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Arab Spring continues outside the headlines

by Eric Ferguson on November 25, 2011 · 0 comments

UPDATES: Already there are updates, including video from Saudi Arabia of an armored car trying to run into protesters, and video of a protest in Iran. I added them after the older paragraphs about that particular country. Look for the word “UPDATE”.

Obviously that headline isn’t completely true, because if it’s not being reported, then how am I linking to reports? It’s more a case that our domestic concerns with the economy and the latest dumb things said during Republican presidential debates have pushed the Arab Spring off the front pages and maybe even to the hidden places where a bit of looking is necessary. Most of the links that follow are foreign media. Maybe a casual consumer of news has heard Syria is violent. There’s a big story there certainly, but it’s not the only story.

Some of the news is actually good, where democracy and rule of law made some advances. Just to make us aware there are other stories, let’s start with where the Arab Spring started, Tunisia. This is also a story unlikely to have made it into most news media.

Tunisia: Tunisia recently held its first democratic election, and they came off in such a way as to stay out of the news. Voters chose an assembly to write the next constitution. Demonstrators at the first session took no chances, bringing signs that said, “we’re watching you”.

Morocco: Today is the first parliamentary election under the new constitution. Reformers who led Morocco’s protest movement are boycotting on the grounds the reforms don’t go far enough, so there are concerns about a low voter turnout. The new constitution made Morocco officially a constitutional monarchy, the first in the Arab world if they make it work, and requires the king to select the leader of the largest party as prime minister. Whether enough power shifted from king to parliament to keep enough of the people happy is the ultimate question. Morocco has been overlooked, but they’ve done what they’ve done so far with little violence.

UPDATE: A moderate Islamic party won the plurality of seats and the right to pick the prime minister.

Jordan: Protests continue. They’re so under the media radar, that even actively looking, there’s not much to find. It appears protests are ongoing, and that reforms either didn’t get implemented or didn’t go far.

Saudi Arabia: Protests have started up again in the part of Saudi Arabia inhabited by the Shiite minority. Security forces have killed several demonstrators, and claim the deaths occurred during exchanges of gunfire.

UPDATE: Video of an armored car that appears to be trying to run into protesters.

Kuwait: Arab Spring has reached Kuwait. Protesters recently stormed the parliament building to denounce corruption and demand the resignation of the prime minister.

Bahrain: Now we’re getting into stories that might have looked through to those not actively following the region. Wednesday, an international human rights panel on Bahrain’s crackdown on opponents said the government systematically tortured detainees, as well as using excessive force during arrests and denying due process. If you didn’t hear about this, guess who you have that in common with: Bahrainis. Their media reported that the panel said the medical workers prosecuted by the government denied care to injured Sunnis, and blamed Iran for incitement. The panel said neither. Who knew Fox News had a Bahraini branch?

The awkward part for the US is we have long-standing good relations with the government. We have a navy base there, and a shared distrust of Iran. There is also a pending arms sale that was delayed due to the crackdown, and may or may not go through now that the rights panel has reported.

Yemen: Good news and bad news: The dictator finally agreed to step down, but he got himself a good deal after all he put his country through while trying to hang on, or at least that’s how many who have been protesting for 10 months see it. It appears the dictator has given up power. He keeps the title for 90 days, and then he’ll be immune from prosecution. Protests have continued, government supporters have continued to kill protesters, and loyal army units have fought with defectors.

Control of the country is geographically fractured. The area where Anwar al-Awlaki was killed by a US drone is under control of Al Qaida, and other areas are controlled by other insurgencies or tribal militias. Our government has long cooperated with the outgoing dictator, even though it appears the Obama administration was active in convincing him to go.

UPDATE: Presidential elections have been called for February 21. Protests have continued however, apparently because of the immunity from prosecution for the outgoing president.

Egypt: Now a story you probably have heard even without having to look for it, protests have resumed in Tahrir Square. Since this has received ample coverage, I’ll just post today’s update, that the military has appointed a new civilian prime minister, though this appears to little to satisfy the protesters. The Obama administration is urging the military government to step down quickly.

Syria: This is the one that’s been on the front pages, so no need to repeat everything. I just want to mention a couple aspects. First, here’s one to show anyone who tries to claim the Bush administration should get credit for the Arab Spring because of their invasion of Iraq: what happened to Iraq is deterring Syrian Christians from supporting the uprising. Rather supports my theory that far from encouraging Arabs to overthrow their dictators, what Iraq turned into under Bush’s invasion and occupation actually deterred Arabs from challenging their governments for fear their countries would become like Iraq.

The other aspect worth mentioning is what I see as the growing likelihood of Turkish intervention. Yes, Turkish intervention. The the Turkish government had good relations with the Assad regime, it’s now openly calling for it to give up power. Turkey called the Arab League’s ultimatum “Syria’s last chance”. Turkey has harbored Syrian refugees since towns near the border were attacked by the Syrian army, and is now harboring Syrian opponents including the Free Syrian Army that is carrying on an insurgency. Turkish buses carrying pilgrims home to Turkey from Mecca were attacked in Syria by men wearing army uniforms. Turkey has developed into a regional power, enough so that even if the US and EU nations don’t get militarily engaged in Syria, Turkey might not need them. With Syrian rebels to do much of the fighting, it could launch its own intervention. The other Arab nations might not send troops, but likely wouldn’t object. Even though they’re still mostly dictators themselves, the end of a regime friendly to Iran, and a regionally destabilizing situation in Syria, would be good things. Moreover, the US and NATO just got done with Libya which frees resources, but the EU has its own crisis right now, and the US is war-weary, not to mention that civil war in Yemen is still possible and might entail western intervention. If intervening is to be done, it will probably have to be Turkey that does it.

UPDATE: Arab League finance ministers have drafted sanctions against Syria, it appears nine more protesters were killed by the government, and eight soldiers were killed by defecting soldiers.

UPDATE: How did I leave out Libya? Libya has a new transitional government. The transitional council is trying to address the problem of being self-appointed and ruling over a fractious country who may or may not feel represented.

UPDATE: Iran hasn’t gotten much attention during the “Arab Spring”, maybe because it isn’t Arab, or maybe an assumption the oppostion has remained successfully suppressed since the protests that broke out after Ahmadenajad stole the presidential election. However, here are students protesting the abolition of co-ed education. It sounds like a silly thing, but professors have been fired for refusing to go along with it. There also peaceful marchers in Tabriz calling for Ayatollah Khamenei to step down. These Iran videos need to be seen by the nutcases talking about bombing Iran. We would be bombing people who want peace and democracy and have the courage to defy their government.


