Entries Tagged as 'Arab Spring'

How An Entrepreneur Sparked the Arab Spring

December 8th, 2011 at 12:00 am 9 Comments

I recently had the great pleasure of hearing economist Hernando de Soto speak to a group of think tank types and media members about his perspective on the Arab Spring. De Soto is most famous as an advocate for property rights for the world’s poor.

Henando de Soto’s big argument about the Arab Spring is that despite where it may end up, treat its origin began with a protest over the inability for Tunisia’s poor to accumulate capital.

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The Arab League Notices Syria

November 23rd, 2011 at 12:00 pm 5 Comments

The Arab League’s threat to suspend Syria because of Bashar al-Assad’s regime’s murderous crackdown on demonstrators can be dismissed as empty symbolism.

The League’s resolution allowed member states to impose political and economic sanctions, but it specified none. (Reports say that the army has killed 400 protesters in this month alone, and 3,500 since the popular rising broke out in March.)

Still, its censure of a member state is almost unprecedented. So why now?

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Mob Rule Comes to Libya

October 24th, 2011 at 12:56 pm 15 Comments

If there was any doubt in my mind that the so-called Arab Spring was nothing more than a backdrop to a long winter freeze, that doubt was set aside by the gory scenes of the death of Col. Gaddafi, played again and again on TV networks. The mad dog of the Middle East was dead, but not before he was captured alive and subject to mob justice and public lynching that have become part of Arab heritage for the last 1,400 years.

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The Libya Exception

October 20th, 2011 at 12:31 pm 15 Comments

Spencer Ackerman has written an amusing piece in which he predicts “The Post-Gadhafi Journalism You Will Read In the Next 72 Hours.” Ackerman offers up 10 examples of how well-known journalists, purchase pundits and publications are likely to use Gaddafi’s death to justify their own views, prescription ideologies and prejudices.

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The Murder War Against Egypt’s Christians

David Frum October 11th, 2011 at 5:33 pm 12 Comments

Egypt was not a congenial place for its Christian minority even under Hosni Mubarak. Now conditions are getting worse, writes Peter Goodspeed in Canada’s National Post:

Last weekend’s massacre of Coptic Christians in Cairo is just a symptom of a more dangerous disease, as the transition to civilian rule has fallen victim to a creeping counter-revolution led by the military. …

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Don’t Expect Democracy in Libya

August 25th, 2011 at 12:12 pm 19 Comments

From the widespread reaction, you’d think the collapse of Muammar Qaddafi’s regime in Libya was a World War II-type victory.

In fact it took six months of U.S., Canadian, British, French and NATO air strikes–most of the target practice with no return fire–before the “rebels”  broke through to Tripoli.

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Obama Sits Out the Arab Spring

May 20th, 2011 at 11:26 am 17 Comments

My reaction to Obama’s speech is the same as David Frum’s only more so: Nice words (even if three to six months too late, tadalafil after the Arab Spring), online but where’s the beef? Where’s the policy follow-through?

“The question before us is what role America will play as this story unfolds, and ” Obama said. Indeed. But insofar as I can tell, our role won’t be all that significant. Apparently, we’ll cheer from the sidelines, albeit not all that loudly and not too intrusively.

After all, explained the president, “we must proceed with a sense of humility. It is not America, [remember], that put people into the streets of Tunis and Cairo; it was the people themselves who launched these movements and [who] must determine their outcome.”

And of course, “not every country will follow our particular form of representative democracy…”

But what’s notable about the Arab Spring is not its dissonance or disagreement with America. Instead, what’s most notable is the palpable yearning that people in the Middle East and North Africa have for democracy and self-determination.

Obama seems to want to do the right thing; and he said many wise and helpful things in his speech. For example:

It will be the policy of the United States to promote reform across the region, and to support transitions to democracy… [And] we have a stake not just in the stability of nations, but in the self determination of individuals.

Hear hear, Mr. President!

Unfortunately, Obama’s noble sentiment is undermined by his relative disinterest in foreign policy and his more passionate interest in domestic policy. “The nation that I’m most interested in building is our own,” he infamously told the world in his Dec. 1, 2009 speech at West Point.

Obama also has learned the wrong lesson, it seems to me, from Iraq. In his mind, as he said today, Iraq proves the folly of U.S. military intervention on behalf of democracy in the Middle East and North Africa.

“We have learned from our experience in Iraq,” Obama said, “just how costly and difficult it is to impose regime change by force — no matter how well-intended it may be.”

Thus, Obama is extremely reticent and reluctant to use or to deploy U.S. military forces, and especially ground troops, in support of American foreign policy objectives.

Libya and Syria, I think, are cases in point. Why is the use of ground troops in Libya inconceivable to Obama and other U.S. policymakers? And why is the use of military intervention on behalf of the Syrian rebels also considered beyond the pale and out of the question?

America’s long and difficult experience in Iraq has, indeed, been a humbling experience for U.S. policymakers. But what Iraq really proves, I think, is just how unprepared the United States was (and to a disconcerting extent still is) for the types of wars that we must fight in the early 21st Century.

