Two Years after the Ouster of Hosni Mubarak and the Egyptian People are still Protesting

Posted by PITHOCRATES - January 26th, 2013

Week in Review

Two years ago, during the Arab Spring, President Obama told President Hosni Mubarak he had to go.  The Egyptian people wanted democracy.  And Mubarak was in the way.  So the Mubarak government fell.  Even though he was an ally of the United States.  Which was rather odd for an American president to ask an American ally to step down from power.  Especially when the people standing in the wings to take over that power are enemies of the United States.  But President Obama did.  And he took credit for this.  Proud for his part in the Arab Spring.  And how did all of that work out?  Like most people thought it would (see Tear gas fired by police in Egypt posted 1/26/2013 on Sky News).

Police in the Egyptian city of Alexandria have fired tear gas at protesters, witnesses say, as nationwide rallies mark the second anniversary of the uprising that ousted Hosni Mubarak…

Tens of thousands took to the streets across the country to protest against Islamist President Mohamed Morsi, who is accused of failing to work for the goals of the revolution that ousted Mubarak and consolidating power in the hands of his powerful Muslim Brotherhood.

That’s right, Egypt went from being a U.S. ally to aligning with Hamas and Iran.  Enemies of the United States.  And enemies of Israel.  Greatly destabilizing the Mideast.  For what?  Even the Egyptian people are unhappy with the outcome.  At least the ones who want Democracy.  The Islamists, though, are quite happy with the Muslim Brotherhood in power.  And hope to see them take Egypt down the same road Iran took in 1979.  Where the Islamists rose up in power.  Rounded up the democratic protestors.  And turned the country into a theocracy.  Something that may happen in Egypt.  Thanks to an American president that told Hosni Mubarak he had to go.

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The Problem with the Occupy Wall Street People is that they don’t Know the Difference between Capitalism and Crony Capitalism

Posted by PITHOCRATES - October 15th, 2011

Bank Tellers have a Job because they didn’t go to College to get a Philosophy or an English Degree

Another proud day for American public education and American colleges (see Protesters arrested in bank march, party in Times Square by Georgett Roberts, Jennifer Bain and Kevin Fasick posted 10/15/2011 on the New York Post).

The “Crossroads of the World” were jammed when thousands of anti-greed protesters brought their party to Times Square, capping a day of marches marred by the arrest of more than 20 who stormed a Citibank branch.

And what do they want?  A lot of free stuff.  The greedy little bastards.

Brought their ‘party’?  Yeah, that about sums up these beatniks on Wall Street.  For them life is nothing but a party.  And a protest is an even better party.  I mean, look at them.  They’re having the time of their lives.

Earlier, 24 protesters were arrested when a mob stormed a LaGuardia Place Citibank and shouted slogans as two demonstrators closed their bank accounts in protest just after 2 p.m.

I hope they find a safe place for that money.  There are a lot of desperate people out there who need money.  And it would have been a lot harder for them to get at that money if they had left it locked in a bank.

They were screaming and chanting while they were going in. Security told them to leave, but they didn’t. They stood in a group chanting things to the tellers. There were locked in, and then they were taken away.”

If I’m not mistaken bank tellers aren’t part of that superrich 1%.  No.  They’re probably a part of that 99%.  Like the protesters.  Only they have a job.  Unlike the protestors.  Because they didn’t go to college to get a philosophy or English degree.

“We went into the bank to peacefully protest,” she said. “People were standing in the bank giving testimonials, speaking about their student debt, some of which is held by Citibank and a few undercover police officers came into the bank”

These people partied for 4 years (or more) while going to college getting their worthless degrees.  And learning how to hate America.  And the man.  And now they’re bitching to complete strangers about their own bad decisions?  Taking on debt for some BS degree?  Mom and Dad probably warned them not to do that.  To get a degree in something useful instead.  Like business.  Accounting.  Chemistry.  Something that has value in the economy.  But did they listen?  Apparently not.

He said he paid $559 annually in fees to the bank, including late charges.

“I’ve been wanting to move my money for awhile. But this opened my eyes,” he said of his experiences. “I’m going to use a community-based bank for my funds.”

This is just like someone living in East Berlin at the height of the Cold War waiting for their chance to escape to West Berlin.  To scale the Berlin Wall.  Before the East Germans shot him.  Or her.  Of course, there are some subtle differences.  East Germany was an oppressive police state that killed people trying to escape.  While America is a free county.  With a free market.  Where you can move your money to any bank you wish.  Without the threat of being gunned down by the state.

We call this free market capitalism.  Businesses compete for you business by pleasing you more than their competition.  You don’t need a law to make banks please you.  If you don’t like how a bank is treating you, leave.  All you have to do is open a new account.  Withdraw your money from the old account.  And deposit it into the new account.  It’s that easy.  It sure is a hell of a lot easier than trying to
climb a barbwire wall under withering machine gun fire.

If Government Favoritism Bothers you Perhaps you should Direct your Angst at Washington D.C. at the Next Election

These protestors may hate capitalism.  Because they were taught that on our college campuses.  But they sure love some of its billionaires.  Even though they belong to that 1% (see Protesters should not target entrepreneurs like Steve Jobs by Antony Davies posted 10/12/2011 on The Morning Call).

Steve Jobs, the co-founder of Apple who died last week at age 56, left the world a better place than he found it — and not just because of the treasure trove of gadgets he shepherded into creation.

Mr. Jobs’ life is a testament to what economists have long been telling us — that wealth and plunder are not the same thing. Plunder is what you get when you take from others. Wealth is what you get when you give to others.

Due to his commercial success, Mr. Jobs accumulated $8 billion of wealth over his life. But you won’t see Occupy Wall Street protesters coming after Jobs or Apple because it is so obvious that we freely gave our money to him in exchange for his products. We don’t view Jobs’ wealth as plunder, but as one-half of a transaction. We gave him $8 billion and he gave us the world that science fiction authors promised.

We voluntarily gave our money to billionaire like Steve Jobs.  The Occupy Wall Street mob is trying to take money from others.  The Steve Jobs of the world create wealth because they please us.  People like those on Wall Street threaten us for plunder or else.  Steve Jobs good.  Plunderers bad.

The young protesters currently occupying Wall Street should be careful where they direct their ire. People like Steve Jobs who gained their wealth by providing value to others — including the protesters using iPhones to call their friends — shouldn’t be the subject of protest. The protesters should focus their ire on those who use the political process to gain plunder by forcing the rest of us to subsidize their losing business models.

Some of these pirates can be found on Wall Street. They benefited when the government forced taxpayers to underwrite Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac’s largesse, and they benefited when the government forced taxpayers to bail out the companies that bet on that largesse.

But they’re not just in New York City.

Let us not forget that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are Government Sponsored Enterprises.  With close ties to the government.  Executing government policy.  And being under the official oversight of the government.  In particular, at the time of the subprime mortgage crisis, Barney Frank and Chris Dodd.  Who kept saying there’s nothing wrong with Freddie or Fannie.  That they were both as sound as a pound.  All the way up to the Great Recession.  Which they caused.

Pirates can be found on Main Street, where businessmen ask the government to create an unfair licensing system that will hamstring their competitors. They can be found in the public sector, where public unions ask the government to maintain a system that forces us to use the U.S. Postal Service to send first-class mail. Some can even be found on the farm, when they fight to maintain government requirements to put ethanol in our gas tanks and pay huge tariffs on imported sugar.

Here’s my point. Pirates can be found in all cities, and in all sectors, but their power to plunder has its source in one city: Washington, D.C. The federal government and the businesses that use political ties to force their products on consumers aren’t creating value — they’re enriching themselves at our expense. If protesters want to stop the plunder, then they are protesting in the wrong place.

That’s right, it takes two to tango.  And to plunder.  Lobbyists can’t lobby politicians unless they’re for sale.  Corporations can’t plunder unless they have cronies in Washington letting them.  By restricting competition.  And this is the key difference between capitalism (such as Steve Jobs used) and crony capitalism (such as what everyone is pissed off about).  It’s is crony capitalism that gets special favors from government.  In exchange for campaign contributions.

So if this kind of government favoritism bothers you, perhaps you should direct your angst to those who make the rules.  Washington D.C.  And by that I mean at the voting booth at the next election.  The way real democracy works.

The Occupy Wall Street Protestors have no Idea about Capital, Labor, Regulatory, Distribution, Insurance or Piracy Costs

And speaking of piracy, let’s talk about that a little.  And I’m not talking about bootlegging music or movies.  I’m not about literal pirates on the high seas (see Prepare to repel boarders posted 10/13/2011 on The Economist).

SOMALI pirates can be persistent. They have attacked the Maersk Alabama, a container ship owned by an American subsidiary of Denmark’s Maersk Line, no fewer than five times, most recently in May. In the first attack, in 2009, the captain was held hostage until the US Navy rescued him. Then Maersk put private armed guards on the ship. Since then, it has successfully repelled all boarders.

Maersk says it is only arming a few ships plying the pirate-infested waters off East Africa. But the practice is spreading rapidly among shipping firms despite the cost, which can run to $100,000 per voyage for a four-man team. That is because the number of attacks, off Somalia and elsewhere, has kept growing despite the strengthening of naval patrols (see chart). The European Union’s NAVFOR task-force, NATO warships and other navies patrol the waters off Somalia, but this has only pushed the pirates out into the open ocean, extending their attack zone towards India’s coast and as far south as Mozambique’s. This has forced the shipping industry, its insurers, and the national and international authorities that oversee them to accept that private armed guards are a necessity.

American ships plying these waters are bringing American-made goods to overseas markets.  Which everyone agrees is vital to our economy.  A positive balance of trade.  More exports.  Less imports.  And here we are trying to deliver our exports.  And having our ships hijacked by pirates.

Protestors hate corporations.  Because that’s where rich people sit back with their feet up on their desk puffing away on their fat cigars.  While counting their money.  At least, that’s what the protestors think.  They have no idea about the capital costs for plant and equipment.  Labor costs.  Regulatory costs.  Distribution (container ships ain’t cheap).  Insurance.  And, of course, piracy on the high seas and ransom demands.

Protestors are no fans of military spending, either.  They think the military is used just to invade other countries so we can steal their oil.  Well, they can’t blame this Somali piracy on America.  For the Somalis are stealing from anyone.  And nations everywhere have banded together to try and protect their trade routes.  But can’t.  Which is pretty sad.  Because during World War II we eventually defeated the U-Boat menace in the North Atlantic.  Of course, back then, we spent what was necessary on the military to win.  Unlike today.  Where the military budget is just a source of funds the Wall Street protestors want to plunder.

The Occupy Wall Street protestors are Acting like Spoiled Children, Like a Bunch of Eric Cartmans

The Occupy Wall Street protestors hate banks.  Capital formation.  Corporations.  That is, capitalism.  How do we know this?  Because they have told us.  Via Twitter.  Blogs.  YouTube.  Which they wrote and/or recorded on their Apple products.  And uploaded it to the Internet.  That we then downloaded on our Apple products.  Or other devices.  All of which made possible by banks, capital formation and corporations.  That is, capitalism.

