FT158: “Journalists are more partisan than wise.” —Old Pithy

Posted by PITHOCRATES - February 22nd, 2013

Fundamental Truth

The Mainstream Media sacrifice their Journalistic Integrity to help the Obama Administration Advance their Agenda

The president has warned that the $85 billion in spending cuts of the sequester will gut government programs leaving Americans at great peril.  This despite baseline budgeting automatically increases spending every year.  From 1974 (after Nixon decoupled the dollar from gold and the government adopted baseline budgeting) through 2008 (before the spending orgy of the Obama administration) federal spending increased approximately 7.5% each year.  Crunching the numbers for the spending increase from 2012 to 2013 we get $284.7 billion.  Applying the cuts of the sequester reduces this increase in spending to $199.7 billion.  We will spend more in 2013 than we did in 2012.  Even AFTER the sequester cuts.  So all the peril the president is warning us about is not real.  He’s lying for political gain.

Yet the mainstream media is discussing this issue as if there are real cuts in spending.  That we will reduce spending in the numerous government programs the president warns about if we let the sequester happen.  Less food inspection.  Less airport security.  Fewer police officers.  Fewer firefighters.  Fewer teachers.  Fewer flu vaccinations.  And less childcare.  In their reports they discuss these as a matter of fact.  When they are just not true.  And it’s no secret.  Anyone can do what we did and look at federal outlays and see the automatic spending increases each year.  And see that we will still spend more in 2013 after the sequester cuts than we did in 2012.  You’d think a journalist would study the facts.  The historical record.  And then question the president and his administration.  Ask them why they are lying.  But they don’t.  Why?

Because they are partisan.  Committed to the leftist agenda the president is trying to pass.  So they either help spread the lie.  Being complicit in the lie.  Or they spread the lie because they are victims of the lie.  They are so committed to the leftist agenda that they don’t question anything coming from the liberal left.  Because they want to believe.  They sacrifice their journalistic integrity to help the administration advance their agenda.  More a propaganda arm of the administration than a free press.  The kind of journalism they practice in Venezuela.  Cuba.  China.  North Korea.  And the kind of journalism they practiced in East Germany.  The Soviet Union.  And Nazi Germany.  Where there was no free press.  Only state propaganda.  Propaganda in a totalitarian regime is one thing.  They already oppress their people and their news is more for the benefit of outsiders.  Where they lie about record harvests.  And record gains in industrial production.  Things their people have long stopped believing as they suffer through the misery of the reality.  But it’s different in a free country.  For it lends legitimacy for illegitimate actions of government.  And allows them to overstep the restraints of their constitutional authority.

The Mainstream Media helped Downplay the Resurgent al Qaeda in Benghazi to help President Obama win Reelection

In 2010 the greatest cause of accidental deaths for children age 5-15 was motor vehicle accidents.  In 2010 there were 806 deaths.  Representing 49.1% of all deaths.  The number two cause was drowning with 251 deaths.  Or 15.3% of the total.  Next came fire/burn at 135 deaths.  Then death by suffocation at 79 deaths.  Then death by other land transportation at 68 deaths.  Then poisoning at 54 deaths.  Then came firearms at 37 deaths.  Yet many in the mainstream media actively support the Obama administration in their push for gun control.  Especially a ban on assault weapons.  Even if (as they say so often) it saves only one child.  But guns aren’t the leading cause of death for children.  In fact, as horrific as scenes like the Newtown shooting are they are very rare occurrences.  Far more children die in automobile accidents each year.  No doubt because we are driving smaller cars to save the planet (lighter cars means greater gas mileage and less pollution).  But the journalists don’t report this fact.  Because they endorse the leftist agenda of saving the planet.  And more gun control.  Even if saving the planet means the death of more children from driving in smaller and less safe cars.  While more gun control probably won’t save a single child.

The Obama administration’s foreign policy record has been a poor one.  The greatest threat to peace and stability in the Mideast and North Africa is Iran.  Yet the Obama administration did not support the Green Revolution protesting the 2009 Iranian election results that most felt were unfair.  There are few bigger enemies of the United States.  The Iranian supported insurgency killed or wounded a lot of U.S. military in Iraq.  Our strongest allies in the region (Israel, Egypt and Saudi Arabia) all feared growing Iranian influence in the region.  But given an opportunity to support an uprising that could overthrow a great enemy to peace and stability the Obama administration did nothing.  But when the Arab Spring swept through Egypt the president abandoned one of America’s most stalwart allies and the anchor to stability in the region.  Hosni Mubarak.  Now the Iranian influence in Egypt is stronger than ever.  When the Arab Spring spread to Libya the Obama administration supported that movement, too.  Despite Colonel Muammar Gaddafi having denounced terrorism and supported the Americans in the war against al Qaeda.  When the Arab Spring spread to Syria the president did not support that protest.  Despite Syria being Iran’s strongest ally in the region.  A sponsor of terrorism.  And a nation with a chemical arsenal likely manufactured by Iraq (those weapons of mass destruction that Saddam Hussein had used on his people but had disappeared when the Americans arrived on the scene, likely having skedaddled across the border into Syria).  As bad as the ruling regime was in Syria we did nothing to help Syrians overthrow their oppressor.

Now civil war engulfs Syria.  Elements of al Qaeda have joined the opposition.  Making sure Iran wins however things turn out there.  And the Iranian influence is stronger than ever in Libya.  When al Qaeda killed the American diplomat in Benghazi the Obama administration made up a story about a YouTube video causing spontaneous protests that led to the ambassador’s death along with three other Americans.  To downplay a resurgent al Qaeda during the 2012 election campaign.  As they had refused to beef up security in Benghazi as the ambassador requested.  Because it would look bad in the 2012 election.  Yet the mainstream media did not question these very poor decisions the Obama administration made for political reasons.  Instead accepting their position that there was nothing newsworthy in Benghazi.  Which they wholeheartedly reported.  Refusing to even ask questions.  Such as why did they refuse the ambassador’s request for more security?  Who edited the talking points for Ambassador Rice used for the Sunday morning shows?  Or why is al Qaeda now stronger in the Middle East, North Africa and West Africa after 4 years of the Obama administration that they were during 8 years of the Bush administration?  No.  They showed no journalistic curiosity.  Or integrity.  Simply accepting the administration’s statements as fact.  While the Middle East and Africa become more dangerous places.

