from anybody if it demonstrates that they’ve learned something. However, too much pandering is not a good thing. I’ll be watching him closely, as I will Hatch, now that he’s pursuing the Tea Party vote.

Even When Obama’s Wrong, He’s Right

By , February 11, 2011 4:14 pm

Thomas Friedman offers some hopeful comments on Egypt in general and to those who suffer at the hands of “a lot of worried kings and autocrats . . . from North Africa to Burma to Beijing.” And, he continues,

it is not simply because a dictator has been brought down by his people. That has happened before. It is because the way it was done is so easy to emulate. What made this Egyptian democracy movement so powerful is its legitimacy.

It was started by youth and enabled by Facebook and Twitter. It was completely non-violent and only resorted to stone-throwing when faced with attacks by regime thugs. It drew on every segment of the Egyptian population. There was a huge flag in Tahrir Square today with a Muslim crescent moon and a Christian cross inside it. And most of all, it had no outside help.

Now, I agree with Friedman. And I, too, am hopeful. But I was hopeful for Iraq, and I’m worried that experiment tells us too much about what might happen in Egypt after the jubilation subsides and the work begins. Nevertheless, today I’m hopeful.

That said, I didn’t come to Friedman’s column expecting to agree with him. I came expecting to find something Friedmanesque. I was not disappointed. Immediately after the paragraphs I just quoted, Mr.Friedman lets loose this little gem of a paragraph:

In some ways, President Barack Obama did the Egyptian revolution a great favor by never fully endorsing it and never even getting his act together for how to deal with it. This meant in the end that Egyptians know they did this for themselves by themselves – with nothing but their own willpower, unity and creativity.

It’s good to know that some continue to think that our President Walks on water even when he’s in over his head.

Mubarak Steps Down

By , February 11, 2011 10:01 am

And cedes power to the military. My wife thinks chaos will ensue. I’m more hopeful. Let’s pray I’m right, for Egypt’s sake. For Israel’s.

Food Prices Up. Egypt’s Future Down?

By , February 6, 2011 2:27 pm

Even Islamists have to eat,” and that doesn’t bode well for the whatever government assumes power as the result of the Egyptian revolution. So says David P. Goldman, aka Spengler.

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