Saturday, February 12, 2011

Mubarak slammed U.S. in phone call with Israeli Knesset Member

Does it ever bother you who you find yourself in agreement with?  Even if it is just one issue, it troubles me that I might find myself with the same fears for Egypt as the man who has in essence been a dictator for the past thirty years,  If the telephone call this article discusses actually happened last Thursday night, I wouldn't be at all surprised if the sentiments attributed to Mubarak were accurate.

In recent days, we've seen radical Jihadist groups toppling regimes and rulers throughout the Middle East (Lebanon, Yemen, Tunisia and now Egypt). 

The problem is, that although I would be thrilled to see real democratic governments crop up throughout the Middle East, I am afraid the actual result will be much like it was in Iran in the Carter Presidency.  The Shah was a dictator who was extremely brutal in his efforts at keeping himself in power.  And taken by itself, how could a country like ours be anything but repulsed by his secret police and mistreatment of the people?  And yet, when we chose to watch the Shah's regime topple, did the government become more democratic?  More humane?  No.  In fact, the repression simply took a different form.  No longer was there a royal ruler, now there was a clerical ruler.  Democracy did not come, but a dictatorship friendly to the United States was toppled for a theocratic dictatorship that is openly hostile to the US.  And this government has continued to fund terrorism from that day to this, has sought to destabilize the region, and now seek nuclear weapons.

So, as I fear will be the case in many Muslim countries who topple autocratic regimes that most all of us would find reprehensible, the crowds will not get their free and fair elections, their basic rights, their democracy.  Instead, the best organized and funded group will be poised to make the most serious bid for power, and we may see a Middle East where even more regimes are replaced by extremist theocratic dictatorships.  The main difference will be that each one that goes the way of the extremists, reduces the moderate Islamic states with which the United States can work to pursue our national security, and worse yet, with which we can work to exert influence to slow the extremist flames and moderate the rising (and possibly inescapable at this point) tide of autocratic theocracies virtually built on hatred for the 'decadent' West, and the most hated extremist target of all - The United States.

I am not so naive as to believe it possible for the US to support or ally with only regimes we approve of.  Sometimes (maybe often) in world affairs, we must choose to live with much that we deplore, if only to have some ability to prevent even worse regimes from coming to power.  And, in the case of the Middle East, as the list of countries and regimes with whom the United States can work continues to shrink, I am fearful, as it appears that Hosni Mubarak was, just what a Middle East region with almost no United States influence would be like.  I cannot imagine it will be pretty.

And though I don't like to criticize the sitting President, who knows far more than I about what is really occurring, I was very much disturbed by the amateurish changing of of policy (9 different positions were stated last week, sometimes multiple contradictory positions in a single day).  I was concerned at how casually the administration wrote off (and with a single statement early in the protests emboldened the crowds to seek nothing less than regime change NOW!) a man and government with which the US has been able to work over and over to moderate crises in the region.  The simple statement that the world was watching transition did much to make it so, and I fear the outcome will eventually remind us all of the Iranian revolution.  I hope that the Armed Forces are powerful enough, and respected enough to ensure that the country moves forward toward the democratic elections the people clamor for.  Yet still I worry that the best funded and most well organized group will be the Muslim Brotherhood, and the elections less than free and fair, and the new regime yet another repressive theocracy headed by a dictatorial religious leader. 

Should these things which Mubarak worried about come to pass, I think a great many people in the world will regret that the US did nothing to support the Mubarak administration until elections could be held.  I think we may find a whole different level of swarming hatred for the United States and the West, severe impacts on our economy and ability to project power when and where needed, and an even lesser ability to work to seek a peaceful path in the region.

Of course, Mubarak could have simply been venting his personal loss at being abandoned by his most powerful ally in just a matter of days, and I am sure there was an element of this in his comments.  But I can't say that I write off the rest of his statements when I recognize his potentially bitter feelings toward the US.

And please understand, I am not advocating that the US support autocracy around the globe.  I am troubled by very much by oppressive, repressive, autocratic and theocratic regimes.  But sometimes in this world, or at least in certain parts of it, way not find a single friend we would seek out purely because we like and admire them.  Sometimes the devil you know IS better than the devil you don't.  We allied with Stalin in the 40's, not because we wanted to, but because we shared a common enemy.  This was also true in Egypt, and I hope that the confusing, abrupt abandonment of one of the few friends the United States had in the Middle East won't have similar consequences to the Iranian revolution.

Mubarak slammed U.S. in phone call with Israeli MK before resignation - Haaretz Daily Newspaper | Israel News

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper: Muslim Brotherhood "Largely Secular," "Has Eschewed Violence"

It is really disturbing to me that the head of US Intelligence Organizations would describe the Muslim Brotherhood in these terms.