The Mainstream Media is no longer a Free Press for the People but a Propaganda Arm of the Obama Administration

Obamacare is the most sweeping change to the American economy since LBJ’s Great Society.  Which was the most sweeping change since FDR’s New Deal.  The American Left has always wanted a national health care system.  Just like what they have in the United Kingdom.  The Left likes to point to their National Health Service (NHS) as the right way to do health care.  As does the mainstream media.  Yet if you read the British papers their NHS is not all the American Left says it is.  Britain’s aging population has caused health care spending to explode.  The UK is in the midst of massive budget cuts to bring down health care spending.  While the NHS has long tried to deal with chronic problems of long wait times.  Rationing.  A shortage of doctors and nurses.  Even ambulances.  Their emergency rooms are overflowing with people with non-emergencies as the NHS closed their neighborhood clinics to reduce costs.  And the quality of care has been falling in their hospitals.  The problems in the NHS are no secret.  All you have to do is pick up a British paper and read about them.  For they are ongoing.  Yet the mainstream media never reported these problems during the Obamacare debate.  Or what passed for a debate.  No.  They never asked how Obamacare was going to avoid all the problems they were having in the NHS.  Which they should have.  As the US has an aging population, too.  Worse, they have about five times the population the UK has.  Guaranteeing any problems they have will be five times worse in the US.  Serious questions a good journalist should have asked.  But no.  They didn’t.  Because they support the liberal agenda more than they believe in journalistic integrity.  So they only report what helps the administration.  While avoiding anything that is critical of them.  Or their agenda.

When it comes to economics the mainstream media are all supporters of Keynesian economics.  Despite their record of failure.  When Nixon decoupled the dollar from gold in 1971 it allowed the government to go all in with Keynesian economics.  And they did.  Printing so much money that it led to excessive inflation, high unemployment and economic stagnation.  Ronald Reagan reversed those Keynesian policies.  His administration stopped printing money.  And got the government out of the private sector economy.  Cutting regulations.  As well as tax rates.  And economic activity exploded.  There was so much economic activity that tax revenue nearly doubled.  Even at those lower tax rates.  But the mainstream media doesn’t report this.  Instead, they revise history.  Always supporting Keynesian economic policies as they allow government to expand.  So they can implement their leftist agenda.  Which is anti-business.  Pushing higher regulations.  And higher taxes.  And whenever anyone talks about Reaganomics they say those cuts in tax rates only increased the deficit.  When the historical record clearly shows tax receipts increased.  Which they could easily look up (see Table 2.1—RECEIPTS BY SOURCE: 1934–2017).  But they don’t.  Or chose not to.  Preferring to support the liberal agenda.  Instead of having journalistic integrity.

The mainstream media today is no longer a free press for the people.  They are an extension of the Democrat Party.  At least the liberal wing of the Democrat Party.  More of a propaganda arm of the Obama administration.  That is more interested in changing the country than keeping our politicians honest.  Or reporting the facts.  They are fiercely partisan.  Or they are just not very smart.  Either woefully ignorant of the material they report on.  Or so in the bag for the Obama administration that they will report falsehoods as truth.  The kind of thing that isn’t a big deal in a totalitarian regime.  But a pretty big deal in a free country with a government that continues to try to exceed its constitutional authority.  For a free press is the vanguard of a free country.  Keeping the politicians honest so they can’t exceed their constitutional authority.  And if the journalists aren’t going to do their job by the time we find out what our politicians are doing it will be too late.  As we now have Obamacare as law.  Which passed on partisan lines.  With enough moderates and independents voting for Obamacare as few in America knew of all the problems the British were having with their national health care.  Today it’s Obamacare.  Tomorrow it may be gun control.  Or a war in the Middle East thanks to a resurgent al Qaeda.  And a growing Iranian influence.  Thanks to such a poor job in foreign policy that if the mainstream media had reported it honestly President Obama may not have won reelection.  And four Americans may not have died in Benghazi.

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President Obama’s Change in Policy during the Arab Spring to Support Change instead Stability spreads Instability

Posted by PITHOCRATES - February 17th, 2013

Week in Review

Before the Arab Spring there was the Green Revolution in Iran in 2009.  Where thousands used social media to gather in protests over what they claimed were voting irregularities that kept President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in power.  President Obama did not support the Green Revolution.  Despite Iran being a sponsor of terrorism, an enemy of the United States and the greatest threat to regional stability.  President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad suppressed the uprisings.  And jailed some of the opposition.  Where some have made claims of torture and rape.  But as closed a society Iran is these claims have been unsubstantiated.  Though we have the word of the ruling regime that crushed the rebellion that there was no torture or rape.

When the Arab Spring kicked off in Tunisia in 2010 President Obama announced a change in policy.  The U.S. would support change in the Arab world instead of stability.  When the Arab Spring spread to Egypt in 2011 President Obama told Hosni Mubarak that he had to step down from power.  Despite being a stalwart U.S. ally.  An enemy to al Qaeda.  And being the anchor of stability in the Middle East and North Africa.  Now the Muslim Brotherhood is in power there.  Who has close ties with Iran.

When the Arab Spring spread to Libya President Obama supported the opposition based in Benghazi.  Despite Colonel Muammar Gaddafi renouncing terrorism.  And being an ally of America in their War on Terror.  Like Mubarak he oppressed radical Islamists including al Qaeda.  Which explains why al Qaeda was part of the opposition trying to overthrow Colonel Muammar Gaddafi.  They hated him.  And his oppression of anti-western  radical Islamists.  President Obama supported the opposition.  Gave them weapons.  And helped enforce a no-fly zone.  In 2012 Islamists attacked the U.S. consulate in Benghazi.  Killing 4 Americans.  Including the Libyan ambassador.  Chris Stevens.  Perhaps killed with weapons we brought into Libya.

When the Arab Spring spread to Syria President Obama did not support the opposition.  Despite Syria being a sponsor of terrorism.  And a close ally of Iran.  As Syria broke down into civil war al Qaeda joined the opposition.  Making any U.S. support now even more complicated.  However Syria turns out it will be a foreign policy failure.  In fact the foreign policy of President Obama has been to abandon U.S. allies that bring stability to the region.  While not getting involved in uprisings in states hostile to the U.S.  Bringing great instability to the Middle East and Northern Africa.  And beyond (see Police: 7 foreigners kidnapped in north Nigeria by SHEHU SAULAWA and JON GAMBRELL, Associated Press, posted 2/17/2013 on Yahoo! News).

Gunmen attacked a camp for a construction company in rural northern Nigeria, killing a guard and kidnapping seven foreign workers from Britain, Greece, Italy Lebanon and the Philippines, authorities said Sunday, in the biggest kidnapping yet in a region under attack by Islamic extremists…

No group immediately claimed responsibility for the abductions, though Nigeria’s predominantly Muslim north has been under attack by the radical Islamic sect known as Boko Haram in the last year and a half. The country’s weak central government has been unable to stop the group’s bloody guerrilla campaign of shootings and bombings. The sect is blamed for killing at least 792 people in 2012 alone, according to an AP count.