Some Middle East bits getting overlooked

by Eric Ferguson on September 2, 2011 · 0 comments

UPDATE One more that seems rather big to have gone mostly unremarked: no ground troops in Libya.

Some bits of Middle East news that seem worthy of more attention than they’ve gotten:

There were no US military deaths in Iraq in August. That’s the first month with no deaths since Bush and Cheney invaded the wrong country. I almost wrote “since the wear started”, but we mustn’t let anyone forget it didn’t just start, but was started, without provocation, under false pretenses.  A month with none of our troops dying doesn’t mean all is calm in Iraq, as the ongoing terrorist attacks show, but maybe it’s time for us to go.

“Time” is meant literally, as the withdrawal schedule under the status of forces agreement has us leaving in just a few months. Some US government officials have been trying to extend our stay, putting up trial balloons (at least I hope they were just trial balloons) about us staying longer or keeping a smaller force in Iraq permanently. Certainly that was the original neocon vision and the bases sounded awfully permanent. However, an overlooked bit of Obama’s speech to the American Legion in Minneapolis Tuesday was his mention that we’re withdrawing at the end of the year. Looks like he resisted the pressure to stay. Good for him.

By the way, if anyone wonders why the left hasn’t been on Obama’s case as much as Bush’s about the war in Iraq, or at least why I haven’t been on Obama about it, that’s why.
It’s not three. I mean the number of countries that have had successful movements for democracy in the Arab world. There is a chance for democracy in three adjoining countries in North Africa which have overthrown their dictators (assuming Gaddafi really is as done as he seems), but four are undergoing serious changes. Oft-overlooked Morocco had a referendum on constitutional changes and has set a date for multi-party elections. Morocco is becoming a constitutional monarchy officially. The King is still retaining considerable power, much more than European monarchs, but he is giving up considerable power, more than other Arab monarchs. Protests were met with much less force than in other Arab dictatorships. Less isn’t none, and opponents of the government aren’t satisfied with the changes so far, but they have made serious progress. They’ve had the Arab Spring’s least reported success.

Protests have resumed in Bahrain. Today’s was a funeral for a 14-year-old killed by a tear gas canister fired at close range directly into protesters. The photo at the top is from the linked Al Jazeera English article. Of course, something that hasn’t changed is Saudi Arabia sees Bahrain as their Cuba, a small country off their shore who they don’t want being run by anyone hostile, and they won’t be convinced a Bahrain ruled by the Shia majority won’t be a base for Iran.

And just for fun, according to Dick Cheney, Barack Obama’s strategy in Libya must have been a failure because even though it succeeded, what he did doesn’t work. That’s my characterization of Cheney’s belief multilateralism doesn’t work. the TPM headline is Dick Cheney’s Obviously Not Impressed With Obama’s Strategy In Libya, but I suggested it should be “Cheney obviously not impressed with Obama’s strategy of attacking the right country”. Yes I know, Obama didn’t actually invade Libya. I just seems like if Libya was handled by the bushies, they’d have responded to Libyan pleas for military intervention by attacking Botswana.

UPDATE: NATO wants the UN to take the lead in Libya, and says no to ground troops. I’m guessing, stress on “guessing”, that at least one reason is NATO wants to conserve resources in case they’re needed for a similar war in Syria, which has about three times Libya’s population.


Libya probably isn’t about the oil

by Eric Ferguson on March 23, 2011 · 0 comments

I’m actually more sure than that headline probably implies, though not being privy to Obama’s thoughts or the administration’s internal discussions, nor to what UN delegations said outside Security Council chambers, I can’t be 100% sure intervention in Libya isn’t about oil. Let’s say there are good reasons to doubt it.

I’m essentially hearing the same comments in multiple places, along the lines of, “Why aren’t we in Yemen, Bahrain, and Sudan? Because they don’t have oil.” The problem is Sudan does have oil. Sudan also had two civil wars, and it took a long time before anyone intervened militarily, (eventually the African Union in Darfur and UN peacekeepers in South Sudan, so there was ample time to intervene, but despite the oil supplies, we didn’t. Yemen and Bahrain have relatively small oil supplies, but there are good reasons to not intervene in those two countries, or at least I can think of some reasons, and none of them are the lack of oil.

We have intervened in recent decades in nations that don’t have oil. Somalia, Kosovo, and Bosnia jump to mind. If the pattern is supposed to be we intervene where there is oil, and ignore bad situations that don’t involve oil producers, there are an awful lot of exceptions.

It also seems we’re pursuing a policy in Libya likely to slow the resumption of oil exports. No matter what else he did, Gaddafi always kept the oil flowing. The fastest way to resume exports would have been to let Gaddafi win. Let him crush the rebels as fast as possible, and then he’ll turn on the oil again. However many people he’s willing to kill, and whatever he thinks of any other countries, he needs to sell oil to keep the cash flowing in. By reducing Gadaffi’s strength, there’s a risk of a long stalemate which certainly could shut down Libya’s oil industry, and maybe one side will decide it makes sense to destroy the oil infrastructure. If the rebels win, they’ll probably be desperate to resume selling oil, and I can’t think of a scenario where they wouldn’t, but we can’t know for sure.

So if the reason for intervention isn’t oil, what is it? My best guess is Obama wants to avoid blame for another Rwanda. That haunted the Clinton administration. I’ve never understood what they could have done about it, but apparently they felt whatever they could do, they didn’t. I suspect Obama also wants to encourage democratic opposition that has sprung up in the “Arab Spring”, and wants to discourage dictators from thinking they can stay in power by engaging in a civil war of their own, but Rwanda is what gets mentioned in public, so it’s the one motive that doesn’t require just deducing.


Intervention in Yemen and Bahrain

by Eric Ferguson on March 22, 2011 · 0 comments


Let me be clear I haven’t heard any calls for US military intervention in Yemen or Bahrain, not even from the usual suspects on the Sunday morning DC interview shows. I’m responding to what seems a possible basis for such calls, like questions about why, if we’re intervening in Libya, we don’t also intervene in these other nations. Such questions can be raised in opposition to going into Libya, but could easily be turned into a reason to intervene in the other two. There’s also an assumption that the US can have done whatever it wants done, so if something happens, either we secretly wanted it, or we’ve lost all influence. For example, in this otherwise good background on Bahrain, author Mark LeVine said,

If we are to believe that president Obama would actually like to see democracy flower in the Middle East, then the Saudi entrance into Bahrain and the subsequent launch of a full scale military assault on peaceful protesters can only be viewed as a demonstration of the United States’ increasing weakness – “irrelevance” is the word increasingly used by people here-vis-a-vis its regional clients.

