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Libyan Crisis: The Good Guys Fight Back But Is It Enough

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Perhaps someone tipped off the Salafist militia in Benghazi that the good people of the city were coming to burn their house down, because nobody was home when it happened. The bad guys had gone to ground.

The media has been basking in the warm sunshine of the moment. Look, the reports all imply, the good guys have fought back against the dudes with the black banners and sent them packing. It must mean that a liberal democracy is just around the corner. Putting aside the fact journalism shouldn’t be about wishful thinking, there’s another very good reason they’re whistling in the wind. And it’s this…
It takes way, way, way, way less people to trigger a failed state than it does to build a successful one.
Let’s just take the Libyan example. Do we honestly think that people who want to recreate a Medieval Caliphate are going to just go gently into the night? No, we expect them to fight back any way they can. And that means terrorism. Terrorism against innocent people, against oil installations, against public figures, against any advance towards a liberal, economically successful, essentially secular state. 
Will they be successful in creating their beloved Caliphate? Of course not. But will their attempt be enough to stifle the development of their country? Definitely. Will their outrages be enough to destabilize their putative nationhood? Easily. 
Western nations, like the UK and US with full anti-terrorist infrastructures, top quality law enforcement, and strong constitutional governments have enough trouble suppressing Islamic extremism. What are the chances that a young, fractured, poorly-educated country with limited infrastructure, history, and education will be able to? 
Almost none.
Ditto with Egypt, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Syria, Iraq…

Written by coolrebel

September 22, 2012 at 8:35 am

Posted in Libya, Salafism

Salafists and The Arab Spring. The Clash Begins.

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Apparently a Tunisian Salafist leader has “escaped” arrest for protesting the world’s most crap anti-Islam movie.

But what’s really going on here? Nobody really knows, but here’s an idea. The “moderate” Islamists that are taking over their basket case economies after the Arab Spring are scared shitless of the Salafists that have been unleashed by the end of strongman driven dictatorships, and in Tunisia, they let this guy go for fear of what arresting him might do. When Salafists attacked an art gallery in Tunis for showing work that insulted the Prophet, the government suggested that it was actually “hooligans infiitrating” the peaceful Salafist demonstration that wrecked the gallery.

Ahah. Sure. That sounds feasible.

Ben-Ali, Gaddafi, and Mubarak are gone (and Assad seems sure to follow) and that means it’s open season for the previously underground Salafists to bring out their whipping sticks and start beating up on girls who show a little ankle.

But here’s the problem. These countries are damned if they go after the Salafists and damned if they don’t.

If the governments of these countries squirrel their way out of confronting the Salafist threat, then they can kiss Western Tourism good-bye as the Salafists start raiding Western beaches with their switches, and watch their countries go into an economic tailspin – which ultimately threatens their own survival unless they decide to forgo the whole democracy deal and declare a state of emergency for thirty years or so. If they do that, of course, it’s b-bye foreign aid too.

And if the Islamists in power do summon up the courage to seriously go after the Salafists, then they’ll have to deal with a fired up bunch of extremists who will see the moderate Islamists as agents of the infidel, go underground and start bombing up the place, which will have pretty much the same effect. These post-strongman countries simply don’t have the security apparatus in place in keep a lid on the Salafists, and if they get the apparatus, they’ll be inviting a strongman to take over when the time is right.

We’ve yet to reap the true rewards of the Arab Spring, but we’re about to. And within a year or two, as unpalatable as this sounds, we in the West may well be wishing for regional strongmen we can trust to reestablish a semblance of order. If that happens, we’ll have the Salafists to thank for the irony.

Written by coolrebel

September 18, 2012 at 7:53 am

Posted in Egypt, Libya, Tunisia

Arab World: Ignore The Mob. Support The Bourgeoisie.

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The Arab Spring in its initial eruption was seen, in some ways correctly, as a quintessentially revolutionary movement. We’re in the early stages of change and not much of what is happening now is pretty. But at least something is happening, just like at least something happened in the aftermath of the Storming of the Bastille in 1789.

Nobody would pretend that the French Revolution proceeded according to some organized plan. It was fraught with reaction, counter-reaction, fragmentation, factionalization, and unspeakable brutality. In some aspects, the French Revolution took on characteristics of a Civil War, with vast swathes of the nation unwilling to be brought under the Revolutionary banner.