Boko Haram, whose name means “Western education is sacrilege” in the Hausa language of Nigeria’s north, has demanded the release of all its captive members and called for strict Shariah law to be implemented across the entire country. The sect has killed both Christians and Muslims in their attacks, as well as soldiers and security forces…

Foreigners, long abducted by militant groups and criminal gangs for ransom in Nigeria’s oil-rich southern delta, have become increasingly targeted in Nigeria’s north as the violence has grown. However, abductions of foreigners in the north have seen hostages regularly killed…

Foreign embassies in Nigeria have issued travel warnings regarding northern Nigeria for months. Worries about abductions have increased in recent weeks with the French military intervention in Mali, as its troops and Malian soldiers try to root out Islamic fighters who took over that nation’s north in the months following a military coup. Last week, the U.S. Embassy in Nigeria’s capital, Abuja, put out a warning following the killings of polio workers in the northern city of Kano and the killing of the North Korean doctors.

President Obama campaigned in 2012 that al Qaeda was on the ropes.  While blaming the death of Ambassador Stevens and three other Americans on a spontaneous uprising because of a YouTube video.  Which if it was it means the average Libyan on the street in Benghazi walks around carrying heavy weapons.  Which is highly unlikely.  Then again, the opposition the U.S. supported in Benghazi included al Qaeda.  So maybe they did walk around the streets of Benghazi with heavy weapons.  Just waiting for dates with symbolic meaning (9/11) to attack Americans.

President Obama got what he wanted.  Change instead of stability.  For there is little stability in the Middle East or North Africa.  And now in West Africa.  Where Islamists and al Qaeda affiliates are reaching into Algeria.  Mali.  And Nigeria.  Radical Islamists are spreading their reach throughout the Middle East and Africa and in other parts of the world.  Fueled by the decline of U.S. influence.  And a rise in Iranian influence.  The winner in the Arab Spring?  It would appear that it is the radical Islamists that are benefitting most from the Arab Spring.  While the people in these countries go from a somewhat western culture of liberty (especially for women) towards oppressive theocracies.  Just as the Iranian people did during the Iranian Revolution in 1979.  No doubt the Iranian women who protested the Shah of Iran rue the day they ever joined that protest movement.  For they have none of the liberties they enjoyed under the Shah.

Guess this is what happens when you abandon your friends and help your enemies.  Your friends suffer while your enemies grow stronger.  And the world grows a more dangerous place.

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The President and Hillary Clinton Lied and Four Americans Died in Benghazi

Posted by PITHOCRATES - January 27th, 2013

Week in Review

Hillary Clinton got indignant during her Benghazi testimony.  She shouted, “What different does it make?!?” when asked about one of the greatest foreign policy failures in U.S. history.  Why did the Obama administration mislead the American people just before a presidential election?  “What different does it make?!?”

Well, it makes a whole lot of difference.  Especially if politics were the driving factor for security considerations in Benghazi.  And with “al Qaeda is on the ropes” being a main campaign theme it would appear that politics were the driving factor for security considerations in Benghazi.  For a president claiming victory in the War on Terror could not have a resurgent al Qaeda in Libya.  Especially when al Qaeda was using the very weapons the Obama administration gave to the opposition to topple Muammar Gaddafi from power.  An opposition no one really knew then.  But we did know it had an al Qaeda element.  Who hated Muammar Gaddafi.  For he became a U.S. ally in the War on Terror following the U.S. invasion of Iraq.

So this is ‘what difference it makes’.  Political considerations led to a resurgent al Qaeda in Northern and Western Africa.  Greatly destabilizing the region.  Making the world a less safe place.  And to hide that fact until after the election the Obama administration seized onto that YouTube video that no one saw in Libya.  To cover up their foreign policy mess.  Benghazi is such a mess that everyone is now evacuating the city and leaving it to al Qaeda (see ‘Leave immediately': Britons told to get out of Benghazi after threat from al-Qa’ida by Daniel Howden and Kim Sengupta posted 1/25/2013 on The Independent).

The Government has urged British nationals to leave Libya’s second city, Benghazi, in response to a “specific threat to Westerners” from terror groups operating in North Africa.

Defence sources confirmed the warning is linked to the activities of al-Qa’ida in the Islamic Maghreb (Aqim). An offshoot of Aqim was responsible for last week’s hostage crisis at the In Amenas gas plant in Algeria in which 37 Westerners were killed, along with 29 Islamists…

Dutch and German citizens have also been advised to join the exodus, while Egypt has restricted movement across its border with Libya due to security concerns.

Intelligence reports from Egypt as well as intercepted communications from Burkina Faso and Algeria led to the warning being issued. Western interests, rather than explicitly British ones, were said to be the terrorists’ intended target. Governments across North and West Africa have been on heightened alert following last week’s hostage crisis in the Sahara…

The city is the business hub of eastern Libya and was the birthplace of the uprising that toppled Colonel Gaddafi. However, since the dictator’s death it has also been used as a base by several jihadist groups including Ansar al-Sharia, which is seen as the new face of al-Qa’ida in the wake of the Arab Spring. It is believed that individuals from Ansar al-Sharia remain in the city while the group has withdrawn…

Violence in Benghazi has targeted foreigners as well as Libyan officials in recent months, with assassinations, bombings and other attacks. As well as the 11 September assault on the US consulate, an Italian diplomat’s car was fired on by militants earlier this month. Rome has suspended consular activities in the city and evacuated staff.

Britain’s ambassador to Libya, Sir Dominic Asquith, narrowly escaped injury last June when his convoy in Benghazi was hit by rocket-propelled grenades, reinforcing concerns that the city’s police and government militia may have been infiltrated.

This week Sir Kim Darroch, David Cameron’s national security adviser, held talks in Tripoli with Libya’s Prime Minister, Ali Zidan, in which security was top of the agenda. French citizens, including doctors working at Benghazi hospitals, have left the city and the French cultural centre has been closed over concerns of retaliatory attacks following France’s military intervention in Mali. A few Britons and a handful of German and Dutch citizens remain in Benghazi, many of them acting as security contractors or aid workers.

The anti-Western attacks started before al Qaeda killed the US ambassador in Benghazi.  So there was no question that al Qaeda was resurgent.  And four Americans paid the ultimate price when politics trumped security needs.

