Sunday, February 27, 2011

What the Hell is Going On . . .

. . . in the Middle East? I haven't noticed the hugely significant events that have been going on in that part of the world for the past couple of months. As I type, two long-time, iron-fisted dictators in Tunisia and Egypt have been forced out of office and to flee their countries by masses of people demonstrating in the streets. In neither case did these revolutions--and indeed, that's what they are--last longer than three weeks. The most amazing thing is that these revolts were virtually bloodless, and by that I mean there weren't great masses of dead; in fact, though some unfortunates were killed in both countries, by comparison to the great revolutions in China and Russia in the 20th century (and even in the British colonies of America in the 18th), deaths were negligible.

But the most amazing aspect of this story is that it is ongoing because people are rising up against their rulers or are demanding sweeping reform all over the Muslim Middle East: in YemenBahrain, in Oman and Jordan. And most spectacularly in Qaddafi's Libya where his 40-year grip on that country is apparently about to end. But it hasn't yet, Qaddafi is vowing he will not leave. Not much information is getting out of the country, but there has been brutal repression of demonstrators in several places in the country. The government is reportedly in control of the capital Tripoli and other places in the western part of the country. Qaddafi has hired mercenaries to defend his rule, and many of his ambassadors and some of his military have sided with the demonstrators who are demanding a total change of government.

Just a couple of observations: one wonders what the long view of history will say about the significance of the U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan in spurring these revolts? And be it noted that the vaunted U.S. intelligence "community" for which we all pay dearly, brothers and sisters, again was clueless about these matters until they happened. The secretary of state Hillary Clinton is making some pretty bold statements about Libya, claiming all options "are on the table." Don't know about you, but this kind of talk makes me real nervous. Could we seriously be considering the use of force in yet another Muslim country? Even just slightly. Well, of course. That's always an option for the forces of empire.
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