The recent events can only be understood as a direct challenge, and indeed, a slap in the face, of the president and his most senior advisers, who publicly urged restraint and yet were forced to declare that the move into Bahrain was “not an invasion”.

Either that, or defence secretary Gates, and through him the president, were fully briefed on the immanent invasion and did nothing to try to prevent it.

That’s too simple, either we wanted it or can do nothing. It’s this sort of commentary I’m hearing that makes me think there could be a move towards intervention. Should we sending troops or dropping bombs in Yemen and Bahrain? Short answer, no, with a big asterisk. In Yemen especially, the situation is changing rapidly. The long version of the answer may have to be rewritten in a week. For now though, these two countries and Libya are three quite different situations, which is why I supported a no-fly zone in Libya, but I’m saying no to these other two. There might be other options however.
Among the differences between these three countries, one difference is salient: Libya is already at war. Bahrain isn’t. Yemen — well, it’s complicated. We couldn’t start a war in Libya, but maybe we can bring it to an end. However, starting a war, which would be the effect of going into the other two, can make things worse. We should have learned that from Iraq, that the horror of war can be worse than waiting for people to rise against their dictator if and when they see fit. Actually, some of us had figured that out, which was one reason those of us who opposed Bush’s war did so, but for those who didn’t know, Iraq should make it clear. As bad as it is for the opposition in Yemen and Bahrain, we could make it much worse. That’s what Gaddafi understood when he threatened civil war if the protests didn’t stop. At least the Bahrainis and Yemenis so far aren’t being shelled while airplanes drop bombs. They aren’t getting caught in the crossfire of firefights. They also aren’t asking the outside world to come in and save them.

That’s not a small thing, though of course it could change. The Libyan rebels tried a People Power revolution first, and then seemed to be winning when their uprising became an armed one. That’s why I said the short answer “no” comes with an asterisk. For now though, while the Libyans pleaded for help and celebrated the UN Security Council resolution, nothing like that has happened in Yemen or Bahrain.

None of this is to approve of the Saudi and Emirati* interventions in Bahrain. The legalities of GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) and government sovereignty aside, they obviously intervened to help an absolute monarchy suppress the clear majority of its people with the sheer quantity of force. There’s nothing praiseworthy in that. It’s also not a situation that will be made better by having the 5th Fleet start firing missiles.

In the case of Yemen, I said it’s complicated to say it’s not at war because while the opposition that’s been engaging in street protests hasn’t turned into an armed rebellion, there is already an insurgency among the Shiites against the Sunni government, a separatist movement in the South, and one of the more active Al Qaida groups. I’m not sure how to categorize the Al Qaida supporters, but that’s two or three insurgencies. We also learned from Wikileaks that we secretly attacked Al Qaida targets and joined the Yemeni government in pretending the Yemeni government launched the attack. That revelation probably didn’t build up trust with the Yemeni people (also why I consider Bradley Manning a whistle-blower, not a traitor).

So if we don’t launch military interventions, is the US irrelevant, as LeVine suggested? That seems like a false choice. There could be other options. To speculate a moment, in Bahrain, we know the Saudis and Emiratis are afraid the other Gulf kingdoms will be challenged like Bahrain, and maybe they’ll lose their own thrones. There’s probably something sectarian to it too, but I doubt they care so much about who overthrows them as the fact of being overthrown. It seems that’s our leverage. We could raise a fuss about how they treat their own opposition movements. The Saudis are having to suppress demonstrations too now, and the Emiratis have to feel at least little vulnerable. Being essentially a confederation, it might be possible to topple one emirate without toppling all of them, and if Abu Dhabi becomes democratic, what would be Dubai’s excuse? Some open support for a UAE democracy movement would presumably be really unwelcome, so a suggestion that we would refrain from unwelcome statements if only there weren’t Emirati troop in Bahrain might move them.

Saudi Arabia is a lot bigger, a theocracy as well as a monarchy, and maybe the toughest nut to crack for an Arab democracy movement — but apparently they’re still afraid. I wish there was an obvious way to move them. They have to be convinced they’re safer getting out of Bahrain than staying in. They might not be so moved by a threat to encourage the Saudi opposition movement, but the possibility of supporting opposition in other Gulf kingdoms might move them.

I reiterate those last two paragraphs were speculative, but the point is we shouldn’t just assume our only options are dropping bombs or accepting helplessness.

In Yemen, there’s not quite such need for speculation, because we know our government and the Yemeni government have a relationship. I suspect when the Bob Woodward book comes out or next Wikileak leaks, we’ll learn Obama used US influence to convince Hosni Mubarak to give up power in Egypt. That seems a much better alternative to sending in our own troops. Especially as the dictator, Ali Abdullah Saleh (middle name included to differentiate from Ali Mohsen Saleh, a general who just came out for the opposition and we might be hearing about both) is seeing elements of his security forces turning against him.

We don’t know what happens next. If Saleh leaves, do the insurgencies intensify to seize their chance, or do they make peace with the new government? If Saudi and Emirati forces withdraw from Bahrain, does the Bahraini government collapse, or does fear cause it to get even more violent? And do fears of Iranian influence with the Shiite majority come true? Too soon to tell, but pending new developments, US military intervention in these two countries seems like a really bad idea.

*”Emiratis” refers to the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Yes, it’s a weird word, like calling people where there are presidents “presidentatis”. Unless they come up with a different name for themselves, we’re stuck with it. Besides, it’s not any worse than “Saudi”, which is just the name of the ruling family of that part of the Arabian peninsula. It would be like changing Britain to “Windsor Europe”.

This NPR story refers to a general named Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar who seems to be the same person the Al Jazeera English story referred to as Ali Mohsen Saleh. I haven’t been able to determine if he has two names, they’re two different generals, or one story is wrong. It does sound like this could be the next president, in which case I suppose it will be made clear.