So what difference does it make?  It was the policies and politics that resulted in those four American deaths.  And the resurgence of al Qaeda in the region.  Because President Obama declared ‘mission accomplished’ during the presidential campaign.  Saying it was reason to give him four more years.  So if his ‘successful’ policies were reason enough to reelect the president then surely if those same policies were the cause of everything that went wrong in Benghazi they were reason enough NOT to reelect him.  And they knew it.  Hence the YouTube video.

The president didn’t win reelection by a large margin.  Had the truth about Benghazi been known chances are he would have lost reelection.  And this is why it makes a difference.  For it matters when a president chooses politics over American lives.

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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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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?

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Obama Going all George W. Bush in the Middle East?

Posted by PITHOCRATES - March 19th, 2011

Fighting Wars on the other Side of the World

In 1775, the shooting in the American Revolutionary War began.  The world’s superpower, the British Empire, had planned on taking some arms away from local rebels.  Some shots were exchanged at Lexington and Concord.  And the small British force retreated to Boston.  The rebels harassed the British column the entire way.  The war did not begin well for the British.  And it would end like it began.  Not well.  The British formally recognized the United States of America 8 years later with the signing of the Treaty of Paris in 1783.

The British outclassed the Americans in every way but one.  Lines of communications.  The British lines were some 3,000 miles back to Great Britain.  About a 6 hour flight today.  Then, a couple of months by ship.  By contrast the Americans held the advantage of short, interior lines.  We could ‘hit and run’ and melt back into the surrounding country.  Like we did in 1775 during that British retreat.  As we did throughout the war.  Though General Washington wanted to defeat the British in a decisive battle, he would not get the chance to meet the British in such a battle until 6 long years later at Yorktown.  Unable to win a decisive battle, he did the only thing he could.  Not lose a decisive battle.  The American Revolutionary War was a war of attrition.  The British sued for peace when the cost of continuing the war was greater than the British people were willing to pay.  As wars are wont to be with such long lines of communications.

Military planners have learned this lesson.  You are probably familiar with a more recent war that was similar.  Where a world superpower was involved in a war of attrition half way across the world.  In South Vietnam.  The Americans came into the conflict to support South Vietnam from Communist North Vietnam.  There is no South Vietnam today.  Like the British some 200 years earlier, we won the military engagements but just couldn’t win the war.  When the cost in blood and treasure became too great, we met in Paris, too, to end the war.  We signed the Paris Peace Accords in 1973.  And we learned the British lesson of 1783.

Winning the War is Easier than Winning the Peace

When Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait, George H. W. Bush assembled an international coalition and threw the Iraqis out of Kuwait.  Operation Desert Storm was an overwhelming victory.  However, Bush was heavily criticized for ‘not finishing the job’ in the Gulf War.  His critics said we should have gone on to Baghdad to remove Hussein from power.  We didn’t.  For a couple of good reasons.  First of all, the coalition included Arab nations.  They only joined to repel Hussein from Kuwait.  Not to remove him from power.  The other reason was that if we toppled Hussein we would own Iraq.  And we would probably end up there for years trying to ‘win the peace’.

Following the Gulf War there were uprisings throughout Iraq.  The world watched hopeful that he would be overthrown by his own people and democracy would break out.  It didn’t.  He suppressed the rebellions brutally.  So brutally that no-fly zones were established in the north over the Kurds and in the south over the Shiite population.  But we didn’t invade.  And he remained a thorn in our side.  And his people suffered.

After 9/11, the US invaded Afghanistan.  Then Iraq.  The official reason was his weapons of mass destruction that he never documented destroyed.  He had used chemical weapons against the Iranians.  And the Kurds.  Being a ‘supporter’ of terrorism there was worry he might provide these weapons to a terrorist.  So there was that reason.  The other reason was a little more convoluted.  Osama bin Laden was a Wahhabi Sunni.  He had ties in Saudi Arabia.  And there was a large Wahhabi population in Saudi Arabia providing funding to al Qaeda.  The Saudis were reluctant to shut down this funding for fear of a rebellion by the Wahhabis against the House of Saud.  But there was one thing that worried them more than the Wahhabis.  Shiite Iran.  By invading Iraq we forced their hand.  They had a vested interest in seeing us succeed in Iraq.  And in our war against al Qaeda.  We made progress against al Qaeda and their Taliban hosts in Afghanistan.  And the Saudi started to shut down their funding.  The Iraq War was a success.  But the one drawback was that we now owned Iraq.  And winning the peace was nowhere as easy as winning the war.  As George W. Bush learned.

Obama Commits Military Force in Libya

The US has some very important friends in the Middle East and North Africa.  Among these are Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain.  To name a few.  These are nations with Sunni populations and/or Sunni governments unfriendly to Iran.  Egypt made peace with Israel and kept the Suez Canal open for international trade for decades.  Saudi Arabia peacefully coexists with its neighbors and is the largest oil exporter in the world.  Except for the oil embargo of 1973, they have maintained the flow of that oil at market prices to Western economies.  The US Navy’s 5th Fleet is headquartered in Bahrain.

These nations aren’t perfect.  Saudi women can’t drive a car, for example.  But they’re stalwart US allies.  One of these nations was pretty progressive as well as being a staunch US friend.  Egypt.  Egyptian women were about the freest in the Middle East, second only to Tunisia.  Egypt and Tunisia, though, were suffering economically.  Had high unemployment.  And a Muslim opposition unhappy with their ‘Western’ ways.  The largest organized opposition group is the Muslim Brotherhood.  And they can be best described as being more simpatico with Iran.  When Egypt had their uprising, the Obama administration called it a democracy uprising and called for Hosni Mubarak to give up power.  Without considering who would step into that power void.  Which did not go over well with Mubarak.  Or the Saudis.

Now Libya is burning.  Qaddafi is attacking his own people.  The US dithered for weeks.  While the Libyans cried for help.  Even other Arab nations cried for our help.  But we did nothing.  Even though Qaddafi is not a US friend.  And was a sponsor of terrorism.  As the carnage mounted, though, someone took action.  The French of all people (see U.S. Missiles Strike Libyan Air-Defense Targets by David Kirkpatrick, Steven Erlanger and Elisabeth Bumiller posted 3/19/2011 The New York Times).

American and European forces began a broad campaign of strikes against the government of Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi on Saturday, unleashing warplanes and missiles in a military intervention on a scale not seen in the Arab world since the Iraq war…

The campaign began with French warplane missions even before the end of an emergency summit meeting in Paris, where leaders, reacting to news that Colonel Qaddafi’s forces were attacking the rebel capital city of Benghazi on Saturday morning despite international demands for a cease-fire, said they had no choice but to act to defend Libyan civilians and opposition forces.