In all revolutions of the modern era, it’s the power-struggle between the mob and the bourgeois instigators of rebellion that holds the key to success or failure. Which group will win out? Will it be the mob, fed by the bloodlust of the dictatorial Robespierre, or the principled positions held by so many who came before or were murdered by him, who understood and were prepared to die to uphold the enlightened freedom that was the key to the future of the Republic.

In France, it wasn’t until the arrival of the strongman, Napoleon, that matters returned to an even keel. There literally was no other man in France who could have done the job. Napoleon was an outsider, a Corsican, an Artilleryman ( the last professional arm of the French Army ), a brilliant and Machiavellian political mind, and a man with no compunction about turning the cannon on the mob.

There will be no Napoleon this time, but we should learn from the experience of late Revolutionary France in trying to forge a new future for the Arab World. It is up to us, America and Europe, the beneficiaries of enlightenment, to help bring it to our Arab neighbors, to actively support the secular, liberal forces that exist in every country, to make sure that they are not bypassed and manipulated by the mob and its Robespierrian leaders who feed the mob by pandering to extreme Islam, and running scared of Salafists. From Tunisia to Egypt, from Jordan  to Libya, From Iraq to Iran, the future lies not with Islamic government in any form, but with secular liberalism.

The President’s fury at Mohammed Morsi for remaining silent about the mob’s attacks in Egypt over a pathetic anti-Islamic video was probably so severe that he made a statement soon afterwards. Obama and all the leaders in the West need to continue that approach. After we’d dropped an ally in Cairo to enable the Egyptian people to find their own way, this is how they repay us?

Written by coolrebel

September 15, 2012 at 2:32 pm

Libyan Crisis. Romney Blew It. Just Like McCain Did in ’08

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Challenger Against Incumbent General Election Cardinal Rule # 1.

Never let the President Look Presidential While You The Challenger end up looking like a chump.

Let’s face it. Romney just handed POTUS a gift. Landed right in it, big time. Instead of waiting until all the facts were in, Romney blundered into attack mode on 9/11 of all days, and gave the Incumbent an unfettered opportunity to look like the boss on the foreign stage during the fast-moving Libyan Crisis.

Here was Romney’s opportunity to show his foreign policy teeth contrasting the President’s mealy-mouthed, wishy-washy, weak-ass approach to foreign affairs. Luckily he couldn’t keep his trap shut.

If he’d kept his powder dry and acted like his campaign actually knew what it was doing, Romney would have had a golden opportunity to say

“it’s easy to demand Justice NOW, Mr President. We all want Justice NOW. But you’re not going to get it, NOW OR EVER, because you gave away our prestige and our bargaining power by playing games in the Middle East that you had no business dabbling in. You didn’t have a plan and it shows.”

Luckily he can’t do that now. Chuckle.

Kind of reminds you of the moment that John McCain ‘took charge’ of the economy after the crash of ’08 which happened almost exactly the same time in the campaign. It’s unlikely to be so momentous as John’s dreadful excursion from reality, but for Romney, facing a Democratic leads that’s just starting to solidify, this little episode smells like the kind of panic that could stick.

Double chuckle.

Written by coolrebel

September 12, 2012 at 11:48 am

The US Giveth, Benghazi Taketh Away.

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A couple of nutjobs in the US drum up a cheesy documentary trashing the Prophet Mohammed. Excerpts end up on YouTube where someone conveniently translates them into Arabic (we assume correctly).

In the United States we call this free speech, because while objectionable, it did not rally hordes of wannabe crusaders to attack Muslims. Free speech is guaranteed by the US Constitution which is upheld by its directly elected Executive, Legislature, and appointed Judiciary.

Meanwhile in Benghazi, “America” – as a whole – insulted the Prophet and must pay the price. The mob needs a convenient target. The gates of the US Consulate are stormed, and the Libyan Ambassador, and three of his team are killed trying to stem the violence. All because a couple of cranks who just happened to be American decided to go after the Prophet for the umpteenth time.

This kind of medieval kneejerk response – which happens as regularly as clockwork – does not bode well for a transition to a pluralist society with sturdy democratic institutions in Libya. It’s a sort of country, jammed with tribes, guns, jihadists, oil, and enough governmental experience to fill a thimble.