Intervention in Yemen and Bahrain

by Eric Ferguson on March 22, 2011 · 0 comments

Let me be clear I haven’t heard any calls for US military intervention in Yemen or Bahrain. I’m responding to what seems a possible basis for such calls, like questions about why, if we’re intervening in Libya, we don’t also intervene in these other nations. Such questions can be raised in opposition to going into Libya, but could easily be turned into a reason to intervene in the other two. There’s also an assumption that the US can have done whatever it wants done, so if something happens, either we secretly wanted it, or we’ve lost all influence. For example, in this otherwise good background on Bahrain, author Mark LeVine said,

If we are to believe that president Obama would actually like to see democracy flower in the Middle East, then the Saudi entrance into Bahrain and the subsequent launch of a full scale military assault on peaceful protesters can only be viewed as a demonstration of the United States’ increasing weakness – “irrelevance” is the word increasingly used by people here-vis-a-vis its regional clients.

The recent events can only be understood as a direct challenge, and indeed, a slap in the face, of the president and his most senior advisers, who publicly urged restraint and yet were forced to declare that the move into Bahrain was “not an invasion”.

Either that, or defence secretary Gates, and through him the president, were fully briefed on the immanent invasion and did nothing to try to prevent it.

That’s too simple, either we wanted it or can do nothing. It’s this sort of commentary I’m hearing that makes me think there could be a move towards intervention. Should we sending troops or dropping bombs in Yemen and Bahrain? Short answer, no, with a big asterisk. In Yemen especially, the situation is changing rapidly. The long version of the answer may have to be rewritten in a week. For now though, these two countries and Libya are three quite different situations, which is why I supported a no-fly zone in Libya, but I’m saying no to these other two. There might be other options however.
Among the differences between these three countries, one difference is salient: Libya is already at war. Bahrain isn’t. Yemen — well, it’s complicated. We couldn’t start a war in Libya, but maybe we can bring it to an end. However, starting war, which would be the effect of going into the other two, can make things worse. We should have learned that from Iraq, that the horror of war can be worse than waiting for people to rise against their dictator if and when they see fit.


We could be at war in Libya soon

by Eric Ferguson on March 16, 2011 · 0 comments

It seems odd we could be considering a military intervention in a foreign war and not have it dominate the headlines. Goes to show just how big a disaster is occurring in Japan (present perfect tense because we still don’t know how big the nuclear disaster is going to be), and having our basic rights under assault not only in Wisconsin, but also such far away places as St. Paul and Minneapolis, is a very big deal.

Well, we have to multitask, because as dan.burns noted yesterday, the Libyan rebellion could be just days from collapse and the slaughter of the defeated could be on a scale hard to fathom. If the outside world is going to do anything, it has a very short time to make a decision, and doing nothing is a decision. It looks like the usual situation where everyone’s waiting for the United States to make the decision, which means Obama gets just a short time to decide. If we in the general public want to be heard before a decision is made, that means speaking up now.

Going to war, or taking actions should of all-out war but potentially leading there, is maybe as serious a decision as a country makes. I’ve posted a couple times about Libya to share my thought process as I try to sort through things for myself, and to encourage some thought rather then the reflexes we all have. On the one hand, I described the defense hawks as, “for these guys, bombing is the tax cuts of foreign policy. On the left side, it’s hard to talk us into military intervention. OK, maybe I’m generalizing my own reaction to the possibility of using force somewhere. It’s just that after opposing the invasion of Iraq so strongly, after cutting my politically active teeth on opposing Reagan’s wars in Central America, it’s difficult to trust the president, any president, to just add on another war and say he knows more than we do and rah rah go get the bad guys. We know presidents who really want a war will misrepresent things. We know that the press can be more accurate than intelligence.

No, I prefer to speak up with my own opinion, preferably one that’s informed and coherent. So here’s where I see it coming to: there are risks in establishing a no-fly zone. There are risks in doing nothing. We actually have experience with both choices, so we’re not operating purely on guesswork. Time to decide is really short. Information is murky, might be wrong, might have changed.  On the other hand, if Obama really wanted to go in, he’d have found a reason and gone in, and he appears to be reluctant. That’s reassuring. They’re thinking about it. I’m guessing the administration is trying to figure out whether establishing the no-fly zone or staying entails the bigger risks. That’s what we need to think through also.
I went through risks of a no-fly zone in more detail in my prior post on the subject, so I’ll keep this brief. If we do this:

—Libyan rebels may assume we’ll go further if necessary, like providing arms, conducting air strikes, or what I dubbed the Shores of Tripoli option, meaning sending in the troops on the ground, presumably taking the capital, just like in the Marine Hymn and the Tripolian War. If they assume we’ll go further, they may take unreasonable risks, perhaps necessitating our greater involvement.

—There’s a risk other governments won’t participate enough to mitigate our costs and risks.

—Our armed forces are stretched and tired after all these years in Iraq and Afghanistan, so even if they can handle this extra strain, we may not be able to handle another simultaneous crisis, or perhaps Libya or another crisis will force an early withdrawal from Iraq (actually, I’m OK with leaving ahead of schedule) or a bigger drawdown from Afghanistan than planned (maybe that’s a good idea anyway).

—Gadaffi could still win. I don’t see how, but he looked like his regime was collapsing just a week ago. Then not only did resources go to waste, but we really look unable to handle a difficult situation, and he and other dictators might feel freer to start something.

—Someone else could intervene on Gadaffi’s side creating a wider war. That seems very unlikely given that such an intervention would require taking on us as well as the Libyan rebels, but governments make bad decisions sometimes.

—Opposition movements in other dictatorships may feel they can resort to arms because someone will intervene to save them if they can’t win.

—No-fly zones are low risk for the armed forces, but it’s not zero, and if our involvement escalates, the risk grows.

—The rebels might turn out to have little in common besides opposition to the current dictator. They may fracture, some may be Islamists, some may be military dictator wannabes. Democracy is possible, but not guaranteed.

However, there are risks to not getting involved, and we have to consider these too:

—If the rebels lose, as looks likely, Gadaffi will be free to deal with them how he wants. His record with opponents is prison, torture, and large scale executions. This is far bigger than any opposition he’s faced before, and it’s seems reasonable to assume that if he wins, the killing will be massive.

—There are also large numbers of refugees crossing the Tunisian and Egyptian borders. These are mostly foreign workers, but Libyans will join them as the fighting continues and if Gadaffi wins, the flow of refugees could get much bigger. The money we saved by not having a no-fly zone could go to humanitarian aid. The host countries just overthrew their own dictators and are still unstable, so we don’t know the risks of a refugee problem on top of that. What was just gained in terms of hopes for democratic change could be lost.