France has a Muslim problem.  They had some riots a few years back in some Paris Muslim suburbs.  Where young Muslims were unemployed.  Unhappy.  And not all that willing to assimilate into French culture.  Though they want to live in France.  So there’s been tensions between the French and their Muslim population.  So it says a lot that France was on point in this attack on a Muslim country.  Yes, at this time the international community, including some Arab states, approve of this action.  But you play with fire whenever you attack a Muslim country.  Especially if they have oil.  And Libya has oil.  In fact, it’s some of the finest oil in the Middle East.  A low-sulfur sweet crude.

When the international community was coming together against him, Qaddafi was defiant.  Warned us to stay out of their internal affairs.

“Libya is not yours. Libya is for all Libyans,” he wrote in one letter, read to the news media by a spokesman. “This is injustice, it is clear aggression, and it is uncalculated risk for its consequences on the Mediterranean and Europe.

“You will regret it if you take a step toward intervening in our internal affairs.”

Colonel Qaddafi addressed President Obama as “our son,” in a letter jarring for its familiarity. “I have said to you before that even if Libya and the United States enter into war, God forbid, you will always remain my son and I have all the love for you as a son, and I do not want your image to change with me,” he wrote. “We are confronting Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, nothing more. What would you do if you found them controlling American cities with the power of weapons? Tell me how would you behave so that I could follow your example?”

Could this be why the Obama administration was so reluctant to act?  Because of a father-son relationship between Obama and Qaddafi?  You gotta admit this is a strange thing for Qaddafi to say.  Makes you wonder just what was the extent of Obama’s apology tour in the Middle East.  One thing for sure, it will give fuel to those who think Obama is a Muslim.  I mean, it just doesn’t help when the bad guy calls you a son.

Regret?  We should take that threat seriously.  After some military encounters with Libyan losses in the Gulf of Sidra Qaddafi retaliated with the bombing of a German disco frequented by US troops.  When we discovered his connection to that bombing we bombed Tripoli.  In retaliation for that bombing he had a bomb smuggled aboard a 747.  Pan Am Flight 103.  Brought down on Lockerbie, Scotland.  So he has a history of getting even.  Which we need to be on guard for.

Obama now Owns Libya

So it’s war.  Missiles are flying.  People are dying (see Libya: British forces launch missile attacks on Gaddafi by Colin Freeman, in Benghazi and Sean Rayment posted 3/20/2011 on the UK’s Telegraph).

Explosions were reported at an airport east of Tripoli as a British Trafalgar Class submarine and US Navy ships and submarines stationed off Libya fired 110 Tomahawk missiles at 20 targets in what one source described as a “night of carnage”.

The missiles targeted Libyan command and control centres, radar installations and surface-to-air missile sites. Libyan officials said the attacks were “barbaric” and causing civilian casualties…

British sources and Pentagon officials said Nato would undertake a “battle damage assessment” of Libya’s military during daylight hours and would decide whether to continue with further attacks.

Sources at the Elysée Palace said Britain, France and the United States had assumed the “leadership” of the coalition in early talks between the Prime Minister, Mr Sarkozy and Hillary Clinton, the US Secretary of State. The “extremely purposeful conclusion” of the early talks was endorsed by the full meeting, where speakers included Ban Ki-Moon, the United Nations secretary general.

Well, President Obama has his third war.  Pretty impressive for a guy that said he would get us out of Iraq (he didn’t).  That he would fully prosecute the Afghanistan War to victory (he hasn’t).  And he wouldn’t nation-build like his predecessor.  George W. Bush.  He now may.  There’s no way Qaddafi can withstand the military force now aligned against him.  So he will lose.  But what then?  Who will fill that power vacuum?  In an already unstable and changing Middle East?  He can say what he wants about Iraq and Afghanistan, but it’s different with Libya.  This happened on his watch.  And he now owns it.  It will be up to him to win the peace.  Or lose it.

Those naval operations against Libya will be based out of Bahrain.  I sure hope he doesn’t encourage any more ‘democracy’ uprisings while we’re using that base for combat operations.  It would be a shame to lose that base during the middle of these operations.  And by a shame I mean a complete and utter disaster.  Because that would greatly extend our lines of communications.  And history has shown what that can do in war.

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Political Unrest in the Middle East and North Africa: Democracy in Action or an Extension of the Iranian Revolution?

Posted by PITHOCRATES - February 26th, 2011

Democracy Movements Sow the Seeds of Shariah Law

The Arab world is ablaze with democracy movements.  Which is creating disorder and chaos.  A most fertile ground for Shariah law to take root and grow (see AP’s Al-Qaida calls for revolt against Arab rulers posted 2/26/2011 on myway).

Al-Qaida’s offshoot in Yemen urged Muslims to revolt against Arab rulers and establish governments based on Islamic law, according to an audio tape posted Saturday on militant websites…

He also said toppling longtime rulers is not enough and that new governments must be established based on Islamic religious law, or Shariah.

“One tyrant goes, only to be replaced another who may fix for the people some of their worldly issues by offering job opportunities and increasing their income, but the greater problem remains,” al-Rubeish said, according to a translation provided by SITE.

This is how the Iranian Revolution ended in a rigid theocracy.  Nothing at all what those female college students wanted when protesting against the Shah.  But this is the danger of revolution.  Disorder and chaos tend to favor the less savory types.  People with ulterior motives.  Who never let a good crisis go to waste.

Big Trouble in Little Bahrain

Bahrain is ripe for chaos.  A majority Shiite population ruled by a Sunni minority.  Home to an American naval fleet.  Supported by Saudi Arabia who is seen as too friendly to the United States.  And now an exile returns home (see Key Shi’ite opposition leader returns to Bahrain by Adam Schreck, Associated Press, posted 2/26/2011 on The Washington Times).

A prominent Bahraini opposition leader returned home from exile Saturday and urged the Gulf kingdom’s rulers to back up promises of political reform with action.

The return of Hassan Mushaima, a senior Shi’ite figure, could mark a new phase for an anti-government movement in the tiny nation which is strategically important for the U.S. because it hosts the U.S. Navy‘s 5th Fleet.

Mr. Mushaima heads a Shi’ite group known as Haq, which is considered more hard-line than the main Shi’ite political bloc that has led two weeks of protests. Mr. Mushaima returned Saturday from several months of voluntary exile in London, with a stop in Lebanon.