The timing couldn’t have been worse. Two months from a Presidential Election, the President must be seen to be seeking justice for this outrage, and holding the Libyan “government” to account (without of course humiliating them and exposing them as powerless).

And there’s one other point worth nothing.

It was the United States that was instrumental in getting the Russians and Chinese to acquiesce to a UN resolution that gave the French and British a healthy “humanitarian” mandate to bomb the shit out of Gaddafi’s armored columns as they marched on Benghazi to massacre the rebels there back in ’11.

Wait, did I say America saved Benghazi’s bacon? Yes, I believe I did.

A little thank you would have been nice.

Written by coolrebel

September 12, 2012 at 9:04 am

Egypt and Libya – A Grand Alliance in the Making?

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The Arab Spring is giving way to a rather uncertain winter. In Egypt, the Brotherhood is bubbling, the Army is busy containing, and the people are getting restless for the change promised by the departure and trial of Mubarak. In next door Libya, the echo of the bullet that liberated the rebels from the world’s most bizarre pariah of a dictator will soon give way to reality. A fractious and bloody civil war is almost certain to ensue in this colonial afterthought of a country, that’s never known anything but a lunatic totalitarianism.

In the vacuum of Gaddafi’s death the tribal, factional power-grab will be a nasty affair, made worse by the release of a powerful Islamist faction, the rise of tribal and city militias, a split between East and west, deep distrust of collaborators, a thirst for revenge, a big pot of black gold, and a strategic position just to the south of very vulnerable Southern Europe. NATO is gone in a few days, and the Libyans will be left to their own devices, their only support being the stirring and useless rhetoric of democratic idealism. They badly need a national army but won’t get one for decades. Without a cohesive national force to rely on, securing Western oilfields will be tough sledding and the Islamists will take full advantage of that weakness to impoverish and destabilize Libya, so Allah can pick up the pieces and give succor to a disheveled and desperate population.

Meanwhile, links between heavily armed Islamists in Libya, now free of Gaddafi’s yolk, and the Bedouin and fringe Islamists in Egypt and Sinai, will add to the headaches of an Egyptian Army that dreams of making money and playing with its armored American toys while the people get one wall away from lynching six Israeli security officials in their embassy and causing all out war. The Army would like a democracy that they can control, but worry that won’t be possible. They’d like to remove the State of Emergency Egypt has been laboring under for decades but dare not loosen their grip, especially now the Coptics are readying their own protective militias against the bubbling Islamic fundamentalism.

So what is a self-respecting Supreme Military Council to do protect itself from the gnawing threat of having to fire on its own masses? What can prevent a conflagration that will force the Egyptian Army to watch as tourists avoid the place like the plague, and foreign aid dwindles, sending Egypt into a turmoil that could easily make it the next Pakistan?

The answer is simple. Get control of Libyan Oil.

Libya’s oil is plentiful, high quality, and available.  Invading your neighbor is kind of outre these days, so it has to be something a little – well – smarter. One possibility is for the Egyptian Army to offer itself as the ‘stopgap’ security force protecting Libyan oil from ‘domestic and foreign threats’ until the Libyans raise their own army. Of course, that will never happen, so the Egyptians will be there – with the full support of the oil-thirsty West – for years, decades perhaps. In that time, the Egyptians could be paid for Libyan stability in oil, shoring up Cairo’s foreign trade accounts and enabling it to pay for handouts to the mob to stop them rebelling against Egypt’s military rulers. It’s a win-win-win for everyone. The Libyan National Transitional Council gets protection for its only asset, and the ability to protect itself against Islamism with a thoroughly Arab solution. The Egyptians get oil on the cheap to buy-off their mob and shore up their sagging economy, get to protect themselves from Libyan Islamist incursions by going after the bad guys before they hit Egyptian soil, protecting Egyptian security and Tourism. And as for the West, they get a security force to protect the Libyan oil supply, stabilize world prices during a very soft economic patch, and help maintain stability in North Africa, which will also help Tunisia, and even Morocco.

It’s almost certain that none of this will come to pass, because there almost never is a plan, but it’s fun to conjecture that this could be a rather interesting solution to a problem that’s going to be a thorn in America and Europe’s side for many years to come.

Written by coolrebel

October 22, 2011 at 11:14 am

Libya Liberated. Oil Running Out.