—Other dictators may look at the dictators who fell in Egypt and Tunisia, and the one who survived in Libya, and decide that Gadaffi is the example to follow. He may have reduced his country to rubble, but a strange aspect of human psychology is some people prefer to rule the rubble than not rule the standing building. Dictators seem prone to such thinking. Dictators in the Middle east must especially be watching.

—There could be a wider war, which yes, I cited as a risk of getting involved. I have trouble seeing a triumphant Gadaffi moving on to attack a neighbor, but I could see Tunisian or Egyptian dictator wannabes with loyal army units deciding that the lesson if power can be had if you have and apply enough force. I could also see a stalemated Libyan civil war being a lure to neighbors who see an interest in one side or the other. A quick victory by the rebels might be the best hope of keeping the fighting brief.

Let’s acknowledge some things that have changed since the war started. I wrote in the first post about how Libyans wanted to do this themselves and not become another Iraq. I’m sure they still don’t want to become Iraq, but they have definitely changed their minds on foreign help as the war has reversed, so I’m convinced a no-fly zone will have popular support in Libya, regardless of popularity in the countries doing the enforcing. The rebels have also formed something that looks like a nascent government, and France and the Arab League have already recognized it as the government. If anyone’s concern is that one government shouldn’t back uprisings against other governments, it’s possible to recognize the rebels as the government, and then we’re helping a government against an armed force trying to overthrow it — that may be only a patina of legality, but it is at least a patina.

If the concern is foreign countries shouldn’t interfere in someone else’s civil war, keep in mind that Gadaffi’s mercenaries are presumably there with the approval of their governments, at least by their not objecting. It also seems suspicious that Gadaffi was able to turn the military situation around so quickly. Did someone already intervene on Gadaffi’s side? My suspicion falls on Algeria. It’s a dictatorship which has relied on force to stay in power in the past, it has its own opposition movement it would presumably not like to see encouraged by yet another neighboring regime falling, it borders Libya in the West where Gadaffi has mostly retained control so it should have been possible to slip him some help without detection. So if the issue is foreign intervention in a civil war, that genie seems to be out of the bottle already (just a common expression that fits, no ethnic reference intended).

Possibly the biggest change occurred yesterday, when some of Bahrain’s neighbors rolled in the tanks to prevent Bahrain’s people from changing their government. Despite being met with deadly force, protesters continued and they’ve been growing. Would the neighboring absolute monarchies have helped the absolute monarch of Bahrain without the rest of the world being distracted by Libya and Japan? Can’t tell. That these same governments voted as members of the Arab League to endorse a no-fly zone in Libya doesn’t seem consistent. Maybe it has to do a close identification with other monarchies in the Persian Gulf. We could probably go on with maybies, but it does seem that if military intervention to help people who attempted a peaceful revolution is wrong, then intervening to help the king who shoots his own people for daring to demand respect for their rights is sure wrong.

America has at times intervened to help dictators keep or take power from democrats. Does that mean we can’t speak up when we see it happening, or does it mean we have to speak up and point out that we’ve done this ourselves, so we see exactly what’s going on? Maybe Bahrain is a completely separate problem from Libya, connected only in that both peaceful revolutions (to begin with at least — we’ll see what happens in Bahrain) were inspired by the revolutions in Egypt and Tunisia.

In terms of examples, we have Rwanda as an example of where we didn’t intervene, and Bosnia as an example of where we did. I doubt we could have done much about Rwanda, but the regret of officials in the Clinton administration suggests that what we could do, we didn’t. We did establish a no-fly zone in Bosnia, and it wasn’t enough. We did end up having to escalate. I wasn’t pleased with every decision the Clinton administration made in Bosnia, but that it turned out better than Rwanda seems inarguable. We can’t reasonably expect to agree with every move the Obama administration makes in Libya, but for now the question is between trying something, and trying nothing.

I’m also thinking of a difference between Libya and Iraq at the time of Bush’s invasion. Both were ruled by dictators with little hesitation about killing their own people. To get rid of Saddam, we visited the horrors of war upon Iraq. Was Iraq better off for it? No. They have a better government now, but hundreds of thousands were killed and millions were turned into refugees. However, Libya is already experiencing the horrors of war. There are already huge numbers of refugees. In terms of avoiding such calamities — too late.

Here’s where I’m leaning now — establish the no-fly zone. The risks of going in are considerable, but less than the risks of doing nothing. (A side note: the more I think about the uncertainties of the position I’m coming to adopt, the more amazed I get that proponents of invading Iraq ever thought it would be quick and simple, and the more convinced I become they thought only about how to sell the war and not a bit about whether they should.) I’m becoming convinced the killing will be far more if Gadaffi wins. Even a stalemate with prolonged fighting would be less murderous. It isn’t just about Libya, but it’s about the other Middle Eastern dictators, who are going to take a lesson from Gadaffi’s fate. We don’t want that lesson to be kill as many people as you have to, and you’ll stay in power. That could mean a quick end to what I’ve heard dubbed “Arab Spring”, referring back to the “Prague Spring” of 1968, though that’s not a propitious namesake. From a humanitarian point of view, that would be a disaster. The best thing all around is a quick win for the Libyan rebels. That would mean the least killing, the least likelihood of war spreading, and the shortest commitment for us (militarily — we might have a prolonged commitment in terms of reconstruction aid, but that’s fine; civilian aid is a bargain compared to military spending), and the best chance to sustain democracy movements throughout the region.

One last note. I thought for just a moment about putting up a poll, but just a moment. A quick voluntary poll question would defeat half the point, that this is more complicated than just do this or do that, even though I’m saying we need to give our opinions to the administration right now if we’re to influence the decision.


By that title, I mean can we think through direct military involvement in Libya like we didn’t in Iraq? It’s not a matter of removing a dictator like Gadaffi being morally right. Of course it is. So was removing Saddam. How did that turn out? A morally right choice isn’t always the only morally right choice. Libya is a different situation than Iraq, like we’re going on information available in the news media from reporters on the spot, not what a few insiderish reporters tell us they heard from anonymous sources saying just what the administration wants said. Besides, remember history’s warning’s about planning to fight the last war. This isn’t Iraq, and we need to think about what we’re getting in to. If we just jump in assuming there’s only one way things can come out, we may re-learn another of history’s lessons: those who get into optional wars are rarely right in their predictions of how the war will go. For what it’s worth, that was one reason I opposed invading Iraq.