A more hard-line Shiite?  Sort of like in Iran?  This reminds me of someone.  I seem to recall another opposition leader in exile who returned to Iran following that democratic revolution.  What was his name?  It’s on the tip of my tongue.  Who was that?  Oh, yes.  Now I remember.  Ayatollah Khomeini.  In exile he wanted but one thing.  For the Shah of Iran and his government to be overthrown.  (And he wanted to impose Shariah law but he didn’t tell the people about that.  He would surprise them with that one later.  After he seized power.)  Surely Mr. Mushaima wasn’t in exile for anything like this.

Mr. Mushaima had been among a group of Shi’ite activists accused of plotting to overthrow Bahrain‘s rulers.

Then again he could have been in exile for exactly the same thing.  But is this any cause for concern?

Bahrain is the first Gulf state to be thrown into turmoil by the Arab world’s wave of change. The unrest is highly significant for Washington because Bahrain is home to the U.S. Navy‘s 5th Fleet, which is the Pentagon’s main counterweight against Iran’s widening military ambitions.

Well, as long as we have nothing to fear from Iran, there should be no problem.  And what has Iran been doing lately that should worry us?

Iran Working on the Ingredients to Build an Atomic Bomb

Iran has been trying to build an atomic bomb.  They deny this but they have begun enriching uranium.  And enriched uranium is an ingredient of an atomic bomb.  But we can take Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, for his word, can’t we?  Sure, he denies the Holocaust.  And he wants to wipe Israel from the face of the planet.  And he oppresses his people.  Locks up dissidents.  But despite all that, then candidate Barack Obama said he would sit down with this man and talk with him.  So that must mean he’s a reasonable man.

Well, that.  Or Obama is woefully naive and ignorant of Middle East history.  Ahmadinejad is a threat and a loose cannon in the Middle East.  Everyone should be worried about him.  And not trust a single word he says (he supported the democracy movement in Egypt while cracking down on dissidents in Iran).  He’s up to something.  And a bad something, no doubt.  Others know this.  And have taken action to delay his atomic bomb making ability.  Many believe that these people launched the Stuxnet computer virus with the objective of interrupting the Iranian nuclear program.  This malware spun some of their uranium-enrichment centrifuges out of control, damaging them.  It would appear they are unloading the uranium fuel to make repairs, further delaying their ability to make an atomic bomb.

Some will object to this interference into a sovereign nation.  And some have criticized those in the West.  Who are we to say who can and cannot have a nuclear program?  Well, the West has never started a nuclear war.  It would appear that we can’t get the same kind of assurance out of Iran (see Iran nuclear plans: Bushehr fuel to be unloaded posted 2/26/2011 on BBC News Middle East).

The IAEA report – obtained by the BBC and made available online by the Institute for Science and International Security (Isis) – says Iran is “not implementing a number of its obligations.”

These include “clarification of the remaining outstanding issues which give rise to concerns about possible military dimensions to its nuclear programme”.

Six world powers are negotiating with Iran over its nuclear programme, and the country is subject to United Nations Security Council sanctions over its refusal to halt uranium enrichment.

Enriched uranium can be used for civilian nuclear purposes, but also to build atomic bombs.

The United States has been a nuclear power since 1945.  Who in the world today is worried about a U.S. nuclear first strike?  No one.  It’s not who we are.  And our history of being a nuclear power proves it.  Now who thinks Iran can be trusted with nuclear weapons like the U.S.?  Only those who see the world through the same prism as Iran.  Those people who want to see Israel and the United States destroyed.  Other, rational people know the world will be a more dangerous place with a nuclear Iran.

Saudi Arabia on the Right Side of Soviet Communism and Iranian Hegemony

And we come back to Bahrain.  Which can be the fuse to the tinderbox growing in the Middle East and North Africa (see Could the next Mideast uprising happen in Saudi Arabia? by Rachel Bronson posted 2/25/2011 on The Washington Post).

The unrest in Egypt, Jordan, Bahrain and Yemen (to the kingdom’s west, east and south) plays on the Saudis’ greatest fear: encirclement. The Saudis aligned with the United States instead of colonial Britain in the early 20th century in part to defend against creeping British hegemony. During the Cold War the monarchy hunkered down against its Soviet-backed neighbors out of fear of being surrounded by communist regimes. And since the end of the Cold War, the overarching goal of Saudi foreign policy has been countering the spread of Iranian influence in all directions – Afghanistan, Iraq, Lebanon, the Palestinian territories and Yemen…

Sunni-ruled Bahrain, less than 20 miles from Saudi Arabia’s oil- and Shiite-rich Eastern Province, has been a longtime recipient of Saudi aid. It has also been a focus of Iranian interests.

The Saudis are “concerned about the events unfolding in Bahrain and throughout the region.”  And they weren’t too happy with President Obama on Egypt.  They were “reportedly furious that the Obama administration ultimately supported regime change in Egypt, because of the precedent it could set.”  And for good reason.  The Saudis have always been on our side.  I mean, they’re not perfect, but it doesn’t get much better in the Muslim Middle East.

The United States has a great deal at stake in Saudi Arabia, though Americans often look at the Saudis with distaste. As one senior Saudi government official once asked me: “What does the United States share with a country where women can’t drive, the Koran is the constitution and beheadings are commonplace?” It’s a tough question, but the answer, quite simply, is geopolitics – and that we know and like Saudi’s U.S.-educated liberal elites.

The Saudis have been helpful to us. They are reasonably peaceful stalwarts. They don’t attack their neighbors, although they do try to influence them, often by funding allies in local competitions for power. They are generally committed to reasonable oil prices. For example, although their oil is not a direct substitute for Libyan sweet crude, the Saudis have offered to increase their supply to offset any reduction in Libyan production due to the violence there. We work closely with them on counterterrorism operations. And the Saudis are a counterbalance to Iran. We disagree on the Israel-Palestinian issue, but we don’t let it get in the way of other key interests.

Saudi Arabia is not in as bad economic conditions as the other nations falling into unrest.  It may not fall.  But if Bahrain falls under hard-line Shiite control, that’s not going to help the Saudis.  The Middle East.  The United States.  Or world peace.  Before that happens, we should consider treating our friends better than our enemies.

Will Democracy Win the Day for Oppressive, Authoritarian Rule?

As volatile regions go, they don’t come much more volatile than the Middle East.  And, like it or not, many of the world’s economies are dependent on their oil.  We know this.  They know it.  And our enemies know it.

As chaos spreads opportunity knocks.  And it’s clear who is knocking.  Iran.  We have kept this oppressive, authoritarian regime’s ambitions in check so far.  It’s rather ironic, then, that it’s greatest enemy may be the key for her success.  Democracy.  In other countries.  That will cause chaos that Iran can exploit.  Much like they did during the Iranian Revolution. 