These kids love capitalism.  They love the toys capitalism offers.  They just hate not being born into privilege.  Where they can afford to satisfy every want and urge as soon as they have it.  Without having to work hard or wait until they can afford to pay for these things.  They’re acting like spoiled children.  Like a bunch of Eric Cartmans.  Except for that part about being a bunch of filthy, stinking hippies.  For everyone knows that hippies are the bane of Cartman’s existence.  But apart from that one difference, these protestors are Eric Cartman.

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The Wall Street Protesters’ Pain is a Joke to those Truly Suffering around the World

Posted by PITHOCRATES - October 10th, 2011

Cuba is Imploding.  Like all Communist Countries Have.  Are.  Or Will.

Wall Street is bad.  Capitalism is bad.  Because they put profits ahead of people.  Instead of putting people before profits.  Like they do in Cuba (see A Troubling Sign that Economic ‘Reform’ in Cuba Isn’t Working by Juan Carlos Hidalgo posted 10/10/2011 on Cato@Liberty).

The number of Cubans intercepted at sea trying to reach the coast of Florida more than doubled in the last fiscal year according to figures released by the Department of Homeland Security…

This is yet another sign that the much heralded economic “reforms” announced by Havana aren’t working. The massive layoffs of hundreds of thousands of public employees undertaken by the government of Raúl Castro were meant to be absorbed by Cuba’s almost non-existent private sector…

Earlier this year I talked to an official from the U.S. Interest Section in Havana who told me that we shouldn’t be surprised if we see a steady increase of Cubans trying to escape the island towards the United States. Faced with a dilapidated economy, hundreds of thousands of unemployed, and growing social unrest, the Castro regime wouldn’t hesitate in letting more Cubans use the “escape valve” of emigration. We might be seeing the first signs of this.

The Castro brothers (Fidel and Raúl) are no fans of America.  Or capitalism.  No.  Cuba is a hardcore communist country.  Because the communist way guaranteed the best of everything for everyone.  Without corporate greed or the pursuit of profit getting in the way.  But Cuba is imploding.  Like all communist countries have.  Are.  Or will.  As they always will.  Whenever you have the government put people before profits.  Because when states do that somehow the people always take it on the chin.

So the solution to save their people?  Get rid of their people.  Let them swim to America.  Because if they’re no longer in Cuba they no longer have to feed them.  House them.  Or fight them in the inevitable revolution.

Life is Truly Difficult in Syria with some 400 People Dying on Average each Month

Castro would rather these people flee his communist utopia than fight them.  Because this kind of thing has been going on in North Africa.  The Middle East.  And he wants none of that (see Syria violence: EU poised to announce fresh sanctions in wake of latest killings by Adrian Blomfield posted 10/10/2011 on The Telegraph).

More than 30 people were killed in the latest wave of violence after security forces opened fire on a funeral in the city of Homs and the army clashed with deserters from its ranks who have defected to the opposition. The battle underscored the growing shift in the uprising from the peaceful demonstrations of its early days to an armed insurrection that is gaining strength on the periphery of what is still an overwhelmingly civilian revolt.

The latest fatalities took the overall death toll since the uprising began to just under 3,000, according to UN calculations.

Makes you scratch your head about the Libyan War.  For we launched that war to prevent these things from happening in Libya.  And here they are.  Happening in Syria.  And yet we have a different policy.  Why is that?  But that’s another story.

This brutal oppression has been going on for some 7 months.  And it’s only gotten worse.  After living under such an oppressive regime these people won’t give up.  And neither will Assad.  Making life truly difficult in Syria.  And claiming some 400 lives on average each month.  For now.

Why is Europe the go-to Continent during Humanitarian Crises?  Because they are Richer and More Capitalistic.

Some of these Syrians are fleeing their country.  A lot of them are trapped for the duration.  Not really knowing what their nation’s fate is.  Or their own.  As millions of others face turmoil throughout the world.  And millions of these are fleeing their countries.  And for their lives (see Multiplying crises create 43 million refugees by D. Parvaz posted 10/10/2011 on Al Jazeera).

Regional conflicts and the potential for violence have complicated aid efforts aimed at the nearly 12 million affected by the drought in Africa. The unrest rose to such a level that people were crossing over from Libya to Tunisia, from which people were also fleeing to France and Italy due to mass unrest.

According to the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), as of September 30, more than 700,000 people have left Libya, with the bulk of that migration, 304,127, heading to Tunisia…

Livio Zilli, the international secretariat of Amnesty International’s Refugees’ and Migrants’ Rights Team, points out that many of the people leaving Libya aren’t Libyan nationals, but likely were already among transient populations who were forcibly displaced due to security or economic issues. These people are refugees twice over…

This, said Zilli, makes the current situation: “A refugee crisis on the doorsteps of Europe.”

And Europe might not want to deal with it, he said.

Like Europe doesn’t have enough problems to deal with.  What with that whole sovereign debt crisis crippling Europe.  They’re going broke.  And spending more and more tax dollars to try and save the Euro.  Which is in danger of going the way of the dodo because of excessive government spending.  That caused excessive government debt.  And the last thing they need are tens of millions of refugees being fed and housed on the taxpayers’ dime.

Yes, this is a humanitarian crisis.  But Africa was here before Europe.  So why is it that Europe is the go-to continent during humanitarian crises?  Because they are richer than most of these countries in crisis.  And more capitalistic.  Where the Rule of Law keeps the peace.  And puts no one above the law.  Setting the stage for a prosperous free market economy.  That can provide for all a nation’s needs.  Or trade for them during times of crisis.  All handy things for a safe, healthy, prosperous nation.

No Doubt some of the Egyptian Protestors from 8 Months back are having Buyer’s Remorse

Egypt had a lot of these things.  By Middle East standards it was a pretty prosperous nation.  People had more freedom than others.  A bustling tourism industry thanks to a rich and glorious past.  Peace and stability with its neighbors.  And within the country.  Even Muslims and Christians lived together in relative peace.  For all its corruption, oppression and faults, it was one of the most benign of Middle East dictatorships.  But the Egyptian people threw out the tyrant during the Arab SpringHosni Mubarak.  And it hasn’t been as peaceful since (see Coptics Criticize Egypt Government Over Killings by David D. Kirkpatrick posted 10/10/2011 on The New York Times).

Egypt’s Coptic Christian church harshly criticized the government on Monday over its actions in crushing a bloody protest in Cairo the night before that left at least 24 people dead, mostly Christians, as grieving families began to bury their dead, some of them mangled by tanks, bullets and beating wounds.

The protest on Sunday was the most violent in Egypt since the revolution that toppled Hosni Mubarak from the presidency eight months ago and raised new questions about the country’s ability to move forward toward a pluralistic and tolerant democracy…

The violence on Sunday began after a demonstration by Christians angry about a recent attack on a church. By day’s end it had morphed into a raging riot directed against the military council that has ruled Egypt since Mr. Mubarak was ousted in February. The violence seemed to be aggravated by the public’s widespread distrust of the military’s authority because of repeated delays in turning power over to Egyptian civilians.

After some 8 months of ‘freedom’ from the tyrant the country still bleeds.  And burns.

If you’re a Christian in Egypt you no longer have the peace and security you had under Mubarak.  And if you’re a Muslim that just wants to live in peace with everyone.  As you did before the Arab Spring.  You now risk being caught in the crossfire.  Eight months and still no democracy.  Still military rule.  And growing violence.  No doubt some of the protestors from 8 months back are having buyer’s remorse.  And probably believe perhaps Mubarak with some reforms might have been better than near-anarchy they’re seeing the occasional glimpse of.

The Protesters are Asking the People to Use the Power of Capitalism to Redress the Abuses of Capitalism

We finally have a demand from the Occupy Wall Street people.  Well, not so much of a demand.  But a request.  Not for the oppressive bankers and corporate thugs.  But for the people (see Wall Street Protests Get Specific: Could ‘Bank Transfer Day’ Pit Americans Against Their Big Banks? by Martha C. White posted 10/10/2011 Time Moneyland).

The growing anger directed at U.S. banks (especially the big ones that took federal bailout funds) over recent fee increases coalesced this weekend into a Facebook-driven campaign urging Americans to close their accounts at large banks and move their money to credit unions by Nov. 5.

Remarkable.  They’ll march on Wall Street because Bank of America imposed a monthly debit card fee.  But they could care less about the out of control government spending and regulation that takes more out of their pockets every hour of every day.  But I digress.

These protesters aren’t all that original.  I’ve heard of this request before.  They’re asking the people to use the power of capitalism.  If one business becomes less attractive to your needs let your wallet voice your displeasure.  They act as if we aren’t free to be able to do this already.  But we are.  And we have a myriad of choice available.  Because that’s what capitalism is.  Businesses compete against each other to see who can please us the most.

People Truly Suffering Around the World must be Thinking if Only they Had it so Bad as the Wall Street Protesters

There is real suffering around the world.  And these Occupy Wall Street people are whining about high bank fees.  They want government to intervene.  When they already have the power to cause change themselves.  We call it free market capitalism.  We have it.  A lot of people don’t.  People in Cuba.  Syria.  Libya.   Somalia.  Kenya.  Ethiopia.  And everywhere else where capitalism is constrained and maligned.

Can you imagine these people truly suffering around the world seeing these Wall Street protesters?  Playing their drums?  Tweeting their whiny tweets to family and friends?  Wearing face paint?  Women dancing topless?  While they starve.  Get run over by tanks.  And shot.  They must be thinking if only they had it so bad.

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Libya is free from Kadafi, so what’s Next? Peace? Or more Blood?

Posted by PITHOCRATES - August 27th, 2011

Living in Peace is one Advantage of an Oppressive Dictatorship 

Tripoli has fallen.  Kadafi‘s days are numbered.  Now it’s time for a glorious rebirth.  And peace.  If they can make peace.  And keep it (see Some fear post-revolution Libya may look like Iraq by Borzou Daragahi posted 8/27/2011 on the Los Angeles Times).

Although young men protect their own neighborhoods, major institutions such as banks, ministries and historic sites remain relatively unprotected. A number of banks and commercial towers have been thoroughly looted. Law enforcement is left in the hands of rebel fighters, some of whom had never been to their country’s capital.

Young men continue to pillage military sites abandoned by Kadafi’s men, carting away huge stores of weapons, just as Iraqis hauled off guns and explosives later used to make car bombs and launch attacks on Iraqi and U.S.-led forces.

Stores of weapons in the hands of angry young men?  Rarely does that end well.  And rarely does lawlessness just spontaneously turn into lawfulness.  Put the two together (angry young men with weapons and lawlessness) and what do you get?  Woe to anyone that is identified as a loyalist.