Modern-day wars are difficult and messy. They are irregular, asymmetric conflicts which take place in urban areas populated with civilian noncombatants. And they do not always lend themselves to easy or clear-cut measures of success.

In fact, modern-day wars can take more than a decade to win; and they can require the constant, stabilizing presence of American ground troops even long after hostilities have ceased.

For these reasons, Obama and other U.S. policymakers shrink and recoil from the prospect of U.S. military intervention abroad.

This is understandable but mistaken: because without American skin the game, American leadership and influence are lacking. And without American leadership and influence, the forces arrayed against us will grow more powerful. And, in the nuclear age, that can be a horrifying thought.

Moreover, by pledging to gut the defense budget, Obama is seriously undermining America’s ability to act. Of course, he himself probably won’t much be affected by this degradation of military capability. However, his successors in the Oval Office most certainly will be.

The president gave a good speech yesterday; but unless and until his rhetoric is matched by action, it will count for very little.

John Guardiano blogs at www.ResoluteCon.Com, and you can follow him on Twitter: @JohnRGuardiano.

Obama’s Hazy Mideast Policy Reboot

David Frum May 19th, 2011 at 12:15 pm 19 Comments

Eli Lake reminds us that this is the same president who as a candidate said he would sit down to talk with dictators. Now he is telling them they must go. But how? Even with regard to Libya, where the US is fighting a war, the speech was strangely vague about what the US itself will do. The real message here concerns what Middle Easterners cannot expect from the US, and especially what the Palestinians cannot expect. The current Palestinian plan to get a UN General Assembly vote in favor of independence in September and then to use that as a basis for a propaganda-legal campaign against Israel will not meet with US support. The inclusion of Hamas in the Palestinian unity government creates problems for the Palestinians that it is up to the Palestinians to resolve. And Obama accepted the Netanyahu view that the true problem between Israelis and Palestinians is not the exact drawing of any future border, but the securing of Israel within whatever border may be drawn.

There is scarcely a line in the speech for me to disagree with, very unlike the president’s Cairo speech of 2009.  But what matters are not the absence of disagreeables, but the vagueness of future US purpose. It’s welcome for example that the president praises religious freedom in the region, and calls out Islamists who would use democratic means to anti-democratic ends. But are these mere expressions of opinion? Or will they have policy meaning?

Posted at 1:23pm

The idea that the real issue between Israel and Palestine is demilitarization and security, not borders is exactly what Netanyahu has been saying for years.

Posted at 12:55pm

I think Obama just told the Palestinians to forget the attempt to use a UN declaration in September as a basis for endless further action against Israel.

Posted at 12:51pm

Blames Palestinians for walking away from talks – good.

Posted at 12:49pm

For a shariah socialist, Obama strangely emphatic about rights of women and free trade.

Posted at 12:47pm

Here’s the most important thing in the Obama speech so far:

He is speaking out against Islamists who try to use the democratic system for undemocratic ends.

Posted at 12:41pm

This is impressively candid on Bahrain: how much better would Middle East situation be if we had spoken up in this way about Egypt in 2005?

Posted at 12:36pm

2009 Iranian repression not forgotten: good.

Posted at 12:34pm

This is like a GW Bush speech, with the excesses intelligently edited.

Posted at 12:33pm

Glad to hear the Damascus and Tehran reference in praise of self-determination, freedom and equality for men and women.

Posted at 12:29pm

Similar to but subtly different from the 2005 Bush second inaugural, with greater emphasis on economics and an eschewing of flowery language.

Posted at 12:28pm

This economic passage is welcome, especially the descriptions of how authoritarian regimes divert resentments to Israel and the West.

Posted at 12:24pm

This practice of reciting familiar facts bulks out presidential speeches for no discernible reason.

Posted at 12:21pm

The president refers to “after years of war” – after? What do we call Libya?

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Obama Stays Silent on Syria

April 20th, 2011 at 7:44 am 8 Comments

The U.S. response to the recent events in Syria reveals that the Arab revolts have not completely shaken President Obama’s faith in a misguided policy of engagement with anti-American authoritarian regimes. To date, over two hundred pro-democracy protestors have been slaughtered in a government crackdown in Syria. The U.S. response offers little to be proud of in terms of promoting American interests and ideals. Instead, it compromises both.

There have been two major moments in the U.S. approach to Syria over the course of the past several weeks. First, there were Secretary of State Clinton’s remarks which cited comments characterizing Syrian President Bashar al-Assad as a reformer. “Many of the members of Congress of both parties who have gone to Syria in recent months have said they believe he’s a reformer,” said Clinton on March 27th. Next was President Obama’s condemnation of violence on April 8th in response to the killing of approximately 20 Syrian protestors in one day.

The Obama administration needs to get a grip on two key points. One, Assad is not a reformer. His March 30th speech confirmed as much. To be sure, Assad has made a few concessions as a result of the protests. He issued a decree granting citizenship to Kurds, lifted the government ban on teachers wearing face veils, and closed a casino. More recently, he formed a new cabinet. But the continued violence in Syria suggests his actions are not necessarily evidence of reform so much as they are attempts to placate unrest. Syrian activists are justified in continuing to push for freedom and democracy.