It’s clear there’s momentum towards establishing a no-fly zone. This has ramifications. That would be true of course about other options, like doing nothing, or sending just humanitarian aid, or sending in the Marines for “shores of Tripoli” the sequel, but since a no-fly zone seems just a matter of time, let’s ask some necessary questions.
How open-ended is this commitment? In terms of time, if removing Gadaffi’s air supremacy doesn’t topple him but just makes the fighting even, then the war could go on for years. Are we willing to enforce it for years? We might be, but it would be a huge help if expectations were set by telling the public up front.

What if the no-fly zone isn’t enough to prevent Gadaffi winning? Are we willing to escalate, and how much? Air strikes? Arming and training rebel soldiers? The Shores of Tripoli option? Whatever we’re willing do to, what assumptions will Libyan rebels make about how much further we’re willing to go? Maybe they’ll assume the no-fly zone is it, and now they need to win this themselves, but maybe they’ll assume we’ll escalate however necessary to guarantee Gadaffi is overthrown. Let’s at least set expectations.

Speaking of expectations, what message are we sending to other people rising up against their dictators? Will they assume if “People Power” revolutions fail, they can take up arms and expect US backing? I’m not even thinking long-term, but rather I’m looking at Yemen, Bahrain, and Ivory Coast. All three regimes have shown a willingness to shoot protesters. Bahrain’s regime stopped shooting for now, but that country seems stalemated. Yemen’s dictator just made concessions, but apparently too little for this point. Ivory Coast’s dictator seems quite Gadaffi-like in his murderousness. If we put up a no-fly zone in Libya, especially if we go farther than a no-fly zone, will the Ivorian opposition think we’re coming to their rescue? If our involvement is going to be just Libya, we need some good reason why it’s just Libya.

If we make a major commitment, how thin do US forces become? We’re mostly out of Iraq, but hardly gone, and we escalated in Afghanistan. The length of those two wars mean uniformed personnel have mostly done multiple tours. After making whatever commitment we make to Libya, what happens if another problem pops up, like some other dictator says, “the US is distracted so now is the time to do ___”?

Is it legal? In terms of American law, though the war making power belongs to Congress (“unitary executive” theory notwithstanding), there are plenty of precedents of presidents deploying troops on their own and getting congressional approval only after the fact. So Obama could probably get away with doing this with no one else’s approval, but I would remind him that he has a House that’s just itching to impeach him, and how much sweeter if it was for something liberals generally find repellent, namely the president taking the country into war on his own. Regardless of what predecessors got away with, even if it’s perceived as a rush, he needs to get congressional authorization first.

That stone would hit a second bird, since the authorization would set expectations of the public, the Libyan rebels, and the outside world. He could then say we’re setting up just a no fly zone, or we’re going into just Libya, or we leave on this date, because that’s what was authorized.

In terms of international law, the closest thing to a body with global authority to send troops and authorize attacks is the UN Security Council. If the Council does authorize a no-fly zone, that ends most reasonable discussion of legality. It leaves a question about the Council’s authority to intervene in a civil war rather than a conflict across borders, but even there, it has precedent on its side. But what if no such authorization is coming?

If not the UN, regional organizations sometimes authorize military interventions, and these are regarded as legal. That the Arab League backs a no-fly zone is probably legal enough, but it also begs a question: if the Arab League will back a no-fly  zone, will it help enforce it? How earnest will such help be since League members are themselves dictators facing some degree of protest, and therefore may not be comfortable with helping a rebellion overthrow a dictator.

Besides the Arab League, who else will help? It’s not just expensive to do this by ourselves, but the US intervening unilaterally in a third world country — isn’t that the sort of image we want to get a way from? If we do this ourselves, with no authorization from some legitimate international body, we’re essentially asserting the right to intervene in civil wars where we have a preference for one side. Even if only dictators take this amiss, this is still a clear threat to them, and that has blowback. Maybe they behave, or maybe they go to China for backing, or maybe they build their own atomic bomb. NATO would be help, but in terms of the long term effect, NATO is supposed to be a defensive alliance. Not only is Libya outside NATO, but at least Afghanistan was used to attack a NATO member. There’s no such justification here. Egypt, though, has a decent air force that we provided, and its right next door. I can think of the first candidate for helping with enforcement.

Will someone intervene on Gadaffi’s side? I can’t think of a candidate now, but somehow we didn’t expect China to enter the war on North Korea’s side either, and we paid heavily for that. How far will we go if there is such an intervention?

Maybe this is the biggest question: are we willing to go so far as to establish that when a dictator is regarded as sufficiently cruel to his own people, the outside world will act militarily to over throw him? This isn’t new. We answered “yes” when Saddam’s cruelty was used to justify the invasion of Iraq, albeit after we couldn’t find WMDs or the Iraqi connection to Al Qaida. Maybe that’s a bad example, but that’s essentially the reason for interventions in Somalia. It’s why the African Union got involved in Darfur and might get involved in Ivory Coast. Do we understand that Libya would be a step up in terms of not just imposing peace, but of picking a side and overthrowing a government that isn’t (at the moment) threatening other nations?

My apologies if it seems I’m copping out my not concluding by saying exactly what we should do. I have thoughts, but as I write them down, I keep revising and rethinking. My humanitarian impulse is for intervention, but I’m skeptical of each of my opinions (my apologies to any who thought bloggers always have strong opinions). I am sure that if we do this as I think we will, the reasons, goals, and legal legitimacy needs to be laid out. The rebels should be helped only as much as will let them to the rest themselves, because this has to be their overthrow, not like Iraq. The Arabs, in what might be their first action of the new era that has started in that region, need to take on as much of the responsibility as they can. Above all, we need to have our eyes open to all the complications that are going to result.


A crazy week all the way around

by Laura Nevitt on February 22, 2011 · 0 comments

I keep sitting down to write something and then something new happens.

First it was the amazing news that Mubarak stepped down – how cool was that! It was amazing to watch peaceful protesting of people result in such positive results. Turn the page and the people of Bahrain and Libya are deciding enough is enough – unfortunately, not so peaceful. Violence and crackdowns, but the people persist in wanting a better place to live.

But what mostly kept my attention was the ongoing assault on women’s rights.
First it was HR3 and the horrendous language that Republicans and 10 Democrats wanted to redefine rape – as if any kind of rape is acceptable.  There was a brief moment when it looked like this language would be removed, but in the end that was not the case.