Reports also have begun to surface of reprisal killings of suspected loyalists, although few accounts could be fully verified given the chaos and lack of communications in Tripoli…

More obvious right now is the visceral violence of rebel forces hammering away at residential neighborhoods known to be strongholds of Kadafi supporters.

Rebel fighters use artillery and antiaircraft guns in such districts, which include Abu Salim, Hadba and Salahadin. At one point this week, rebels were firing assault rifles into residential apartment blocks in Abu Salim, where they suspected a sniper was holed up.

Civil wars tend to be the cruelest of wars.  And the bloodiest.  They split up neighborhoods.  And families.  With vengeance often being the battle cry.  For these aren’t soldiers on a distant battlefield who don’t know each other.  This is far more personal.  It’s typically someone you know killing someone you know.  And what makes it especially cruel is that before the war these were people you called friends.  Or family.  This kind of killing unleashes an indescribable hatred.  And searing anger.  Hence the vengeance.

Members of the district council insisted that the men had taken up arms against the revolution and were being held pending trial. But they also said some of those arrested included people pulled out of their cars at checkpoints because they looked “suspicious,” often code for dark-skinned Libyans and others of sub-Saharan African descent…

Said one Tripoli taxi driver, “I have a fear that one day we’ll be like Iraqis, wishing for the days of Moammar Kadafi.”

As bad as Saddam Hussein was, at least he kept the peace.  That’s the advantage of an oppressive dictatorship.  People live in fear of the state.  Not each other.  And if you behave properly, the state might just leave you alone.  As long as you’re not an intellectual.  Can read.  Or wear glasses.  If you’re not a threat to state power, or a perceived threat, life can be good.  All you have to do is to say nothing.  Avoid eye contact.  And never, ever complain.  For if you thought things were bad, just wait until after you complain.

Typically in Civil Wars, the Winning Side often Unleashed a Bloody Purge on the Losing Side 

Many people may not know this but the American Revolutionary War was part civil war.  Those loyal to the Crown fought for the Crown.  Against the Patriots.  And the bloodiest fighting during the Revolution was between Loyalist and Patriot.  Especially in the South.  Where some unspeakable horrors took place.

Now typically in civil wars, the winning side often unleashed a bloody purge on the losing side.  But not in America.  At the end of the war there were no reprisals.  No hangings.  No persecutions.  At least, not by those in power.  Most of the Loyalists just left.  They went to Canada.  Or back to the UK.  General Washington resigned from the army.  And the elected civilian authority made the peace.  Quite shocking.  For few generals ever voluntarily give up near absolute power.  And returned to their farm.  He was the American Cincinnatus

About a decade later, the French Revolution erupted.  A more classical civil war.  Far more bloody.  With plenty of reprisals.  And guillotining.  The streets of Paris ran with blood.  The Reign of Terror purged political enemies.  Than the people who unleashed the Terror fell victims to it themselves.  The fighting unleashed Napoleon Bonaparte onto Europe.  And the Middle East.  Made him a great general.  Even impressed a composer by the name of Ludwig van Beethoven.  A fan of republican government.  Even dedicated his Third Symphony to him.  And then Bonaparte made himself emperor.  So the revolution to overthrow a king ultimately ended up with an emperor.  Infuriating Beethoven so that he slashed the dedication page from his symphony.

Two revolutions that were part civil war.  One atypical.  The American.  And one more typical.  The French.

Winning the War was one Thing.  Winning the Peace was Another. 

At the time these were some pretty nasty wars.  But they pale when compared to the American Civil War.  Some 620,000 died.  That’s a huge number.  About 2% of the population then.  To get an idea about how devastating 2% of the population is consider this.  With today’s population that would equal some 6 million dead.

Winning the war was one thing.  Winning the peace was another.  The war was horrific.  And a lot of Northerners wanted a hard peace.  To make the South pay.  But Abraham Lincoln wanted an easy peace.  Near the end, shortly before Robert E. Lee’s surrender, Lincoln met with General Ulysses S. Grant, General William Tecumseh Sherman and Admiral David Dixon Porter.  He discussed the easy peace he wanted.  He said he did not want any retribution.  Any trials.  Any hangings.  If the defeated Confederates would sign paroles promising to never pick up arms again against the United States, they could simply go home.  He wanted to bring the South back into the Union.  As quickly and as painlessly as possible.  Forgive and forget.  Echoing his sentiments in his second inaugural address:

With malice toward none, with charity for all

The South was beaten.  Lee was surrounded.  The question was what would Lee do?  Surrender?  Or disband and head into the hills.  Carry out guerilla war?  This was weighing on everyone’s mind.  It terrified Lincoln.  Grant and Sherman feared it, too.  Even Lee.  When Grant met Lee at Appomattox to discuss surrender, Grant offered very generous terms.  In keeping with Lincoln’s wish for an easy peace.  It had a very favorable affect on Lee.  And his men.  Lee surrendered.  And once his war was over he dedicated his postwar life to making peace.

A similar surrender was negotiated between Sherman and General Joseph E. Johnston.  Despite the assassination of Lincoln.  Which happened after Lee’s surrender.  Sherman waged hard war throughout the South.  But he did not hate the South.  War was war.  And once the war was over, he followed Lincoln’s directive for an easy peace without hesitation.  Eager to ‘let the South up easy’.  And bring them back into the Union.

Lincoln’s assassination infuriated the North.  They wanted vengeance.  They wanted retribution.  And they wanted to hang Lee.  But Grant stepped in.  Said he made the deal with Lee.  And the deal would be honored.  Or he’d resign.  President Andrew Johnson relented.  And Grant wrote Lee to assure him there would be no trial.  His terms would be honored.  And Lee reciprocated by dedicating his remaining life doing what he could to bring the South peacefully back into the Union.

Let us Judge not, that we be not Judged

The Civil War ended in 1865.  It easily could have gone on.  But thanks to Lincoln, Grant, Sherman, Lee and Johnston, the war ended.  And the peace began.  The Southern people looked to Lee even in defeat.  For he was like George Washington to them.  Loved.  And respected.  Washington’s and Lee’s words and deeds carried great weight in their postwar years.  And made peace possible.

But Lee surrendered to Lincoln as much as he did to Grant.  And it was Lincoln that made the difference in this civil war.  Made it different from other civil wars.  For he could see beyond the conflict.  To a higher plane.  As he said in his second inaugural address.

Both read the same Bible and pray to the same God, and each invokes His aid against the other. It may seem strange that any men should dare to ask a just God’s assistance in wringing their bread from the sweat of other men’s faces, but let us judge not, that we be not judged. The prayers of both could not be answered. That of neither has been answered fully. The Almighty has His own purposes.

This is what you need for reconciliation.  Do they have that in Libya?  Let’s hope so.  But history has shown this to rarely be the case.  You need great people.  A Washington.  A Lincoln.  A Grant.  A Sherman.  A Lee.  A Johnston.  Is this person in Libya?  Or is Libya to descend into terror?  Time will tell.

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FUNDAMENTAL TRUTH #65: “The only thing the market is inefficient at is funneling money to anti-business politicians.” -Old Pithy

Posted by PITHOCRATES - May 10th, 2011

The Natural Order and a good Last Name

There are two types of people in America.  Those who work.  And elitists who want others to work for them.  It’s been this way since the dawn of civilization.  One group asserted their power over the masses.  The masses then worked.  The ruling elite didn’t.  They just gave the work orders.  The masses dutifully followed their orders and grew the food.  The ruling elite took in the bounty and ate until they were full.  And then some.  While famine thinned out the masses.  It was the natural order once upon a time.  And those who held dominion over the land liked it.

Land, then, was key.  The aristocracy owned the land.  Hence we called them the landed aristocracy.  They owned the land, the food and the wealth.  And the people.  In European and Russian feudalism there were serfs.  In the antebellum American South there were slaves.  The landed aristocracy may buy and sell land and move.  But the serfs/slaves stayed on the land.  Forever.  As their parents did.  As their children would.  It was the natural order.

Your name was very important in the landed aristocracy.  For land was hereditary.  As was wealth.  As was political power.  And it stayed this way for a long time.  While everyone who worked farmed.  But over time, something happened.  People got smarter.  They were able to grow food surpluses.  And they took these surpluses to markets.  Which became cities.  Where we saw the rise of artisans.  Skilled people who made tools and crafts that further improved our lives.  Allowed people to leave the farms.  And create a middle class.  Greatest thing that ever happened for the masses.  It allowed a way out from the back-breaking toil of working the land.  Even if you didn’t have a ‘good’ last name.

Representative Government changes the Natural Order

Of course, not everyone was keen about this.  Because it disrupted the natural order of things.  And threatened the old power structures.  Some adjusted.  Some shared the power.  Like in England.  Where there was a representative government.  There was a bicameral house.  The Parliament.  Representing all people.  The rich in the House of Lords.  And the common people in the House of Commons.  And, of course, the king.  Who represented the king.  And the state.  Now, kings like to wage war.  Conquer.  And add to empire.  But it takes soldiers and sailors to fight.  And money to pay for armies and navies.  Which the king didn’t have.  The rich people had the money.  The landed aristocracy.  The Lords.  So the king just couldn’t wage war unless Parliament consented.  Pretty nice thing this check on power.  This representative government.  It made for happy subjects.

It wasn’t like this in France. While the English were checking the king’s power, the French monarchy was absolute.  It  could do whatever it wanted.  And did.  Spent a lot of money.  Ran up great debts.  Fought a lot of wars.  Including the Seven Years’ War that lost much of French North America to Great Britain.  And helped the Americans in their War of Independence.  Helping them to gain their independence from the British monarchy.  Which proved to be a deadly game for the French monarchy.  For the French people grew fond of representative government themselves.  And they thought if the Americans can overthrow king-rule maybe they could, too.  So they gave it a try.  The French Revolution was a bit bloodier than the American Revolution, but it got the job done.  France, too, had a representative government.  Until Napoleon declared himself emperor, of course.  And then he did a lot of kingly things.  Waged war.  Conquered.  Built empire.  And added to the debt.

Great Britain gave up on minority rule.  France tried to hang on to it, lost it then Napoleon got it back.  The reason minority rule failed in these countries is because a minority ruling power needs money.  And it was easier to get money in an agrarian economy.  When all the wealth was concentrated in the few who owned the land.  The rise of a middle class changed all of that.  Artisans and merchants made a lot of money.  Some even without ‘good’ last names.  The people who didn’t have to kiss any royal ass to get or maintain their wealth.  It was a whole new game out there.  Minority rulers needed to find another way to amass money and power.  And they found it.  In the ‘lie’.