History does have a funny way of repeating itself, doesn’t it?

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LESSONS LEARNED #25: “War is costly. Peace, too.” -Old Pithy

Posted by PITHOCRATES - August 5th, 2010

AT THE HEIGHT of the Roman Empire, the empire reached from North Africa to Britannia (England), from Hispania (Spain) to Mesopotamia (approximately modern day Iraq).  When Roman power ruled the civilized world, there was peace.  The Pax Romana (Roman Peace).  The Romans built empire through conquest.  And Rome grew rich with the spoils of conquest.  For awhile, peace was only those quiet intervals between growth and conquest.  But with secure borders, a uniform government, a rule of law, a stable currency, bustling trade & markets and a military to be the world’s policeman, peace broke out.  For some 200 years.

Life was good for the Roman citizen.  As well as for those living in the empire.  The Romans modernized the provinces they conquered.  Made life better.  Even for the conquered people.  Although there were those who hated being subjugated by a foreign power.

Reg: They bled us white, the bastards. They’ve taken everything we had. And not just from us! From our fathers, and from our father’s fathers.

Loretta: And from our father’s father’s fathers.

Reg: Yeah.

Loretta: And from our father’s father’s father’s fathers.

Reg: Yeah, all right Stan, don’t belabor the point. And what have they ever given us in return?

Revolutionary I: The aqueduct?

Reg: What?

Revolutionary I: The aqueduct.

Reg: Oh. Yeah, yeah, they did give us that, ah, that’s true, yeah.

Revolutionary II: And the sanitation.

Loretta: Oh, yeah, the sanitation, Reg. Remember what the city used to be like.

Reg: Yeah, all right, I’ll grant you the aqueduct and sanitation, the two things the Romans have done.

Matthias: And the roads.

Reg: Oh, yeah, obviously the roads. I mean the roads go without saying, don’t they? But apart from the sanitation, the aqueduct, and the roads…

Revolutionary III: Irrigation.

Revolutionary I: Medicine.

Revolutionary IV: Education.

Reg: Yeah, yeah, all right, fair enough.

Revolutionary V: And the wine.

All revolutionaries except Reg: Oh, yeah! Right!

Rogers: Yeah! Yeah, that’s something we’d really miss Reg, if the Romans left. Huh.

Revolutionary VI: Public bathes.

Loretta: And it’s safe to walk in the streets at night now, Reg.

Rogers: Yeah, they certainly know how to keep order. Let’s face it; they’re the only ones who could in a place like this.

All revolutionaries except Reg: Hahaha…all right…

Reg: All right, but apart from the sanitation, the medicine, education, wine, public order, irrigation, roads, the fresh-water system and public health, what have the Romans ever done for us?

Revolutionary I: Brought peace?

Reg: Oh, peace! Shut up!

(From Monty Python’s The Life of Brian, 1979.)

Maintaining a peaceful empire is costly.  As people got more accustomed to peace and plenty, they began to complain about taxes.  Citizens refused to volunteer to serve in the Roman Legions maintaining that peace.  Barbarians began to serve in the Legions.  Some rose to command them.  Some Roman commanders came from the very people they were fighting in the border regions.  Soon Rome would rely on mercenaries (hired soldiers) to defend their borders.  All of this cost the empire.  It had to pay more and more to maintain the loyalty of the military.  Ditto for the huge bureaucracy administrating the empire.  And they lost control.  Trouble on the borders and economic collapse ended the peace.  And, ultimately, the empire.  The civilized world broke down and collapsed.  And barbarian leaders on the borders, hungry for conquest, attacked.  Plunging the former Roman provinces into war and instability.

RISING FROM THE ashes of the Roman Empire were the seeds of new empires.  And the ground that proved most fertile was the northern limit of the old empire.  England.

England started to assert herself with the growth of her navy.  With her borders secured, a uniform government, a rule of law, a stable currency, bustling trade & markets and a military to be the world’s policeman, peace broke out.  Again.  For about a hundred years.  During the Industrial Revolution.  After the defeat of Napoleon. 

Imperial Britain stretched across the globe.  The sun never set on the British Empire.  And wherever she went, she brought the rule of law, modernity, a sound economy and political stability.  Her old colonial possessions went on to be some of the richest, most prosperous and peaceful nations in the world.  India.  Australia.  New Zealand.  South Africa.  Canada.  And, of course, the United States of America.  She achieved her century of peace (Pax Britannia) by a balance of power.  She maintained peace by intervening in disputes, often on the side of the weaker nation.  She prevented stronger, aggressive nations from threatening her weaker neighbors.   And she provided a safe environment for the weaker nation to live peacefully in the shadows of stronger, more aggressive neighbors.

For a hundred years Britannia kept the peace.  In large part due to her Royal Navy, the most powerful and potent navy at the time.  If you ate any imported food or used any imported goods, it was thanks to the Royal Navy that kept the world’s sea lanes safe.  But this peace came with a price.  The rise of nationalism, the quest of new empires to establish their own overseas colonies and a change in the balance of power in Europe with the rise of Germany added to that price.  And then a shot fired in Sarajevo by a Serbian terrorist ignited a tinderbox.  The assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand by Gavrilo Princip started World War I.  The most bloody and expensive war at the time, it bankrupted Great Britain and ended her empire.  And left the world a less safe place. 

From the ashes of World War I rose new leaders with aspirations of world conquest.  Fascist Italy led by Benito Mussolini.  Nazi Germany led by Adolf Hitler.  Communist Russia led by Joseph Stalin.  Imperial Japan led by Hideki Tojo.  And the nation that led the victors in World War II would, by default, become the new world power.  The new world policeman.  The United States of America.

SO WHAT HAPPENED during the inter-war years that led to World War II?  War exhausted Britain and France.  Neither had the stomach for another war.  Britain continued to rely on the Royal Navy for protection (as an island nation, sea power is indispensable).  France built fixed fortifications (the Maginot Line).  Both were primarily defensive strategies. 

In America, General Billy Mitchell demonstrated the vulnerability of battleships to air power by sinking a battleship with an airplane (greatly flustering the naval high command).  Colonel George S. Patton developed an armored doctrine for an unenthused army and eventually transferred back to the horse cavalry.  Meanwhile, Imperial Japan was building aircraft carriers.  And Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy and Communist Russia developed air and armored doctrine while fighting in the Spanish Civil War.