Then, the US House of Representatives voted to defund Title X entirely – not just for abortion procedures – ALL family planning services. . They just used abortion as red meat to get everyone all riled up. The overwhelming purpose of Title X is to provide healthcare services to women, teenagers and those living in poverty. If you think this is wrong – sign this petition.

Then there is the crazy guy in GA who wants to investigate all miscarriages to make sure they are natural – seriously.

Then there is move by Republicans to defund Head Start – yes, Head Start and using the argument that it’s because mother’s should just stay home with their children.

Then there was what happened in South Dakota – trying to make abortion providers murderers and being able to prosecute them as such. Luckily it got tabled.

Then there was the legislation that made it ok to give birth control to horses while defunding it for women – craziness!

I am sure this is just small sampling and if you know of others, please add it to the list.

But the big news, for those of in MN particularly, is what is happening in WI. They have a governor who created a budget deficit in order to try and bust up unions. This, in a state where one of the largest unions was formed – AFSCME.  The reaction has been large – over 50,000 protesters yesterday. The primary issue being about collective bargaining. State employees get that in tough times, sacrifices need to be made and they are usually willing to make them, as long as you negotiate. Governor Walker decided he didn’t need to do this and is trying to strip these provisions away and is targeting very particular groups – teachers and public employees, while leaving firefighter and police alone. As of this writing the unions have agreed to the budgetary concessions, but the Governor refuses to negotiate.

And, in one of the more bizarre pieces of news, it was the news that my own Congresswoman, Betty McCollum had been threatened because she proposed cutting $7 million in spending from the military – it was being used to sponsor a race car at NASCAR – this is EXACTLY the kind of spending we need to be eliminating and the kind of spending that Tea Party and Republicans have been screaming about – right?

With all of this happening in just the past week, it was hard to try and sit down and write about just one thing.


If there’s one thing that can be discerned for sure from recent events in the Middle East, it’s the upending of Glenn Beck’s “Caliphate Conspiracy” and the rendering of that theory and its author to nothing more than a farcical sideshow to the big show now underway in the Muslim world. Moreover Beck’s latest pratfall may be the beginning of his own self inflicted marginalization and eventual irrelevance, resulting from increased criticism of Beck himself by prominent conservatives.

Beck has promoted the theory that “the Egyptian revolution is not about the citizens of the country fighting for their political rights or better economic conditions.  Instead, the Egyptian people are being “played” by the Muslim Brotherhood.  The Muslim Brotherhood is also part of larger movement by progressives and Marxist to take over much of the world in the pursuit of “social justice.”  Under Beck’s theory the Egyptian revolution will not only spread to other countries the Middle East, but also to India and Europe.  The caliphate will consist of India and much of Southeast Asia, in addition to Portugal, Spain, France, and the United Kingdom.”

Well it goes without saying that such a sophomorically simplistic theory should be seen as irrelevant and inapplicable in a complex world such as ours. Not only is it unlikely that devout Muslims would ever make common cause with “the hardcore socialist and the Communist left”, there isn’t enough of a “hardcore of Communists or Socialists” left in the world today to supplement the ranks of this great “Caliphate” army. Those left from yestardays Communist cadres are too busy making money in China, Russia and Southeast Asia. Likewise, today’s European Socialists seem hardly the type to saddle up for a prolonged war to affect the invasion of their own home territories. American Progressives are now, for the time being, engaged with trying to protect the gains of the past eighty years. Perhaps Mr. Beck is relying on the Maoists of Nepal to come to the aid of todays Islamic radicals. Moreover, today there are twenty two different variations of Islamic thinking, parceled beneath the two main Islamic schools of thought. Thus it would be highly unlikely that any ideological unity could be affected from one end of Islam to the other, especially when you consider the cultural and ethnic differences that one would encounter between Casabalnca and Jakarta.  

To drive the point home, a sampling of what’s actually happening across the Islamic world reveals just how divorced from reality is Mr. Beck and his theory:

• “The Tunisian revolution that overthrew decades of authoritarian rule has entered a delicate new phase in recent days over the role of Islam in politics… Tunisia’s liberal social policies and Western lifestyle shatter stereotypes of the Arab world…Protesters held up signs saying, “Politics ruins religion and religion ruins politics.”

• [In Bahrain] “an anxious calm prevailed, with a standoff continuing between an absolute monarchy determined to preserve its full range of powers and a peaceful opposition demanding a transition to democracy with an elected government and representative Parliament.”

• “But the demands in Morocco include a desire for a more legitimate democracy; with limits on the power of Mohammed VI…The Arab world is changing and the Moroccan people need a change in the Constitution for more democracy. We want a country like Britain, with a constitutional monarchy and a strong Parliament that is not corrupt.”

• “The Egyptian people have spoken, and we have spoken emphatically. In two weeks of peaceful demonstrations we have persistently demanded liberation and democracy. It was groups of brave, sincere Egyptians who initiated this moment of historical opportunity on Jan. 25, and the Muslim Brotherhood is committed to joining the national effort toward reform and progress.”  

• “Surprised by the turnout, older opposition leaders from across the spectrum – including the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood; the liberal protest group the Egyptian Movement for Change, known by its slogan, “Enough”; and the umbrella group organized by Dr. ElBaradei – joined in, vowing to turn out their supporters for another day of protest on Friday. But the same handful of young online organizers were still calling the shots.”

Thus, as shown by the above, there is little evidence of Beck’s claims that:”1. Groups from the hardcore socialist and Communist left and extreme Islam will work together because they are both a common enemy of Israel and the Jew. 2. Groups from the hardcore socialist and Communist left and extreme Islam will work together because they are the common enemy of capitalism and the western way of life. 3. Groups from the hardcore socialist and Communist left and extreme Islam will work to overturn relatively stable countries, because, in the status quo, they are both ostracized from power.” According to Ryan Witt the National Examiner:”there has been no credible evidence that the Muslim Brotherhood is behind the Egyptian uprising.  The Muslim Brotherhood did not officially join the protests until days after the uprising began.  There is also little chance of the Muslim Brotherhood taking over Egypt.  The Muslim Brotherhood has never shown the ability to gain widespread support in Egypt, as their agenda is considered too radical for much of the relatively moderate population.  Many of the ideas of the Muslim Brotherhood, such as limiting the presidency in Egypt to males only, have been strongly rejected by the Egyptian population.”