Lies from Marxism to Socialism

A ruling power lying wasn’t anything new.  But some of the lies were.  Marxism, for example, was a new brilliant lie.  It made those the ruling elite wanted to oppress ask to be oppressed.  In the name of egalitarianism.  Rise up you miserable oppressed factory workers.  Attack the industrial bourgeoisie (i.e., the middle class).  You have nothing to lose but your chains.  Karl Marx may have believed the claptrap he wrote.  But those who used it could care less about the underlying philosophy.  They just liked the power it gave them.  So those who aspired to rise to power and rule over the majority led worker revolutions.  And after they won, the workers went back to suffering just as they had before.  Only they had less.  Because the communist commissars knew jack squat about the means of production.  But that was okay.  For it just helped to enslave the masses more.  Well, that.  And the brutal police state that discouraged any inappropriate behavior.  Or thought.

It was a good run for the communist powers that be.  While the masses suffered they lived a very comfortable life.  Just like the landed aristocracy of old.  Unfortunately for them, their ruling policies sent their economies into nosedives.  And they suffered recurring famines.  Marxism was a failure.  The ruling elite knew it.  And most of the people knew it, too.  Often, those who could escape from their communist utopias did.  Because they were anything but utopian.  So those aspiring to ascend to the ruling elite needed a new lie.  And they found it in communism-light.  Socialism.  Which appealed to the people they wanted to oppress for the same reasons Marxism did.  It would stick it to the rich in an egalitarian utopia.

But there was little difference between Marxism and socialism.  Both systems tried to manage the economy.  And both did a horrible job.  Why?  Because state planning is not about improving the lives of those they rule over.  It’s about maintaining power.  An economy left alone will always outperform a managed economy.  Everyone knows this.  But if they leave the economy alone, how can the ruling elite amass power and wealth?  It can’t.  Ergo, the lie continues.  Not to improve the lives of the masses.  But to improve the lives of the ruling elite.  The minority power.  Who only ascends to power by a good lie.

Wealth Redistribution Killed the Golden Goose

The free market does have one inefficiency.  It does not enrich those who do not partake in it.  The ruling elite aspire to be in a minority rule for a couple of reasons.  First of all, when you’re stealing from and oppressing the people, the fewer people in the ruling elite the wealthier each member gets.  Which is what they want.  Wealth.  And being in the ruling elite gives them access to wealth.  Because they are so completely untalented that they could never make any wealth in the free market.  So they use the lie to acquire their wealth.  To live the good life.  Like the landed aristocracy of old.

So they become the champion of the working man and woman.  And promise to deliver that egalitarian society via wealth redistribution.  They promise to tax the rich.  And give to those who will vote for them.  It has proven to be a very effective system.  And in its heyday they were reaping in the money.  Even found a way to funnel tax money directly to them via public sector union dues.  But they just got too greedy.  Pulled too many people into the new aristocracy.  And too many people out of the work force who paid the taxes that paid for their comfortable lives of plenty.

The taxes and policies of the ruling elite have grown so anti-business that it’s reduced economic activity.  And tax generation.  So not only have they bloated the public sector with nonworking people and reduced the taxpaying workforce, they killed the golden goose as well.  And no lie may change the mess they created.  They may have no choice but to unfetter the free market.  And get real jobs.

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What we Fear in Syria already happening in Egypt?

Posted by PITHOCRATES - April 30th, 2011

The Islamist Muslim Brotherhood Ascendant in Egypt

The death toll in Syria has exceeded 500.  But we’re not calling for Assad to step down.  And we’re not bombing Syria.  Even though Syria is very friendly with Iran.  And supports Hezbollah and Hamas.  No.  We’re acting cautiously with Syria.  Because Assad is a man the Obama administration is banking on to reform Syria.  He’s the moderate.  Friend of the Christian community in Syria.  Holding the Muslim Brotherhood and their Islamism at bay.  Because Iran is bad.  Hezbollah is bad.  Hamas is bad.  And the Muslim Brotherhood is especially bad.  So we’re going to tread lightly in Syria. 

This is exactly the kind of caution the Obama Administration did NOT exercise in Egypt.  Pity, because everything the world is worried about in Syria may be happening in Egypt (see Muslim Brotherhood to contest half of Egypt parliament by Reuters posted 4/30/2011 on The Jerusalem Post).

The Muslim Brotherhood said on Saturday it will contest up to half of Egypt’s parliamentary seats in elections scheduled for September.

But the group said it will not field a candidate for the position of president in an election due to held after the parliamentary vote.

The Muslim Brotherhood was no secret in Egypt.  Or their ties to Iran and Hamas.  But the Muslim Brotherhood wasn’t involved with the democracy protests.  Sure, they were the only organized, albeit illegal, opposition party.  But that was nothing to worry about.  Because this was an outpouring of young people and their yearning for democracy.  Much like those young people who yearned in Iran in 1979.

The Muslim Brotherhood is regarded as the most organized political force in Egypt after the ouster of Hosni Mubarak in February and the dissolution of his National Democratic Party…

The Brotherhood is an Islamist group founded in the 1920s and has deep roots in Egypt’s conservative Muslim society.

So what is there to worry about?  This spontaneous yearning for democracy by the young will no doubt triumph.  Unlike a well organized movement that goes back to 1920.  And that has deep roots in Egypt’s conservative Muslim society.  There is no reason that the Egypt revolution will be just like the 1979 Iranian Revolution.  Just because it parallels the Iranian Revolution doesn’t mean it will end up like the Iranian Revolution.  In theocracy.

The Islamist Muslim Brotherhood denies being Islamist

As if to assuage this very concern, the Muslim Brotherhood is telling their critics that their Islamist party is not a theocratic one.  That they will gladly cooperate with the secular powers (see Egypt: Muslim Brotherhood sets up new party posted 4/30/2011 on the BBC).

It has sought to allay fears of an Islamist parliamentary majority, and said it would be willing to co-operate with secular parties.

Mohammed al-Mursi, the head of the new Freedom and Justice Party, told reporters in Cairo: “It is not an Islamist party in the old understanding, it is not theocratic.”

Just like Ayatollah Khomeini assured the young revolutionaries in Iran not to worry.  Their government would be a secular government.  And it was.  Until it became a theocratic one.  You see, he lied.  He told everyone what they wanted to hear.  All the while making Iran a theocracy.

But that won’t happen in Egypt.  Because the people who want to turn Egypt into a theocracy are telling us they don’t want to turn Egypt into a theocracy.  So there’s nothing to worry about.

Egypt Reopens Gaza Border Crossing, Hamas Cheers

Or is there?  The Muslim Brotherhood is not exactly what one would call fans of the state of Israel.  No.  They would fall more into the anti-Israel camp.  Like Iran.  And Hamas.  With Gaza bordering both Israel and Egypt, and with Hamas in power in Gaza, what happens in Gaza vis-à-vis Egypt would be a good indicator of things to come.  So let’s take a look at what’s happening in Gaza (see Egypt intends to reopen Gaza crossing by Michael Birnbaum posted 4/29/2011 on The Washington Post).

Egypt plans to reopen a border crossing with the Gaza Strip as soon as possible, a spokeswoman for the Egyptian Foreign Ministry said Friday, worrying Israel and bringing an end to a blockade of the territory that had been deeply unpopular inside Egypt…

Access to Gaza from Egypt had been severely restricted at Israel’s request after the Islamic movement Hamas took control of the territory in 2007. Israel and the United States consider Hamas a terrorist organization, and Israel imposed a blockade on the territory because officials said they were concerned about weapons and explosives being transported across the border.

If one didn’t know any better, one would think that Egypt may be moving away from Israel and towards Iran/Hamas.  Because their action will help weapons get into Gaza where Hamas can fire them on Israel.  Which is sort of their thing.  Launching weapons into Israel.  So maybe there’s something to worry about here with this new Egyptian direction.

Egypt has moved in recent days to bolster its relationship with Hamas, an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood, which was banned in Egypt during Mubarak’s reign. The change reflected popular sentiment and helped Egyptian diplomats broker a deal this week between Fatah and Hamas that will unify the two main factions in the Palestinian territories. Egyptian diplomats have also announced their intention to increase ties with Iran.

Okay, so they’re throwing open the border crossing between Gaza and Egypt.  They’re improving relations with Hamas.  And Iran.  I think we’re past ‘maybe’.  I think it may be time for someone to start worrying.  For despite all of their denials about their theocratic intentions, their actions speak louder than their words.  It’s beginning to look a lot like Poland in 1939.  A country surrounded.  Flanks secured.  Good propaganda.  And a burning desire to launch a war of annihilation.  I’d be surprised if Israel wasn’t worried.

Israel isn’t Feeling the Love

Oh, come on, you say.  That’s just ridiculous.  The Palestinians are just a peace loving people.  And Hamas is just a political party.  Comparing them to Nazi Germany is a bit extreme to say the least.  Besides, what have they ever done to suggest that they want to annihilate the state of Israel (see Barak to UN chief: Hamas must recognize Israel by Haaretz Service and Reuters posted 4/30/2011 on Haaretz)?

Defense Minister Ehud Barak spoke with United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Saturday and expressed concerns about the unity agreement that was recently reached between Fatah and Hamas.

“Hamas is a terrorist organization that fires rockets at Israeli towns and recently used an anti-tank missile against a school bus,” Barak said.

“Therefore, we expect that world leaders, including, of course, the head of the UN, to make cooperation with such a joint government, if it is established, conditional on the government accepting the Quartet’s conditions, which are the recognition of Israel, the abandonment of the path of terror and the acceptance of all previous agreements with Israel,” Barak continued.

Well, yeah, there’s all of that.  A long history of violence towards Israel.  And the refusal to recognize them as a sovereign state.  But other than that, what has Hamas ever done to suggest that they want to annihilate Israel?

One thing for sure, Israel isn’t feeling the love these days.

Democracy Losing in Egypt 

Democracy may lose in Egypt.  Just as it did in Iran following the 1979 Revolution.  Which will empower Hamas.  And that open border crossing between Egypt and Gaza will greatly help Hamas in their struggle against Israel.  With an able assist from the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt.  Pity we didn’t think this through better before saying Mubarak had to go.

Things are so bad with an ascendant Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt that we’re backing off on the crimes against humanity in Syria.  There the price of innocent civilians killed is an acceptable cost to keep the Muslim Brotherhood at bay.  But not in Egypt.  And Mubarak didn’t even set the army on his people.  But he had to go.  No ifs, ands or buts about it.  But Assad is okay.  He just needs to tone it down a little.  Kill a few less people.

All the while Israel sits and waits.  Their world is changing.  And there’s little they can do about it.  They hope for the best.  And no doubt plan for the worse.  Like in 1973 during the Yom Kippur War.  When the tide of war was going against them and defeat looked imminent.  They had suffered great losses and desperately needed U.S. aid.  Which was not forthcoming.  So Israel began preparing some nuclear weapons to stave off defeat.  This got the attention of the U.S.  Who replaced Israeli’s material losses.  Which kept them in the war.  Kept them from going nuclear.  And allowed them to win a favorable peace.  And the Arab world has hated the U.S. ever since.

