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Tuesday, March 1, 2011

What to make of MENA Unrest ? A series of articles...

Fouad Ajami, NYT Op-ed Page, ' How the Arabs Turned Shame Into Liberty' :

" There is no overstating the importance of the fact that these Arab revolutions are the works of the Arabs themselves. No foreign gunboats were coming to the rescue, the cause of their emancipation would stand or fall on its own. Intuitively, these protesters understood that the rulers had been sly, that they had convinced the Western democracies that it was either the tyrants’ writ or the prospect of mayhem and chaos.

" So now, emancipated from the prison, they will make their own world and commit their own errors. The closest historical analogy is the revolutions of 1848, the Springtime of the People in Europe. That revolution erupted in France, then hit the Italian states and German principalities, and eventually reached the remote outposts of the Austrian empire. Some 50 local and national uprisings, all in the name of liberty.

" Massimo d’Azeglio, a Piedmontese aristocrat who was energized by the spirit of those times, wrote what for me are the most arresting words about liberty’s promise and its perils: “The gift of liberty is like that of a horse, handsome, strong and high-spirited. In some it arouses a wish to ride; in many others, on the contrary, it increases the urge to walk.” For decades, Arabs walked and cowered in fear. Now they seem eager to take freedom’s ride. Wisely, they are paying no heed to those who wish to speak to them of liberty’s risks. "

Niall Ferguson,  Newsweek, 'Un-American Revolutions : Most rebellions end in carnage and tyranny. So why are Americans cheering on the Arab revolutionary wave? '

" The Obama administration was elected by a great many Americans who regretted the costs of that policy. Yet in place of the Bush doctrine came … nothing. Obama’s obsequious 2009 speech in Cairo offered a feeble hand of friendship to the Muslim world. But to whom was it extended? To the tyrants? Or to their subject peoples? Obama apparently hoped he, too, could have it both ways, even shaking hands with the odious Muammar Gaddafi.

" The correct strategy—which, incidentally, John McCain would have actively pursued had he been elected in 2008—was twofold. First, we should have tried to repeat the successes of the pre-1989 period, when we practiced what we preached in Central and Eastern Europe by actively supporting those individuals and movements who aspired to replace the communist puppet regimes with democracies.

" Western support for the likes of Charter 77 in Czechoslovakia and Solidarity in Poland was real. And it was one of the reasons that, when the crisis of the Soviet empire came in 1989, there were genuine democrats ready and waiting to step into the vacuums created by Mikhail Gorbachev’s “Sinatra Doctrine” (whereby each Warsaw Pact country was allowed to do things “its way”).

" No such effort has been made in the Arab world. On the contrary, efforts in that direction have been scaled down. The result is that we have absolutely no idea who is going to fill today’s vacuums of power. Only the hopelessly naive imagine that 30-something Google executives will emerge as the new leaders of the Arab world, aided by their social network of Facebook friends. The far more likely outcome—as in past revolutions—is that power will pass to the best organized, most radical, and most ruthless elements in the revolution, which in this case means Islamists like the Muslim Brotherhood.

" The second part of our strategy should have been to exploit the divisions within the Islamist movement. These are very deep, most obviously because Shiite Iran has an altogether different vision of an Islamicized Middle East than, say, Wahhabi Al Qaeda. As I write, the Iranians have made their most brazen move yet by sending two warships through the Suez Canal into the eastern Mediterranean. This should not worry only Israel. It should also worry Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who dreams of a revived Ottoman Empire as the dominant power in the region.

" In the absence of an American strategy, the probability of a worst-case scenario creeps up every day—a scenario of the sort that ultimately arose in revolutionary France, Russia, and China. First the revolutions in North Africa and the Middle East could turn much more violent, with a death toll running into tens or hundreds of thousands. Then they could spark a full-blown war, claiming millions of lives. Worst of all, out of that war could emerge an enemy as formidable as Napoleon’s France, Stalin’s Soviet Union, or Mao’s China.

" Yes, Americans love revolutions. But they should stick to loving their own."

Boaz Ganor, Jerusalem Post, ' The revolutions and US euphoria

" If the US and the Western world continue to delude themselves with the illusion of “instant democracy” and do not form a clear, courageous, consistent and educated foreign policy that strengthens pro-American regimes in the Muslim world and helps them implement real liberal reforms that will lead to a genuine change of values in Muslim society, the process that began in Egypt will bring about the fall of more moderate Arab regimes. The Islamist organizations will assimilate into the state’s political system, gain international legitimacy, harness the state’s mechanisms to win hearts and minds and eventually take over."