Fascist Italy attacked Ethiopia in 1935 to rebuild the Roman Empire and make the Mediterranean Sea a Roman lake once again.  Nazi Germany launched World War II in 1939 by an armored assault on Poland with tactical air support.  Poland resisted with horse cavalry.  And lost.  Imperial Japan attacked Pearl Harbor in 1941 to destroy American naval power in the Pacific.  They did a lot of damage.  But the American carriers, their prime objective, were at sea.  They would eventually meet those carriers later at the Battle of Midway.  Where they would lose four of their best carriers and many of their best aviators.  This tipped the balance of power in the Pacific to the Americans.

America was ill-prepared for war.  But American industry, the Arsenal of Democracy, ramped up and built the planes, tanks, guns, rifles and ships that would win the war.   It would come with a heavy price tag.  Global wars typically do.  Had there been a balance of power that would have checked the territorial ambitions of the aggressor nations, it would have been a different story.  Of course, having the power is one thing.  How you use it is another. 

France had more tanks than Germany before the outbreak of hostilities.  But the Nazis quickly overran France.  Why?  Doctrine.  France’s doctrine was to hide behind the security of the Maginot Line.  It was a defensive-only strategy.  She developed no armored doctrine.  The lesson they learned from World War I was that armies killed themselves attacking fixed defenses.  Germany, too, learned that lesson.  So their doctrine called for going around fixed defenses with fast-moving armor spearheads with tactical air support (i.e., blitzkrieg).  Formidable though the Maginot Line was, it could not attack.  And if the Nazis didn’t attack it, it did nothing but concentrate men and firepower away from the battle.

WHEN WE PULLED out of South Vietnam, we agreed to use American air power if North Vietnam violated the terms of the treaty ending that war.  Watergate changed all of that.  Even though JFK got us into Vietnam, it became Nixon’s war.  And a vindictive Congress wouldn’t have anything more to do with it.  The North tested the American will.  Saw that there was none.   Attacked.  And overran South Vietnam.  The message was clear to tyrants.  America will quit in the long run.  Especially after a large loss of life.

Other ‘retreats’ would reinforce this perception.  Especially in the Arab world.  The withdrawal from Lebanon after the bombing of the Marines’ barracks.  The withdrawal from Somalia after the Somalis dragged dead American troops through the streets of Mogadishu.  The Arab world even saw the victory in Desert Storm as a retreat.  The anti-American Arab world said that our invasion was about oil.  That what we really wanted was to topple Saddam Hussein and take his oil.  It was just another Christian Crusade into holy Islamic lands.  When we didn’t do that, the Arab world saw it as another American retreat.  That America didn’t have the will to endure a bloody battle to conquer Iraq. 

So some in the Arab world would test America.  Al Qaeda.  Headed by Osama bin Laden.  They started small and became more daring.  World Trade Center bombing.  Tanzanian Embassy bombing.  Kenyan Embassy bombing.  Khobar Towers bombing.  The USS Cole attack.  And they paid little for these attacks.  America didn’t fight back.  But their luck ran out on September 11, 2001.  Because America finally fought back.

PUBLIC ENEMY NUMBER one, Osama bin Laden, belonged to the conservative Sunni sect of Islam called Wahhabi.  They have a large following in Saudi Arabia.  The Wahhabi have a delicate relationship with the Saudi Royal family.  They disapprove of the Western displays of wealth in the House of Saud. 

Al-Qaeda was a shadowy enemy.  We confronted them in the mountains of Afghanistan where the Taliban gave them a safe sanctuary.  We attacked.  Knocked the Taliban from power.  Drove al-Qaeda underground.  But we could not stop their funding.

Wahhabi money from Saudi Arabia financed 9/11.  And the money continued to flow.  The Saudis would not intervene on behalf of America.  They feared any crackdown on the Wahhabi could unleash a civil war.  So America needed leverage to get Saudi cooperation.  And they found it in an old nemesis, Saddam Hussein. 

A Sunni minority ruled Iraq.  The Saudis did not like Saddam Hussein.  However, they liked the balance of power he offered to Iran.  Iran was Shiite.  As much as the Saudis did not like Saddam, they disliked Shiite Iran more.  This was the American lever.

After some diplomatic gymnastics, the invasion of Iraq was set.  The Saudis thought we were bluffing.  They didn’t believe we would invade Iraq.  Never in a million years.  If we didn’t do it in Desert Storm when we had the force in place to do it and didn’t, there was no way the Americans would amass another coalition and redeploy forces to the region again.  Especially because America doesn’t like long, drawn out, bloody wars.  Which an invasion of Iraq would surely be.

They asked us to remove our forces from the Saudi bases.  We did.  Now they were getting nervous.  That was the political game.  Make some noise to show the Arab world you weren’t an American toady.  But, secretly, you want those American forces to remain.  That American presence did provide security.  And stability.  After the invasion of Kuwait, it sure looked like Saudi Arabia would be next.  It was only that large American force in the desert that changed that inevitability. 

The Americans invaded.  And conquered.  Now the Saudis had a vested interest in helping the Americans.  They needed them to be successful in Iraq.  To contain Iran.  The lever worked.  The Saudis stemmed the flow of Wahhabi money to al-Qaeda.  The invasion of Iraq proved to be one of the most effective battles in the war on terrorism.  

HISTORY HAS SHOWN that a balance of power can lead to peace.  It has also shown that a superpower can enforce a larger peace.  But it also has shown that there is good and bad when it comes to power.  The Romans could be cruel, but so were most in that time.  The road to empire, after all, started out simply as a quest to provide a buffer between Rome and the hostile barbarians on her borders.  Rome, then, expanded in pursuit of peace.  (Initially, at least.)  And then used her power to maintain peace.

Many view Great Britain as the successor to the Roman Empire.  And many view America as the successor to the British Empire.  These powers share many things (rule of law, an advanced civilization, political stability, etc.).  Perhaps the greatest, though, is a powerful military.  And how it was/is used.  As a powerful deterrent to an aggressor nation.  To protect trade routes.  To maintain peace.  Malign these empires/nations all you will, but the greatest periods of world peace were due to their military power.  And their will to use that military power.  Expensive as that was.  Is.

So, yes, wars are costly.  Peace, too.  Sometimes, though, we must fight wars.  But we can avoid a lot of them.  By a peace-time military force that acts as a deterrent.  Because there are bad guys out there.  Who only respect one thing.  And it isn’t diplomacy.  Often the only thing preventing them from waging a cruel war of conquest is a potent military and a willing leader to use it.  If a tyrant knows he will face a military consequence for acting, he may not act.  When he knows that consequence will be devastating, he will not act.  But if he knows a nation hasn’t the military power or the will to use military power, he will act.  Just as Hitler did.  As Mussolini did.  As Tojo did.  And as Osama bin Laden did.

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