So much hatred in the Middle East.  And so many old scores to settle.  It’ll probably get worse before it gets better.  And all I can say is that I’d sure hate to be in our shoes.

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What would Jesus think about the Assault on Christianity?

Posted by PITHOCRATES - April 24th, 2011

Who would Jesus Vote For?

One thing I learned about demons and vampires from watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer is that they lay low on Halloween.  Except for the few that like to bother the Scooby Gang, that is.  But for the most part, the evil beings don’t like Halloween.  It’s just a bit silly for them.  So the evil and undead stand down on this day.  When the non-evil dress up and pretend to be evil.  A bit of professional demon/vampire courtesy.  They let the people play their scary games.  Then resume their bloodlust the following day.

You’d think those on the Left would extend the same courtesy to Christians on Easter Sunday, the most holy day on the Christian calendar.  Let up on their Christian disdain for this one day.  So Christians can worship this special day in peace.  But no.  Someone has to invoke Jesus Christ in the budget debate (see The Democrats’ secret budget weapon: Jesus by Brad Martin posted 4/24/2011 on Salon).

There are signs that the 2010s could be a fertile ground for using Christian ideals to pursue goals of social justice…

If the moral test of a society is how it treats its most vulnerable, the emergence of What Would Jesus Cut? may be the flashlight leading us out of the dark cave of budgetary wrangling. But it should also provide progressives with a model for marrying religion to politics in a way that reinvigorates their agenda, rather than simply leaving the field wide open to often intolerant evangelicals and social conservatives.

Why, this is a fascinating concept.  And practical.  Especially at Easter.  The day of the Resurrection.  When Christ rose from the grave He was sent to after dying for our sins.  Yes, what a fine day it is to politicize Jesus Christ.  But I’m game.  Hmmm.  Let me think. 

What would Jesus cut?  The defense budget?  Well, if we did that we couldn’t stop the genocide Muammar Gaddafi is perpetrating against the Libyan people.  That’s bad.  So bad that liberals who champion social justice sent our military to Libya to stop that genocide.  Cutting defense spending will leave us little more than an observer of these crimes against humanity.  Much like the rest of the world that isn’t a superpower.  So I don’t know if Jesus would cut defense spending.  Not when we’re using it for humanitarian reasons.  So, could there be something else to cut?

Would He cut programs like Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac?  These programs are very kind to those who can’t afford to buy a house.  By putting them into a house that they can’t afford.  Hmm.  That didn’t end too well in 2008, what with the subprime mortgage crisis and all.  No, putting people into houses they can’t afford turned out to be a bad thing.  It gave us the worst recession since the Great Depression.  And this hit art and charitable foundations especially hard.  With record unemployment, no one has any money to donate to the needy.  So, yes, I think Jesus would cut programs like Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.  Anything else?

Oh, here’s a no brainer.  Planned Parenthood.  Because I’m pretty sure Jesus Christ would oppose anything remotely connected to abortion.

How could no one on the Left see this coming?  What would Jesus cut?  Number one on the hit parade would be abortion.  And any public spending that could provide ‘aid and comfort’ to the abortion providers.  This is Jesus we’re talking about.  And I just don’t see Him being pro-choice.  Sure, Planned Parenthood’s abortion unit is only a small part of their business (3%).  But government funding pays the overhead where they provide their real services.  Breast exams.  Pap smears.  Pelvic exams.  AIDS screening.  Birth control.  Etc.  That’s why they don’t have stand alone abortion clinics.  Doing so few abortions makes the unit cost per abortion too high to recover the overhead.  But if the overhead is already being paid by Uncle Sam, why, then that’s a different story.

The Left should stop talking about Jesus.  For they’re going to hurt themselves with the political contortions necessary to make their case.  Besides, if you asked who would Jesus vote for, I’m guessing he or she would have an ‘r’ after their name.  The bitter God-clingers they are.  So why even bother?  They should just take a lesson from the evil/undead and show a little magnanimity on this day.  If they had it in them.  Like the evil/undead do at Halloween.

Syria and Egypt, Similar yet Different

Egypt and Syria are very similar countries.  Both are in the Middle East.  Both are secular nations with Christian minorities.  And both outlawed the Muslim Brotherhood.  The main difference between the two is that one is an ally of the United States.  The other is an enemy.  Another difference is U.S. foreign policy.  They abandoned the ally.  And showed patience with the enemy.

Some are urging caution in Syria.  Worried about what may replace the current regime should it fall.  The Israelis for one.  And possibly the Obama administration.  For now, at least.  Interesting, because they had no such reservations with our ally.  And how are things in Egypt?  Suffice it to say there is cause for concern (see Crowds protest Christian governor in south Egypt by Maggie Michael, Associated Press, posted 4/22/2011 on MSNBC).

Since President Hosni Mubarak’s ouster in February after an 18-day popular uprising, ultraconservative Islamist groups have been flexing their muscles and vowing to take a more active political role as Egypt charts its transition to democracy…

Coptic Christians make up an estimated 10 percent of Egypt’s population of nearly 80 million and complain of discrimination. Relations between the two faiths plunged to new lows after a suicide bomber blew himself up outside a Coptic church in Alexandria on Jan. 1, killing 21 people and injuring 100 others.

Salafis, who seek to emulate the lifestyle of Islam’s early days in the seventh century, have for the past year played a key role in fueling sectarian tensions, spearheading protests against the Orthodox Christian church.

Salafis?  One of their Islamic theologians was Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab.  As in Wahhabi.  As in Saudi Arabia.  As in al Qaeda.  As in Osama bin Laden.  Yes, bin Laden is a Wahhabi.  This is old school Islam.  The way it was mean to be.  In Salafi eyes.  As the Taliban thought, too, the world should be.

The only upside to this is that the Salafis are Sunnis.  Who don’t much care for the Shiites.  Which is what the Iranians are.  So, to recap, the Salafis are not Shiites.  Which may place them out of the Iranian orbit.  Which is good.  The bad news is this.  It was the Wahhabi that attacked us on 9/11.

So maybe we should have encouraged more reform in Egypt and less ‘Mubarak has to go’.  Perhaps we learned our lesson.  Perhaps that’s why we’re not pushing our enemy in Syria (see For Syrian Christians, protests are cause for fear by The Washington Post posted 4/23/2011 on The Washington Post).

For decades, the government of President Bashar al-Assad has protected Christian interests by enforcing its strictly secular program and by curbing the influence of the Muslim Brotherhood. In recent years, Assad has visited the town of Maaloula and other Christian communities to pray and pass on messages of goodwill. At Christmas, he addresses Syria’s Christians, carrying similar tidings. Assad is himself from the minority Alawite sect, a branch of Shia Islam, and many Christians feel they can relate to him…

Many Christians interviewed said their biggest fear was the growth of the Muslim Brotherhood, which is banned in Syria. About half as many worshipers as usual attended Good Friday church services this year because people are afraid to leave their homes.

Maybe these ruthless despots know something we don’t.  Maybe their tyrannical and oppressive rule is the only way to keep things secular in the Middle East.  And peaceful.  At least, under them, the few Christians in their countries could live in relative peace.  Whereas it’s looking a bit harder these days.

Happy Easter

So on this Easter Day, we can reflect on Jesus Christ and His message.  Such as judge not lest ye be judged.  Pity we rushed to pass judgment on Hosni Mubarak.  Perhaps that wasn’t the Christian thing to do.  But we did.  And now Christians in Egypt are getting worried.  And Christians are nervously sitting out the protests in Syria.  Afraid of what their future may hold.  But instead of showing genuine concern for the oppressed (and possibly the soon to be oppressed), some instead think of politicizing Jesus Christ to advance a political agenda.

I wonder what Jesus would think about that.

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Obama’s Incoherent Policy on Egypt, Libya and Syria

Posted by PITHOCRATES - April 23rd, 2011

Syrians not as worthy to Save as Libyans?

President Assad is killing innocent Syrians in the streets.  In an effort to squelch their yearning for liberty.  A contagion spreading through the Arab world.  TunisiaEgyptBahrainYemen.  Libya.  And now Syria.  The international community is shocked at Assad’s brutality.  And they issued a stern ‘you better stop doing that or we may tell you to stop a second time’.  Whereas we demanded Mubarak to step down in Egypt.  And bombed Libya.  But in Syria all we got is a wag of the finger (see Obama’s Middle East Head Spin by Christopher Dickey posted 4/22/2011 on The Daily Beast).

From Washington’s vantage, every Friday is becoming Black Friday in the Middle East… This Friday, the shock came in Syria, where President Bashar al-Assad runs one of the Middle East’s most repressive regimes. Across the country, protesters have grown ever more emboldened in recent weeks, and on Friday they poured into the streets by the tens of thousands to face the deadly fusillades of Assad’s security forces. More than 70 died. What did the White House have to say? From Air Force One: “We call on all sides to cease and desist from the use of violence.”

Pity the president didn’t add, “Don’t make me turn this car around.”  For children know it’s serious when Dad threatens to turn that car around.  Of course, Obama isn’t their dad.  But he expects everyone to listen to him as if he were.  And if that’s all we got going for our foreign policy, I say use it.  Can’t hurt.

Then again, perhaps the president just doesn’t know what to do.  He had no governing experience before running for president.  He never had a real job.  It’s rather baffling why so many championed the guy when he was in fact so utterly unqualified.  But they did.  And here he is.  What was it that Rush Limbaugh called him?  Man child?  Pretty strong criticism.  But is it true?

The drama—the tragedy—increasingly apparent at the White House is of a brilliant intellect who is nonetheless confounded by events, a strategist whose strategies are thwarted and who is left with almost no strategy at all, a persuasive politician and diplomat who gets others to crawl out on limbs, has them take big risks to break through to a new future, and then turns around and walks away from them when the political winds in the United States threaten to shift. It’s not enough to say the Cabinet is divided about what to do. Maybe the simplest and in many ways the most disturbing explanation for all the flailing is offered by veteran journalist and diplomat Leslie H. Gelb: “There is one man in this administration who debates himself.” President Obama.

A brilliant intellect who is not allowed to think brilliantly.  Because of all this stuff going on in the world.  This isn’t what he signed on for.  He wanted to pontificate great things.  Not govern.  It’s not fair.  He wanted to provide a laser-like focus on job creation.  Build a stronger economy.  Lower the sea levels.  Instead he failed.  Everywhere.  As he is failing in his foreign policy.  Or, rather, flailing.  With a policy that is utterly incoherent.

At the Pentagon, which bears the brunt of much of this hesitation and vacillation, the mood is one of not-so-quiet desperation. Said one longtime friend of Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Adm. Michael Mullen and Defense Secretary Robert Gates: “They think it [the Libyan operation] is just nuts. We are destroying our credibility with this situation, and there is really no answer to it.”