Beyond the absurdity of Beck and his “Caliphate Conspiracy” theory there is the increasing irrelevance of Beck himself. It would be innaccurate to describe Glenn Beck as a legitimate political commentator, after all he is nothing more than a political entertainerer, in a sense nothing than the equivelent of a rodeo clown in American political comentary. Beck is nothing but a side show to the big show going on all around him.

Of late, as a result of the “Caliphate Conspiracy”, Beck has been taken to task by several prominent American conservatives. Foremost among Beck’s critics is the NeoConservative William Kristol who said: “When Glenn Beck rants about the caliphate taking over the Middle East from Morocco to the Philippines, and lists (invents?) the connections between caliphate-promoters and the American left, he brings to mind no one so much as Robert Welch and the John Birch Society. He’s marginalizing himself, just as his predecessors did back in the early 1960s.” Richard Lowry of the National Review echoed Kristol’s criticism, to wit: “a well-deserved shot at Glenn Beck’s latest wild theorizing.” David Brooks opined on Beck’s “delusional ravings about the caliphate coming back…For the first time, you began to see a lot of really serious conservatives taking on Beck and people like that, and saying, you know, your theories are just wacky.”

What’s the bottom line on all of Mr. Beck’s “Caliphate” blather; plummeting ratings and a declining audience. According to On Media, The Christian Science Monitor and the New York Times’ Frank Rich:” The January ratings are in and Glenn Beck had his worst performance since his Fox show started in January of 2009, drawing just 397,000 viewers in the 25-54 demographic and 1.762 [million] total viewers.” This decline amounts to a 39 percent decline overall and a 48 percent drop off in the prime 25-to-54 age demographic. This figure represents the steepest decline of any cable news show. Quoting Rich:” His strenuous recent efforts to portray the Egyptian revolution as an apocalyptic leftist-jihadist conspiracy have inspired more laughs than adherents.” Or perhaps as per Business insider, Glenn Beck has merely worn out his welcome with American audiences: “It’s entirely possible viewers are simply tiring of the chalkboard and the high rhetoric, which has been notably higher of late…And needless to say Beck is not the phenom he was a year ago, merely by dint of the country becoming more familiar with him.”

Surely none of this could sit well with Rupert Murdoch and the managers of the Fox News Network. Here we are in the midst of one of the greatest events of this new century and one of their prime time commentators is making a fool of himself peddling absurd theories which only give rise to a wave of criticism from both the left and the networks natural allies on the right. Moreover, all of this controversy is taking place against a steady stream of advertisers asking that their products not be promoted on Glenn Beck’s show. In the end, that can’t be good for Fox as it ultimately cares about advertising revenues, not the validity of the multitude of bizarre Glenn Beck conspiracies. By his recent actions, Mr. Beck has merely moved further away from the center of the national and international political discussion, taking his naive and unsophisticated viewers along with him on a magic carpet ride into the realm of irrelevance.

Steven J. Gulitti



Glenn Beck lifts ‘caliphate’ to the top of Google Trends with conspiracy theory – National Political Buzz |…

Glenn Beck Stands By Egypt Caliphate Conspiracy Theory: ‘I’m Not Wrong’…

Next Question for Tunisia: The Role of Islam in Politics…

Amid Standoff, Opposition Seeks Dissolution of Bahraini Government…

Fears of Chaos Temper Calls for Change in Morocco…

What the Muslim Brothers Want…

Protest’s Old Guard Falls In Behind the Young…

Glenn Beck lifts ‘caliphate’ to the top of Google Trends with conspiracy theory…

Why is Glenn Beck freaking out over Egypt and a caliphate?…

Beck hits ratings low, Maddow tops Morgan…

The G.O.P.’s Post-Tucson Traumatic Stress Disorder…


Egypt and the True Meaning of Democracy

by cnerlien on February 19, 2011 · 2 comments

Upon the ousting of Hosni Mubarak from Cairo, pundits and polemicists are scrambling for some sense of explanation for the recent Egyption Revolution.

One could devote an entire piece to Glenn Beck’s apocalyptic fears for the aftermath of Egypts revolution, but that would be better left to far more angry liberals than I. With that said, it must be noted that Beck’s review of the Egyptian uprising equates to the coming of a “global caliphate” and the downfall of the western world. Beck’s paranoia only serves to rile up a fearful base of Conservative America, while the liberal half continues to rolls it eyes never realizing that Beck and his ilk are winning the proganda war for the American Electorate.

Elsewhere on FoxNews, attempts are being made to justify the so-called ‘freedom doctrine’ of Bush the W. Fox anchors have been parading the likes of Paul Wolfowitz to lay claim to W.’s call for democracy in the Middle East in the early 2000’s. This of course is contrary to the material reality of U.S. Foreign Policy in the Middle East. U.S. policy in the region comes down to simply Israel or oil. Iraq and the Saudi’s lie with the oil end of the equation, but Mubarak was supported for Egypts peace accords with Israel thanks to Anwar Sadat and Jimmy Carter. Of course Fox and Friends fail to elaborate that point. Since Sadat’s assination, U.S. Presidents have come to tolerate Mubarak for the perceived greater good. From Reagan to Obama, American Presidents have been complacant to Middle Eastern dictators that prove useful to our strategic efforts in the region. This isn’t a new policy as Presidents have done so throughout the global periphery since World War II to fend off global communism.  

With respect to FoxNews, the more measured David Brooks makes the case that short term turmoil is a fair price for lasting democratic reforms in the Middle East. This belief supports more pragmatic views that long-term strategic interests for both the U.S. and Israel must rest on democratic institutions in the Middle East. The question then remains whether these institutions can indeed have staying power?

The question ‘staying power’ is precisely what George Will asks of the potential democratic reforms in Egypt. Through Will’s ever-so-subtle critique of nearly everything the Obama Administration does, he weaves an argument questioning as to whether U.S. Forgeign Policy truly has the sort of hegemonic power that Reagan Proponents praise and decry at the same time. Will, in his written meandering, brings an even greater point concerning global governance. There is no true global governance. As he derides the CIA and Israeli Intelligence for failing to have the foresight concerning both Egypt and Tunisia, he also states that such movements could hardly be foreseen, lest the West monitor social media and profile every disaffected youth in the developing world.    

Ultimately Egypt represents the most organic, grassroots test for the creation of a Democratic Republic in quite some time. With luck, the people of Egypt can build a democratic foundation required for an enduring republic. This foundation exists in America and other successful republics, though is often overlooked as we succumb to the vitriolic politics of the day. Egyptians must create an institution that respects the sacredness of the electoral process itself.