RealClearPolitics - Video - DNI James Clapper: Muslim Brotherhood "Largely Secular," "Has Eschewed Violence"

Taken together with his unawareness in this interview with Diane Sawyer, it is troubling to me to think that the man supposed to be most steeped in events and international groups can make these kinds of gaffes.

And it is not like he was asked a difficult question in either case - most people who read a daily newspaper would have had both a different take and a greater awareness on both these questions.  It seems a bit spooky to me...

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Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Dumbest Criminals Lists

It occurred to me today that I almost constantly notice new lists, videos or blog entries pointing out the stupidest criminals in the world.  You know, the guy in Tennessee who decided that pointing his pistol wasn't intimidating enough, so he  shoved it forward toward the convenience store cashier.  And the barrel fell off, leading to the intended armed robber being beat down with a Louisville Slugger (I always prefer real wood to aluminum in my beat-downs...) or the feller that slipped a hastily scribbled note to a teller, who calmly pointed to the clock and said that she was terribly sorry, but the bank was closed from 12 PM to 1 PM for lunch.  The guy looked a little confused, so she asked him if he'd like to sit in the comfortable waiting area chairs and have a coffee. 

I suspect that the most outrageous 'stupid criminal' stories are true, but there is a lot of research being done on recidivism and in particular, guys who need a structured environment, or three hots and a cot in order to get by.which brings me to the stupid little thought that I set out to record:  Hard as it is for me to imagine, some guys get themselves caught just so the can go back to prison.  Can you imagine trying to get caught?  Well some do.  Some do?  Wow, Git 'er done, Here's your sign!

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Sunday, February 06, 2011

American Way: Republicans tell Barack Obama 'You’re no Ronald Reagan' – Telegraph Blogs

I don't want to be uncivil, nor do I wish to polarize.  The thing I most hope for is a national leader willing GOD I can hardly type the words...a national leader willing to speak his or her mind in a clear, civil way.  I wish for that courage and frankness in our national political dialogue.  Instead, I feel like I'm stuck in a constant cycle of shrunken sound bytes and partial quotes used as stand-alone comments rather than words spoken as part of of a larger statement.

All sides do it.  Hell, I know I do it myself when I fail to catch it.  The thing is, I really hate it when a member of one party invokes the name of a popular former President from the opposing party (usually after getting snookered in the mid-term elections).  This is especially true when the person invoked had actually been dismissed out of hand by the politician who hopes to raise his own poll numbers by quoting a popular former President and quoting him.

So, it is nothing new to find President Obama bringing to mind Ronald Reagan as we near the 100th anniversary of the Gipper's birth.  In fact, it makes sense:  the President wants to pull off politically just what Reagan did once when, after a shellacking in the 1982 midterms, he managed personally to win by a landslide and his party managed to win the midterms.

I know that I will bring upon myself a volley of slings and arrows, but I do hope that those of you who have not been to the Reagan library will hold your arrows at least until you visit.  It was the most powerful moment of my life (at least in the realms of politics, history, etc.), when I visited the newly opened Library and  found myself standing before a REAL section of the wall the Soviets built to keep people from voting with their feet and going to the West.  We wound our way to the massive section of chipped and graffiti - covered Wall. which had been a symbol as well as an actual  physical barrier to freedom and peace.  I felt that we had seen so many appeasers, so many that believed the Cold War would never end.  And then a light came on above the wall -eight or ten feet of the Berlin wall itself - and with it came the voice of President Reagan saying, "Mr Gorbachev, Tear Down this wall!"

So, in me, this article from the Telegraph aligned pretty tidily with my own feelings.  I had enormous respect for President Reagan, but as it clearly would need to be in any viable universe, my favorite Republican President was also the least electable, most liberal Republican President - a roiling ball of contradictions who both started a war and won the Nobel Peace Prize for virtually insisting that Russia and Japan stop their warfare.  And, if you haven't guessed Theodore Roosevelt by now, there it is.  I am most like the man that the party forced to accept the nomination for Vice President even after he declined and said he had no interest.  After all, letting such a reformer as TR hold the office of Governor of New York?  Well, that was just too powerful and important a role for a 'reformer'. 

So, in this particular instance, with my memory of the Berlin Wall and the wonderful and powerful words of President Reagan permanently in my ears, along with the clear and certain knowledge that neither Party would want me, and therefore my opinions are only to be found here, as I blog to my faithful 25,000 or so readers, or perhaps by the neighbors in the apartment next door who overhear when I berate the TV for not getting it quite right.  I'm harmless.


American Way: Republicans tell Barack Obama 'You’re no Ronald Reagan' – Telegraph Blogs

Sunshine on Discovery Bay

Sunshine on Discovery Bay
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