This is what happens when you have people who hate the military (i.e., liberals) use the military.  The military has a constitutional role.  To defend the United States.  And protect vital national security interests.  There is no constitutional clause that says, oh, and by the way, if a sovereign nation is being mean to her people we should commit U.S. military force without a clear objective or exit strategy.  Just to feel good.  But we can’t do that.  For feeling good is a poor national strategy. 

So Vice President Joe Biden has been left to handle the file, and he’s seemed none too happy about it. In an interview with the Financial Times, he argued that America’s real strategic interests were elsewhere, notably in helping to stabilize Egypt, while continuing to try to deal with Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and North Korea. “We can’t do it all,” said Biden. NATO and the Europeans should do more, he insisted. But NATO is run by consensus, and when its most powerful member refuses to lead, hard decisions are hard to come by. France and Britain, for their part, have taken the initiative in Libya from the beginning and crossed a new threshold last week by announcing publicly that they would send military advisers into Libya to help the rebels organize. (One firm decision by the U.S.: It will not put its troops on the ground in Libya under any circumstances.)

Of course when we say ‘by consensus’ we mean ‘by the United States’.  For any international effort is weak and ineffective without the full weight and force of the United States.  It goes with being a superpower.  But we have to pick and choose our fights.  For even a superpower’s might is finite.  There are national security interests (Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and North Korea, for example).  And there are non-national security interests.  Such as Libya.  And look where we are.  The non-national security interest.  Why? 

The United States got involved “because of the worry that Gaddafi could destabilize the fledgling revolutions in both Tunisia and Egypt, with Egypt being central to the future of the region; and, second, to prevent a humanitarian disaster.” Then the clincher: “A third reason was that, while it was not a vital interest for us, our allies considered it a vital interest. And just as they have helped us in Afghanistan, we thought it was important, the president thought it was important, to help them in Libya.”

All right, let me see if I understand this right.  Our allies joined us in the fight against international terrorism.  Because international terrorism is international.  It’s not only America at risk.  Everyone is.  So they helped us in Afghanistan.  Where we’ve taken the lead role.  Because it was in our national security interest.  As it was in theirs.  So, to thank them for joining the fight against international terrorism, we joined their fight to keep their supply of oil cheap and plentiful.  Got it.

There is no question, for instance, that what happens in Syria is of vital interest to Israel, which is America’s strategic partner; nor is there any question that Assad is watching Gaddafi’s brutal tactics for precedents that will serve the Syrian’s own savage regime…

The fundamentally important American alliance with Saudi Arabia, which holds the keys to the global oil market, was shaken badly by what King Abdullah saw as Obama’s betrayal of Hosni Mubarak. Add to that the king’s bitter disappointment with American course corrections, and reversals, on the Israeli-Palestinian peace initiative. A European envoy who met with Abdullah in early March described him as “incandescent” with rage at Obama. Yet the Saudis backed the intervention in Libya—only to see the Americans fumble their leadership once again.

As for Iran, ever since the regime there confronted and crushed huge pro-democracy protests in 2009, nothing threatens it more than successful revolutions in the Arab world. And nothing gratifies Iran’s leaders more than to see the United States dithering about whether Arab democracy is in American interests. The ripple effects are felt even in East Asia, where a former U.S. ambassador says he’s heard that the North Koreans are telling the Chinese “if this is the best the Americans can do in Libya, we’ve got nothing to worry about.”

Well, if Obama’s foreign policy strategy is to placate our enemies and infuriate our allies, he’s succeeded.  If that wasn’t the strategy you’d then have to say those in charge of foreign policy are in over their heads.  Or just incompetent.

Israel Looks at Syria and sees Hezbollah, Hamas and Iran

The world’s superpower can suffer bouts of incompetence.  Because it takes time to bring down a superpower.  We have the world’s largest economy.  And the most powerful military.  It takes a lot to disrupt our daily lives.  So people don’t really fear the outside world.  Except the occasional terrorist attack.  And when something like that happens, people rally around the grownups.  George W. BushRudy Giuliani.  But can you imagine if it was that way all of the time?  To be under attack all the time?  To be in a perpetual state of war?  The Israelis can.  They can’t afford the luxury of incompetence.  There, the grownups are in charge.  And they’re looking at all the developments in the Middle East a little differently than the Obama Administration (see Israel in a quandary over turmoil in Syria by Joel Greenberg posted 4/22/2011 on The Washington Post).

Syria has long been a bitter enemy of Israel’s, a key player in a regional alliance with Iran, a backer of the militant Hezbollah group in Lebanon and host to the political leadership of the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas. Yet it has also been a reliable foe, keeping its cease-fire lines with Israel quiet for decades through periods of war and confrontation in Lebanon and Gaza, and it has participated in U.S.-mediated peace talks.

A power shift in Damascus could alter those dynamics. But there is no clear sense in Israel of where that might lead, and there are a range of views here on the most preferable scenario. Experts speculate that Syria could dissolve into anarchy and civil war, Libya-style, or that a new authoritarian leadership could emerge, backed by the army and security forces, or a government dominated by the long-banned Muslim Brotherhood.

So Syria is a lot like Egypt in a sense.  Peaceful and secular.  The only difference is that they’re in tight with Iran.  And Hezbollah and Hamas.  Who have a penchant for killing Jews in Israel.  And share a common objective with Iran.  The destruction of Israel.  But it could be worse.  They’re not Islamist.  They may be the client of an Islamist state (Iran).  But they’re not Islamist.

“We prefer the devil we know,” said Ephraim Sneh, a former deputy defense minister, referring to Assad. “Although the Islamist forces are not the majority in the opposition, they are better organized and politically competent. And if we fantasize today that one day we’ll be able to take the secular regime in Syria outside the Iranian orbit, it may be more difficult, if not impossible, if the regime is an Islamist one.”

Dore Gold, a former foreign policy adviser to Netanyahu who heads the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, also emphasized the importance to Israel of monitoring “who the opposition is” in Syria to see whether “what looks like a sincere desire for freedom ends up being hijacked by the Muslim Brotherhood.”

“Israel views a lot of the current developments through the prism of the Iranian threat,” Gold added. “It would be unfortunate if Iran becomes the beneficiary of the developments across the Middle East. Iran could face a tremendous strategic loss if the Syrian regime falls and is replaced by a more Western-oriented leadership.”

How wise.  If only Obama viewed developments through the prism of the Iranian threat.  Perhaps he would have moved slower on Egypt.  Until we knew who the opposition was.  And whether the Muslim Brotherhood would hijack their democracy movement.  Maybe we could have persuaded Mubarak to implement reforms.  Like the Israelis are willing to do with Assad.  Because sometimes the known devil is easier to deal with than the unknown one. 

Still, a change of leadership in Syria or a weakened Assad regime could present opportunities that the United States and Israel should explore when the dust settles, according to Uri Sagi, a former chief of military intelligence who headed the Israeli negotiating team in talks with the Syrians from 1999 to 2000.

“I would suggest that the Americans take advantage of this crisis in order to change the balance here, namely to get the Syrians out of their intimate relationship with Hezbollah on the one hand and the Iranians on the other,” Sagi said.

The Syrian policy would probably be a little less complicated had it not followed the collapse of our ally in Egypt.  Had the Syrian uprising happened first, there would have been more room for risk taking in Syria.  We would have had the opportunity to shut down Hezbollah and Hamas.  By severing the link to Iran via Syria.  But Egypt happened first.  And the great unknown now is the Muslim Brotherhood.  They’re there.  Lurking in the background.  In Egypt.  And in Syria. 

Egypt is our ally.  Syria is not.  If we’re hesitating to act in Syria, then we should have hesitated in Egypt.  This may prove to have been a big mistake.  Forcing Mubarak out.  We’re sending mixed messages to our allies and enemies.  And losing all credibility by flailing about in Libya sure doesn’t help matters either.

Obama Looks at Syria and sees the 2012 Election

Yes, American foreign policy has not been President Obama’s shining moment.  But I’m sure there’s a good reason for that.  After all, he’s president.  He must have a lot of things to worry about.  Important things.  More important than turmoil in the Middle East.  I mean, how can that compare to his reelection campaign (see Obama’s 2012 Campaign: What’s the Strategy? by Daniel Stone posted 4/22/2011 on The Daily Beast)?

Staffers declined to disclose how many people are currently working for Obama in Chicago, and how fast the operation has been taking in money. But so far, campaign events hosted by the president himself have had high yields. At several fundraisers this week in San Francisco and Los Angeles, some supporters donated up $35,800 per couple, the maximum allowed by federal election laws.

Sure they’re shooting Syrians down in the street.  But it’s not all bad news for Obama.  His fund raising is doing very well.

Despite the clear advantage of having all the trappings of the presidency—Air Force One, a support staff of hundreds, guaranteed press coverage—Obama’s challenges may be new and unique. “Last time he was an underdog and outsider and really led a movement,” says Tad Devine, a senior adviser to Al Gore’s 2000 and John Kerry’s 2004 campaigns. “This time is different. He’s the president. His campaign will have to take advantage of all the things they did last time, coordinating and using technology. It’s hard not to be institutional.”

You can say many things about Obama.  Criticize him for his disastrous economic policies.  The lack of transparency in his administration.  His abysmal foreign policy.  But one thing for sure.  He’s a man that his priorities in order.  Reelection first.  Everything else is a distant second.

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When it Comes to the Libyan War, Obama must see George W. Bush when he Looks into the Mirror

Posted by PITHOCRATES - March 30th, 2011

Dumb things and Turd Sandwiches

President Obama called what he’s doing in Libya dumb.  In 2002 when he was criticizing George W. Bush for toppling the brutal dictator Saddam Hussein in Iraq.   He may not have changed much from this position.  Someone told Savannah Guthrie, NBC News, that the president used a phrase of a national security aide to describe his Libyan operations, calling them a “turd sandwich.”  You have to hand it to the president, he sure knows dumb and turd sandwiches.  Because they really describe well the Obama Doctrine in Libya.  And though it’s not a great delicacy, we the people may have to learn to enjoy this sandwich.  For we may be taking a bite from this sandwich for a very long time.

Libya to become a Recruiting Ground for al Qaeda?

First it was a no-fly zone.  Then we were attacking Qaddafi’s ground forces.  Now we’re taking it up a notch.  We may be supplying arms to the opposition forces.  And Obama has CIA operatives on the ground.  But I’m sure they’re not wearing boots.  For Obama promised there would be no boots on the ground. 

Get ready to take another bite of that sandwich.  Even though the UN Resolution 1973 did not authorize regime change, we’re sure acting like that’s what we’re doing.  And we really don’t know who the opposition is.  But what the hell?  What’s the worst that can happen in this chaotic, rapidly changing situation (see Al Qaeda’s Libya Pilgrimage by Ron Moreau & Sami Yousafzai posted 3/30/2011 on The Daily Beast)?