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The liberation of Libya from Gaddafi’s “Green Book” insanity is the beginning of at least a ray of hope that Arabs could begin to catch up with the rest of the developed and developing world. Saudi Arabia is tougher nut to crack, of course, but the last thing that Riyadh wants is to see Libya’s transformation be successful. They’re hoping against hope that tribalism, factionalism, and incompetence deal a blow to its hopes of transformation.

Libya’s proximity to Europe and its huge oil wealth at least give it the chance of bucking the trend so far apparent in the “Arab Spring” that it’s been a rather drab, superficial affair, in which one set of despots has merely given way to another, in uniform, usually.

But behind all the flag waving, behind the obvious success of the US and its Allies in maneuvering Gaddafi out of power with a frankly excellent display of surgical air power, and superb work giving the rebels a semblance of command and control is a horrible specter.


It takes time to build institutions, to overcome the crushing let-downs that a “spring” brings to a people waiting for decades to find its voice. It takes time and perseverance to overcome the factionalism, the greed, the religious zealotry, the poverty, the incompetence, the sheer lack of practice that new Arab leaders are about to face. Years at the least, most likely decades.

But decades is exactly what they don’t have.

Because just as the Arab world finally has at least the potential to throw off its dictatorial chains, and needs all the financial resources it can muster to build its institutions and its dignity, the world will have to move away from the source of that revenue. It’s a crushing indictment of the Arab world and its leadership that it never even got close to diversifying its productive capacity away from the easy seductive power of oil.

Written by coolrebel

August 22, 2011 at 11:28 am

Libya – Where Do We Go From Here?

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About 200km east of the Egypt-Libya border begins the Qattara Depression, a vast low-lying stretch of desert banked by steep cliffs to the North. It’s essentially an impassable, virtually uninhabited world of soft, sinking sand, brittle salt-lakes, and sucking swamps. During WW2 it was regarded as a no-mans land through which any heavy vehicle would disappear into the abyss. Essentially once you were in you’d be lucky to get out.

It’s a useful metaphor for NATO’s involvement in Libya. Four months after our glorious entry in that nasty little desert dogfight, it’s starting to look like we wandered into a military and diplomatic equivalent of the Qattara Depression. By now, it’s beginning to become painfully clear that unless the “Rebels” get real lucky, we’re looking at a massive stalemate. Reports of successful bombing runs by NATO jets have reduced to a trickle. Gaddafi has almost completely adapted to not having air-superiority. Indeed his shift to non-uniformed forces operating out of pick-ups and covered Katusha trucks pretty much leaves NATO air support blind to who is and who isn’t a bad guy. NATO frequently get it wrong and their propaganda war takes a big hit every time.

It helps Gaddafi that the Rebels are essentially militarily useless. They’re poorly equipped, have little or no training, little or no command cohesion, break quickly under fire, and do minimal damage. And each time they fail to make any real headway they shore up the Gaddafi regime, which seems to be showing remarkable longevity under assault, its morale seemingly very high. To make matters worse, NATO has shown little or no interest in sending in advisors to help build up the rebels. Turning around that rabble would be near impossible, and Europe, not exactly settled just now, would start whining – rightly – about mission creep.

NATO’s last ditch effort was to wish the problem away with cash. By recognizing the rebels ‘transitional council’ and handing them access to a big chunk of Gaddafi’s stash they’re basically hoping that the Libyans will organize, energize, and use the money to oust Gaddafi. History tells us that when a large group of disorganized, fragmented guys in a never democratic desert country get a boat-load of money, things don’t end well.

Which leaves NATO in an awkward spot. Do they halt airstrikes and negotiate with Gaddafi? That may be out of the question. Not only would they be handing him a huge victory, but the ICC indictment hanging over the Colonel would be a good enough reason to tell NATO to sit and stew.

And just to make matters a little worse, Syria’s body count seems to rising even higher than Libya’s, and all we’re doing there is messing around with a few offshore bank accounts.

Finally, Italy has a debt crisis brewing, and the desperation to avoid a refugee crisis would have been better served by keeping Gaddafi in the hot-seat rather than bombing the bejesus out of his compound every night.

It all boils down to a very simple thought. Before you let the neo-con blood rush to your head, have a think about the consequences. Another six months of this and we’re going to own a problem that we really want nothing to do with.

Is this a mess or what?

Written by coolrebel

July 18, 2011 at 5:51 am