Jamsheed Choksy, RealClearWorld, ' An Iranian Shadow on Arab Spring '

" From Tripoli to Tehran, repressed citizens demonstrate for freedom and representative governments. So far the uprisings have been largely untainted by anti-Western sentiments. Yet like the Iranian Revolution, and the Russian and Chinese ones before it, populist uprisings often are commandeered by extremists posing as moderates. There is even an Arabo-Persian word for such religio-political deception: taqiyya. Ayatollah Khomeini's followers deployed it with devastating impact in 1979.

" The majority of freedom-seeking Muslims have no desire to trade autocracy or monarchy for theocracy - the Iranian model woos only religious hard-liners in Arab countries. But small impassioned groups exert disproportionate influence on political and social developments. The Muslim Brotherhood's previous encounters with the U.S. and other Western nations failed to moderate its positions. Rather, its leaders flew to Tehran for an Islamic unity conference shortly after Mubarak was ousted from office. They, like other Arab Muslim fundamentalists, will be tempted to emulate Tehran's political and nuclear developments upon seizing power. Such actions would disrupt not only oil and gas supplies, but entire societies.

" So if a fission-powered Islamic Republic of Iran partners successfully with Arab Islamists, upheaval could ensue for the Middle East and the world. Only the advent of democratically-oriented governments in Arab capitals and Tehran will mitigate Islamic fundamentalism and nuclear threats by ensuring liberty and safety. Therefore, the U.S., EU and even Israel should welcome and aid movements in the Middle East that seek to establish freely and fairly elected governments based on secular politics."

Jason Hanover and Jeffrey White,  RealClearWorld, ' The Risks & Benefits of NATO Intervention in Libya' 

"The prospect of combat between U.S.-NATO and Libyan forces carries the inherent potential for casualties. Moreover, no-drive-zone operations would increase the risk of collateral damage, as there could be some difficulty in sorting out friend from foe and avoiding civilian casualties amid the current chaos. The fighting could also escalate beyond initial objectives as a result of either mission expansion or regime attempts to lash out at intervening forces.

"More broadly, charges of "colonialism" could be levied against the United States and any participating European states, and these might resonate in some anti-Western quarters in the region and beyond. External intervention could also provoke the regime to attack foreigners in Libya who hail from states involved in the intervention. Finally, the United States and its allies might find themselves in the position of midwifing a bad outcome if the situation degenerated into civil war or chaotic violence, or if radical Islamist elements gained power.

"Despite the risks, intervening against the regime could also result in several important benefits. First would be the prospect of saving substantial numbers of lives. If unarmed or poorly armed and disorganized demonstrators challenge heavily armed regime forces in the streets, they will likely continue to be killed in large numbers. The same result is likely if the regime mounts a serious effort to restore authority in lost areas. Second, intervention could lead to a quicker end for the regime, with less political, social, and economic dislocation and damage. However the crisis ends, it will not be pretty, but ending it sooner rather than later seems much more preferable. "

Today's Zaman, 'PM rules out NATO intervention in Libya'

" PM Recep Tayyip Erdoğan [ of Turkey ] on Monday firmly ruled out any NATO intervention in the Libyan crisis, while he strongly criticized European countries due to their “double-standard” approach towards developments in North Africa.

“What has NATO to do in Libya? NATO's intervention in Libya is out of the question. We are against such a thing,” Erdoğan said in a speech delivered at a meeting organized by the Turkish-German Chamber of Commerce and Industry (TD-IHK) in Hanover. "

"On Sunday, Erdoğan threw an even sharper barb at international community’s approach on the same issue, without naming any particular country or leader. “We are not one of those who see oil when looking at the Middle East,” Erdoğan said. “We are not one of those who see unearned income when looking at the Balkans. We are not one of those who look at Caucasia, Asia and Africa with interest considerations. This is all what we say: We say democracy, we say human rights, we say justice, we say law and we say international values,” Erdoğan said. “Whatever we say for Baghdad, we say the same thing for Darfur. Whatever we say for Cairo, we say the same thing for Tripoli,” he said, underlining that there has been a double-standard approach when the issues is about peoples of the Middle East."

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