As debate rages in Washington over whether to arm anti-Gaddafi rebels, an exclusive report by The Daily Beast indicates al Qaeda forces are gearing up to join the rebels and seize power in Libya…

Since the anti-Gaddafi revolution began last month, al Qaeda—especially Libyan-born affiliates—have viewed the fighting as an opportunity to spread their radical Islamist ideology. Indeed, as one Afghan Taliban operative who helps facilitate the movement of al Qaeda militants between the tribal area and Pakistani cities told The Daily Beast earlier this month: “This rebellion is the fresh breeze they’ve been waiting years for. They realize that if they don’t use this opportunity, it could be the end of their chances to turn Libya toward a real Islamic state, as Afghanistan once was…”

According to the Afghan commander, al Qaeda fighters can’t believe their good luck that U.S. and NATO aircraft—the same forces that have dropped bombs on their heads in Afghanistan and Pakistan—are now raining down ordnance against Gaddafi.

You mean our actions in Libya will attract al Qaeda operatives?  Wait a minute.  Let me see if I understand this.  A country where radical Islamists were persecuted and exiled who then went abroad to get battle experience in foreign wars want to come home now because of the Obama Doctrine?  Why, that’s not good.  In fact, Obama can call his actions in Libya dumb again.  For he criticized George W. Bush for doing this in Iraq.  Recruiting al Qaeda where there was no al Qaeda.  And here is Obama.  Recruiting al Qaeda to Libya.  Talk about the pot calling the kettle black.

Today, along the tribal border region, al Qaeda’s thirst for more immediate news has led even top leaders like Abu Yahya al-Libi, a Libyan who serves as the movement’s senior Islamist ideologue and bin Laden’s head of operations for Afghanistan, to become almost foolhardy. The Afghan commander says that Yahya and some of his countrymen have even risked visiting villagers’ houses that have satellite television dishes on the roof to watch the latest Western and Middle Eastern news feeds from Libya. Their movements in public areas could easily expose these high value targets to human and UAV surveillance, and a deadly drone strike.

When important bad guys risk their lives for Libyan War updates you know something is afoot.

Whether Yahya himself will return to Libya remains to be seen, but speculation about what he’ll do is rife in the tribal area. “What Yahya will do is on the mind and in the words of everyone,” the Taliban commander adds.  “But I think he is probably preparing for his next move, contacting mujahideen in Libya and watching the situation in Libya…”

“They know they must tread cautiously, and not push too hard, for too much, too soon,” he says. Instead, he says, they expect to take a moderate line at first, while quietly trying to persuade rebel leaders that the preservation of Libyan sovereignty against Western “colonialists” depends on taking an anti-Israeli, anti-American line. Any move toward imposing Islamic sharia law, Yahya’s specialty, will have to come later. Still, Taliban sources say, if Yahya is successful in reaching rebel-held territory inside Libya, at least he’ll be able to operate with relative freedom, without worrying about Gaddafi’s secret police.

Oh my.  This is double plus dumb.  To play on an Orwellian phrase.  Some of us older people may have an eerie feeling of déjà vu.  Because this is how the Iranian Revolution went from democratic uprising to oppressive theocracy.  And we’re providing just the kind of environment to recruit mujahedeen.  Chaos.  Not only that, when they recruit them they may be already armed.  Because of the Obama Doctrine.  Perhaps it’s time to rethink this doctrine.

The Cities we’re Protecting are home to Libyan Jihadists?

All right, it looks like Islamist militants are coming home to Libya.  Thanks to our no-fly zone.  And ground support for the opposition.  Whoever they may be.  So what was this Islamist militant-Qaddafi relationship like?  And who was the real bad guy?  Well, if we focus on just this dynamic it appears that we may be backing the wrong horse (see Jihadist Opportunities in Libya by Scott Stewart posted 2/24/2011 on Stratfor).

Libyans have long participated in militant operations in places like Afghanistan, Bosnia, Chechnya and Iraq. After leaving Afghanistan in the early 1990s, a sizable group of Libyan jihadists returned home and launched a militant campaign aimed at toppling Gadhafi, whom they considered an infidel. The group began calling itself the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG) in 1995, and carried out a low-level insurgency that included assassination attempts against Gadhafi and attacks against military and police patrols.

Gadhafi responded with an iron fist, essentially imposing martial law in the Islamist militant strongholds of Darnah and Benghazi and the towns of Ras al-Helal and al-Qubbah in the Jabal al-Akhdar region… Many LIFG members fled the country in the face of the government crackdown and a number of them ended up finding refuge with groups like al Qaeda in places such as Afghanistan.

While the continued participation of Libyan men in fighting on far-flung battlefields was not expressly encouraged by the Libyan government, it was tacitly permitted. The Gadhafi regime, like other countries in the region, saw exporting jihadists as a way to rid itself of potential problems. Every jihadist who died overseas was one less the government had to worry about. This policy did not take into account the concept of “tactical Darwinism,” which means that while the United States and its coalition partners will kill many fighters, those who survive are apt to be strong and cunning. The weak and incompetent have been weeded out, leaving a core of hardened, competent militants. These survivors have learned tactics for survival in the face of superior firepower and have learned to manufacture and effectively employ new types of highly effective improvised explosive devices (IEDs).

In a Nov. 3, 2007, audio message, al Qaeda No. 2 Ayman al-Zawahiri reported that the LIFG had formally joined the al Qaeda network. This statement came as no real surprise, given that members of the group have long been close to al-Zawahiri and Osama bin Laden. Moreover, the core al Qaeda group has long had a large number of Libyan cadre in its senior ranks, including men such as Abu Yahya al-Libi, Anas al-Libi, Abu Faraj al-Libi (who reportedly is being held by U.S. forces at Guantanamo Bay) and Abu Laith al-Libi, who was killed in a January 2008 unmanned aerial vehicle strike in Pakistan.

Oh, oh.  The rebel cities are also home to the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group?  Really?  The people who were killing Americans in Afghanistan and Iraq are the people we’re now helping in Libya?  We’re going to give these people arms?  So they can, basically, continue a struggle they started long ago to overthrow Qaddafi and impose Sharia Law?  Replacing one oppressive regime with another even more oppressive regime?  Do I understand this correctly?  Because this is dumb.  And worthy of the turd sandwich metaphor.

This toppling of brutal dictators is trickier than it looks.

The Libyan government’s security apparatus carefully monitored those Libyans who passed through the crucible of fighting on the battlefield in places like Iraq and Afghanistan and then returned to Libya. Tripoli took a carrot-and-stick approach to the group similar to that implemented by the Saudi regime. As a result, the LIFG and other jihadists were unable to pose a serious threat to the Gadhafi regime, and have remained very quiet in recent years. In fact, they were for the most part demobilized and rehabilitated.

Gadhafi’s son Seif al-Islam oversaw the program to rehabilitate LIFG militants, which his personal charity managed. The regime’s continued concern over the LIFG was clearly demonstrated early on in the unrest when it announced that it would continue the scheduled release from custody of LIFG fighters.

So Libya has been struggling with a Muslim problem.  Of the radical Islamist kind.  And some of those trying to now overthrow the regime may be Islamic militants.  How about that?  Maybe that crazy bastard wasn’t lying.  Maybe there were some chards of truth in Qaddafi’s ramblings.

This deep streak of radicalism in eastern Libya brings us back to the beginning. While it seems unlikely at this point that the jihadists could somehow gain control of Libya, if Gadhafi falls and there is a period of chaos in Libya, these militants may find themselves with far more operating space inside the country than they have experienced in decades…

While Seif al-Islam, who certainly has political motives to hype such a threat, has mentioned this possibility, so have the governments of Egypt and Italy. Should Libya become chaotic and the jihadists become able to establish an operational base amid the chaos, Egypt and Italy will have to be concerned about not only refugee problems but also the potential spillover of jihadists. Certainly, at the very least the weapons looted in Libya could easily be sold or given to jihadists in places like Egypt, Tunisia and Algeria, turning militancy in Libya into a larger regional problem. In a worst-case scenario, if Libya experiences a vacuum of power, it could become the next Iraq or Pakistan, a gathering place for jihadists from around the region and the world. The country did serve as such a base for a wide array of Marxist and rejectionist terrorists and militants in the 1970s and 1980s.

Refugees and jihadists spilling over Libyan borders?  Funny.  Because that’s sort of the focal point of the Obama Doctrine.  To prevent spillover.  That’s why we’re there.  To keep the region stable.  Avoid chaos.  And had we not intervened we may have just done that.  With less loss of life than we may have in this worst-case scenario.  And have a more stable Libya to boot.  But now we may have to nation-build for a third time in a Muslim country.  Or see jihadists radicalize the entire region.  In other words, turd sandwich.

Obama Doctrine or Chaos Theory?

Just when you thought it couldn’t get any worse in the Libyan War.  Obama Doctrine?  Truth be told there is no Obama Doctrine.  It’s chaos theory.  Without the theory.  For we sure seem to be doing a lot of things without thinking them through first.  Of course it could be worse.  If we did these things after thinking them through.  And we’re getting exactly what we expected.

Pass that sandwich.

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Obama’s ‘help’ may Lose the Middle East to Radical Islam

Posted by PITHOCRATES - March 25th, 2011

Libya no Worse than other Humanitarian Crises

Everyone is still asking that question.  Why Libya?  The Middle East and Africa are full of humanitarian crises.  Yet we’re not bombing them.  Is their suffering not as bad as the Libyan suffering?  Or are their people simply not worth saving?  People want to know.  Because people are suffering everywhere. 

[Syria]  Violence erupted around Syria on Friday as troops opened fire on protesters in several cities and pro- and anti-government crowds clashed on the tense streets of the capital in the most widespread unrest in years, witnesses said.  -By Associated Press, The Washington Post, 3/25/2011 

[Bahrain]  Clashes erupted in Shiite villages across Bahrain on Friday as antigovernment protesters defied a government ban on public gatherings, despite a beefed-up presence by the military and security forces.  -By Joe Parkinson, The Wall Street Journal, 3/25/2011 

[Ivory Coast]  Up to one million Ivorians have now fled fighting in the main city Abidjan alone, with others uprooted across the country, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) said on Friday as violence escalated in a 4-month power struggle.  – Stephany Nebehay, Reuters, 3/25/2011 

[Yemen]  With hundreds of thousands of rival demonstrators on Sanaa’s streets, soldiers fired warning shots to prevent loyalists whipped up by Mr Saleh’s speech attacking anti-regime protesters on Friday, the Muslim day of prayers and rest… The rallies came one week after a bloodbath in which 52 protesters were gunned down by Saleh loyalists, drawing widespread international condemnation and a spate of defections from within his ruling circle.  -By AFP, ABC News, 3/25/2011 

And there’s more.  Iran.  North Korea.  And others.  It’s everywhere.  Suffering.  But you know why we’re not helping any of these nations?  Because it’s too much for anyone to do.  Suffering is bad but it is NOT the United States’ duty to end it all.  And yet we’re trying to do just that in Libya.  Was the Qaddafi regime a great threat to American security interests?  No.  He’s been pretty quiet since the Iraq War.  He seemed content to oppress his people and leave others alone.  Perhaps the others noted above were even less dangerous than Qaddafi.  Perhaps in comparison they’re just docile pussy cats.