Two, the U.S. has little interest in Assad retaining his grip on power in Syria. President Obama’s efforts to distance Syria from its ties to Iran and Hezbollah have failed. Besides, if the ultimate goal of that policy was to weaken Iran and Hezbollah, the current situation presents a fresh opportunity to do just that.

How? Given that the Syrian leadership has successfully held onto power for decades, regime change in Syria would put Iran, its close ally, on notice. According to the Israeli Army Radio, Foreign Ministry officials said: “Syria is an Iranian acquisition, and it is clear that Iran is afraid that its investments will go down the drain. So it has allowed for greater involvement than in other Arab countries.” What would be the harm in destabilizing the relationship between Syria and Iran, an alliance that has produced only toxic results?

Would discontinuing Syria’s political and military support for Lebanon’s Hezbollah advance American interests or the cause of peace in the region and throughout the world? Would regime change be a positive development in a leading state sponsor of terrorism credited with training al-Qaeda forces and providing a safe haven for terrorists? It is difficult to argue no.

And it is even more challenging to do so in light of the Libyan intervention. The Obama administration differentiates Syria from Libya, but fails to recognize the key difference: Libya is mired in a tribal war. Syria, on the other hand, conveniently presents an opportunity in which the advancement of American security interests and a humanitarian cause go hand-in-hand.

In praising the Libyan operation, Nicholas Kristof wrote of its potential to “put teeth into the emerging doctrine of the “responsibility to protect” – a landmark notion in international law that countries must intervene to prevent mass atrocities.” He optimistically posited that such an outcome “might help avert the next Rwanda or the next Darfur.” While we can only hope all the money and other resources we have invested pay some such dividend for humankind in the longer-term, the President’s reticence on Syria undermines the likelihood of this prospect.

That is not an endorsement of military intervention in Syria. While the U.S. should do what it can to promote democracy abroad, there are limits to our power. But instead of calling Assad a reformer, the Obama administration should, at the very least, offer a sympathetic word or two to the peaceful protestors in Syria. Rhetoric is a start. Short of military action, there are other steps the President should consider, such as recalling the U.S. Ambassador to Syria.

It is unlikely that Iran would sit by passively in the event of a regime change in Syria.  While the U.S. would have every reason to be wary about the nature of a replacement regime in Syria, the opportunity to weaken Iran and empower the Iranian opposition is not one to be missed, especially if it falls into our lap.

After all, with regard to Iran’s nuclear ambitions, time is of the essence. Obama’s misguided policy of engagement with our enemies does not buy time; it merely borrows time while our enemies grow stronger. Ultimately, in its willingness to commit the U.S. to expensive humanitarian interventions and in its simultaneous refusal to drop its misguided policies toward Syria and Iran, the Obama administration’s foreign policy amounts to generational theft. Obama has chosen to commit my generation to a future that may include a nuclear Iran and a U.S. too broke to defend itself. Syria presents an opportunity for the President to try and reverse this failure.

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How the Peace Process Empowers Arab Regimes

David Frum March 30th, 2011 at 8:14 am 2 Comments

Lee Smith’s column today should be in the orientation course for all new State, CIA and Defense hires and appointees:

The fact that a wave of revolutions has shaken the foundations of Arab politics without the slightest apparent connection to popular outrage against Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians should be surprising to most experts and politicians in the West. For over four decades, the driving idea behind the West’s approach to the Middle East has been the supposed centrality of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process to Arab popular anger at the West and its key to ensuring the stability of the West’s favored regimes. That the price tag for this American diplomatic instrument has been thousands of dead Jews and several lost generations of Arabs has, in the upside-down world of Mideast policymakers, made the achievement of an ever-elusive peace deal seem all the more important with every passing year.

This idea was a convenient point of agreement between Washington policymakers and Arab regimes. For Washington, the peace process was a good source of photo ops and a chance to show concern for human rights in the region without interfering with the propensity of America’s Arab allies to torture and murder their political opponents. As for the regimes, they were happy to escape criticism of their own failures—rampant corruption, lack of basic human rights and freedoms, and violence against the Arabs they rule—by blaming Israel.

…. However there is a clear connection between the Palestinian cause and the wave of popular discontent that has upended the foundations of Arab politics. By pushing the centrality of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict for the past four decades, the West has helped to underwrite Arab repression at home. The rationale behind the emergency laws in places like Syria and Egypt (even now after Cairo’s “revolution”) is that because of the war with Israel, the Arab security states must be ever-vigilant and therefore forbid their people from exercising basic rights like freedom of speech—or, in the words of Gamal Abdel Nasser, “no voice louder than the cry of battle”—diktats that they enforce through torture and murder …

Arab “liberals,” those Western-educated intellectuals … fill the editorial pages of the U.S. press with pleas to push harder on the peace process lest we empower the radicals. But at this stage the peace process does nothing except empower radicals by providing them with a staging ground.