If any Nation Deserves Regime Change it’s Syria

Let’s look at Syria.  They make no secret of the fact that they don’t like America.  Or Israel.  They are behind a lot of unrest in the Middle East.  They want to see the whole region under Sharia Law.  And be less friendly with the West.  As bad as Qaddafi was, he did sell a lot of his oil to the West.  So that would make Syria more of a national security concern than Libya.  But we’re not bombing Syria.  Perhaps the Syrian violence just isn’t that bad (see Resident says troops open fire on protesters in Daraa, other Syrian cities by Associated Press posted 3/25/2011 on The Washington Post).

The violence erupted after tens of thousands of Syrians took to the streets across the country, shouting calls for greater freedoms in support of a more than week-long uprising in Daraa, according to witnesses, activists and footage posted online…

An activist in Damascus in touch with eyewitnesses in the southern village of Sanamein said troops there opened fire on demonstrators trying to march to Daraa, a short distance away. He said there had been witness reports of fatalities, some claiming as many as 20 slain, but those could not be independently confirmed…

About 200 people demonstrated after the Friday prayers at the Thawra Bridge, near the central Marjeh Square, chanting “our souls, our blood we sacrifice for you Daraa!” and “freedom! freedom!” They were chased by security forces who beat them some of them with batons and detained others, an activist said on condition of anonymity for fear of government reprisals.

No.  That isn’t it.  That’s some pretty bad violence.  That’s Qaddafi bad.  Killing your own people.  And it is far worse than what Mubarak was doing in Egypt.  He didn’t turn the army against his people.  And yet Obama said he had to go. But we’re not attacking Syria.  With bombs.  Or words.  Perhaps Syria is a strategic force for stability in the Middle East.  Like how Iraq balanced Iran once upon a time.  We supported Iraq then.  Because Iraq balanced the greater risk in Iran.  Like that old saying.  The enemy of my enemy is my friend.  So maybe Syria offsets the ‘big bad’ in the Middle East.

Assad, a close ally of Iran and its regional proxies, Hezbollah and Hamas, has promised increased freedoms for discontented citizens and increased pay and benefits for state workers — a familiar package of incentives offered by other nervous Arab regimes in recent weeks.

No.  That ain’t it either.  Syria is cozy with all the ‘big bads’ in the Middle East.  The powers that want to kill Jews, Americans and all other infidels.  But wait.  It gets worse.

Shaaban, the presidential adviser, also said the Baath party would study ending a state of emergency that it put in place after taking power in 1963.

The emergency laws, which have been a feature of many Arab countries, allow people to be arrested without warrants and imprisoned without trial. Human rights groups say violations of other basic liberties are rife in Syria, with torture and abuse common in police stations, detention centers and prisons, and dissenters regularly imprisoned for years without due process.

The Baath party?  Sound familiar?  That was the party of Saddam Hussein.  Emergency laws since 1963?  Arrests without warrants?  Imprisoned without trial?  Torture and abuse?  No due process?  This is bad stuff.  What some would call a humanitarian crisis.  Like the one in Libya.  But as bad as that all sounds, it’s the Iraq connection that is most troubling.

Before the Iraq War, Iraq and Syria were close.  So close that many think those weapons of mass destruction we were looking for in Iraq were hidden in Syria during the run-up to war.  We know Saddam had them.  He used them on the Iranians.  And the Kurds.  But he never documented their destruction.  So if he hid them in Syria they may still be there.  They may have been hesitant to use them thus far because we could probably trace them back to them.  Especially if they had Iraqi markings on them.  But if all these ‘democracy’ movements in the Middle East and North Africa gather steam, they could become a problem.  If the region goes Muslim Brotherhood and is closer to Iran and/or al Qaeda, Syria won’t be the only country to see the world the way they do.  And they may feel safe enough to use these weapons.  Should they have them.  Oh, and Israel would be surrounded by countries that have the destruction of Israel at the top of their top-10 list.  And that is very bad.  Because that could start a world war.  Shut off the oil supply to the Western economies.  And plunge the world into a depression.

The Muslim Brotherhood Establishing an Islamic State in Egypt?

So let’s back up a bit.  Let’s take a closer look at these ‘democracy’ movements.  Are they really democracy movements?  Or are they more theocracy movements?  Well, in Egypt, things aren’t looking good for democracy (see Islamist Group Is Rising Force in a New Egypt by Michael Slackman posted 3/24/2011 on The New York Times).

In post-revolutionary Egypt, where hope and confusion collide in the daily struggle to build a new nation, religion has emerged as a powerful political force, following an uprising that was based on secular ideals. The Muslim Brotherhood, an Islamist group once banned by the state, is at the forefront, transformed into a tacit partner with the military government that many fear will thwart fundamental changes.

It is also clear that the young, educated secular activists who initially propelled the nonideological revolution are no longer the driving political force — at least not at the moment.

Sound familiar?  This is what happened in Iran.  The young people who started the revolution didn’t end the revolution.  Ayatollah Khomeini ended it.  With one of the most oppressive theocracies in the Middle East.  And those young women in the Iranian Revolution?  They don’t protest anymore.  They live good Muslim lives under Sharia Law.  Whether they like it or not.

“There is evidence the Brotherhood struck some kind of a deal with the military early on,” said Elijah Zarwan, a senior analyst with the International Crisis Group…

 “We are all worried,” said Amr Koura, 55, a television producer, reflecting the opinions of the secular minority. “The young people have no control of the revolution anymore. It was evident in the last few weeks when you saw a lot of bearded people taking charge. The youth are gone…”

When the new prime minister, Essam Sharaf, addressed the crowd in Tahrir Square this month, Mohamed el-Beltagi, a prominent Brotherhood member, stood by his side. A Brotherhood member was also appointed to the committee that drafted amendments to the Constitution.

The big question was would Mubarak turn the army on the people.  Or, should he, if the army would follow that order.  You see, the people respected the army.  Most had family that had or were serving in the army.  The army was good.  It was the security forces the people hated.  Not the army.  It was the army the people thought they could trust.  And now we’re hearing that they struck a deal with the Muslim Brotherhood?  That’s very ominous.  As are the beards.  That’s hardcore, conservative Islam.  Like they have in Iran.  And that sure ain’t what the protestors wanted in Egypt.  I mean, there were women in those crowds.  If Egypt goes the way of the bearded men, these women will never protest anything ever again.  Just like in Iran.

And the lying has begun.  Egypt was a secular country.  But they still had their religion.  It was still a Muslim country.  Like Turkey.  There’s the state.  And the religion.  Both very important parts of life in these countries.  But separate parts.  Now it appears secular means state atheism.  Like in the former Soviet Union.  Or in parts of America where anything goes.  According to the more radical elements in Egypt, at least.

“The problem is that our country will be without a religion,” read a flier distributed in Cairo by a group calling itself the Egyptian Revolution Society. “This means that the call to the prayer will not be heard anymore like in the case of Switzerland, women will be banned from wearing the hijab like in the case of France,” it said, referring to the Muslim head scarf. “And there will be laws that allow men to get married to men and women to get married to women like in the case of America.”

Talk about scare tactics.  If you don’t vote for a more conservative Islam there will be no Islam.  People will be free.  Women will be free.  And gay, I guess.  All horrible thoughts to the conservative Muslim.  And a lot of Muslim men who are just not fans of feminism.

This is not to say that the Brotherhood is intent on establishing an Islamic state…

None of that has changed, Mr. Erian, the spokesman, said in an interview. “We are keen to spread our ideas and our values,” he said. “We are not keen for power.”

He would not comment on whether the Brotherhood had an arrangement with the military, but he said the will of the people to shift toward Islam spoke for itself and was a sign of Egypt’s emerging democratic values. “Don’t trust the intellectuals, liberals and secularists,” Mr. Erian said. “They are a minor group crying all the time. If they don’t work hard, they have no future.”

Warning Klaxons should be going off.  These are things that dictators say before they oppress their people.  Why, you can almost see the reassuring eyes and the soothing voice of Ayatollah Khomeini as he calmed the anxious Iranian people shortly after 1979.  Before those eyes became scary.  And we all saw how that turned out.  Oppressive theocratic rule.  And the odds just got better for the same in Egypt.

Virginity Tests in Egypt

And it’s already started (see Egypt women protesters forced to take ‘virginity tests’ posted 3/24/2011 on the BBC).

A leading rights group says the Egyptian army arrested, tortured and forced women to take “virginity tests” during protests earlier this month.

Amnesty International is calling on the authorities in Cairo to investigate.

It says at least 18 female protesters were arrested after army officers cleared Tahrir Square on 9 March.

It says they were then beaten, given electric shocks and strip searched.

The army denies the allegations.

This isn’t what the women in the crowds were protesting for.  And the reason these women were protesting?  Because they could.  Egypt was one of the most progressive countries in the Middle East.  Women had some of the greatest freedoms enjoyed in a Muslim country.  Not anymore.

A 20-year-old woman, Salwa Hosseini, told Amnesty she was forced to take off all her clothes by a female prison guard in a room with open doors and a window.

She said that male soldiers looked in and took photographs of her while she was naked.

The demonstrator said a man in a white coat later carried out a ‘virginity check’ on her and she was threatened with prostitution charges.

“Forcing women to have ‘virginity tests’ is utterly unacceptable. Its purpose is to degrade women because they are women,” a spokesperson for Amnesty International said in a statement.

Mubarak may have been bad.  But he wasn’t that bad.  The painful moral of this story is to be careful what you ask for.  The enemy you know is often better than the enemy you don’t know.  Unfortunately we sometimes learn this lesson too late.  Including presidents.  For it was a mistake to throw Mubarak under the bus.  Middle East scholars knew it then.  And the rest of us are learning it now.  And now we’re helping to destabilize Libya.  That, too, could turn out to be a mistake.  Because we don’t know who the rebels are.  Just like we didn’t know who they were in Egypt.  So the chances are good that what happens in Egypt could very well happen in Libya.  A “shift towards Islam.”

Of course, there are a couple of countries in the Middle East that probably warrant our involvement.  Two come to mind.  Iran.  And Syria.  Things could only get better in these countries.  Yet we don’t help the protesters in these sovereign countries.  So when President Obama finally tells us why Libya, perhaps he can tell us why not in countries that already hate us.  And while he’s explaining these great mysteries perhaps he can tell us why he’s undermining our allies in the Middle East.  Is there a method to this madness?  Or is it just madness?

www.PITHOCRATES.com

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