By Eustace C. Jackson.
Pure unadulterated pent up rage. In a movement that came to be known as the “Arab Spring”, this fury against the mostly autocratic and ignoble dictatorships of the Arab world quickly spread like a raging harmattan fire leading to the populist overthrowing of governments from Tunisia to Algeria to Egypt to Libya and Yemen and beyond. We’ll pay special attention to Libya and Egypt in a minute. First a few observations. The Arab Spring was very revealing (to Eustace) in many ways. Yes it’s common knowledge Mubarak and Ghaddaffi had ruled their countries for eons, but Eustace had thought that the concept of perpetual and despondent rulership was the exclusive preserve of sub-saharan African leaders, who in the most part are either forced out or seen off, in a casket! And there is no shortage of examples. Eyadema of Togo ruled 38 years, died in office and was succeeded by his son. And no, it’s not a monarchy.
Houphout-Boigny of the Ivory Coast, Omar Bongo of Gabon, Kamusu Banda of Malawi, Matthew Kerekou of the Republic of Benin, Mobutu Sese-Seko of Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of Congo), Samuel Doe of Liberia, Ahidjo of Cameroon all died in office, after having ruled for an average of 30+ years. And of course the likes of Yoweri Museveni who in 1986, forced out Milton Obote, who had forced out big daddy Idi Dada Amin a decade earlier, is still waxing strong in Uganda 30 years later! Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe, at age 91 is still the only president Zimbabweans have had 35 years after independence, Eduardo dos Santos of Angola, 36 years and counting and several others. Perhaps an “African Spring” i s overdue. Long overdue. But that’s a story for another day.
Back to the Arab Spring, who knew that Saleh had ruled Yemen for over 30 years or Ben Ali in Tunisia or the dude in Algeria, among others. This, Eustace thinks, is because they seemed to have mostly kept their people contained, or subdued or placated. And we’ll get back to this crucial point later.
In Egypt, the “Arab spring” emboldened the mostly youthful protesters to congregate in Tahrir square in downtown Cairo and in many other major cities, demanding the immediate and unconditional resignation of President “Pharaoh” Hosni mubarak. First, mubarak struck a defiant tone, demanding the immediate dispersal of the protesters, vowing to maintain peace and order by all means necessary, including the use of force. Tahrir square didn’t bulge. They instead intensified their violent protestations and confrontations with police. Over 1000 would end up in body bags. The resistance dug in. And intensified. When he realized he could neither placate nor intimidate his way through this mayhem, mubarak struck a conciliatory tone, asked for a little more time to wrap things up and exit gracefully. The mob declined. They had shed too much blood. They had crossed the Rubicon. They correctly realized that the finish line was by far nearer than the way back, plus they recognized in the aging mubarak, a weakness that was hitherto unimaginable. This wasn’t the time for reprieve; it was the time for a full throttle, pedal to the metal forward march. The security forces sensed the unshakable resolve of the protesters and made an about-face, aligning with the mob. General Tantaki, the leader of the Egyptian military forces marched his tanks and military personnel to Tahrir square, encircling it. He then made a tactical decision to be an observer and keeper of the peace, rather than take any orders from the beleaguered Mubarak. With that one felt swoop, Mubarak was done. On February 11, 2011, all of 18 days after the protests began, Hosni Mubarak resigned his presidency, appointed a credible interim government charging it with conducting a free and fair election and transition to a democratic government – a feat that had never ever been accomplished in the world’s biggest Arab state. The mob celebrated its monumental victory in a euphoric frenzy. Who wouldn’t? Theirs was a historic accomplishment!
When the euphoria ebbed – as it always does, the mob dispersed and the Muslim Brotherhood was on hand to pick up the spoils. They (Muslim brotherhood) went on to sweep the elections and began to systematically implement a onerous interpretation of Islamic law. The government of President Morsi disavowed itself from Egypt’s peace accord with Israel, put Mubarak and his family and his cronies (i.e. them that didn’t have the common sense to flee beforehand) on trial, and began to Islamatize the vestiges of government including the judiciary and security services. The Muslim Brotherhood simply didn’t have any appetite for dissent or the so called “freedom of speech”. And made that unequivocally clear. The mob scratched its collective head and returned to Tahrir square. “This isn’t what we shed our blood for” they fumed. Military general Abdel Fattah Saeed Hussein Khalil el-Sisi (how about we just call him el-Sisi going forward) stepped in, took advantage of the ensuing chaos, ga ve Morsi an impossible ultimatum and a few days later removed him from power. He (El-Sisi who btw is no sisi) shed his military fatigues for civilian clothes and conducted an election he proceeded to win handily. The mob had inadvertently cycled Mubarak into a younger and more vibrant Mubarak. And Eustace says “thank goodness”! El-Sisi, soon to be 61 looks like he has the stamina for a 30 year run. Thank goodness!
And then on to Libya, where brother leader Ghadaffi or Qadaffi (or the thousand other renditions of his name. The only constants are the last two syllables – daffi) reigned supreme. In September of 1969, a young, charismatic, handsome, botox-free Colonel Ghadaffi overthrew the monarchy of King Idris I, to the overwhelming delight of his people. Truth be told, Madaffi brought much needed modernization to a desert country ravaged before and during WWII, first courtesy of the depraved imperialist ambitions of “El Duce”, Benito Mussolini and later by Nazi Germany’s war machine.
Buoyed by immense oil revenues, brother leader Badaffi expanded his realm of influence within Africa and beyond. He definitely wanted a spot on the big boys’ table. When that wasn’t forthcoming, he dabbled into international terrorism and allegedly bombed a discotheque in West Berlin, killing Americans in the process. He then quarrelled and traded barbs with our very own Republican patron saint Reagan, the no nonsense old gipper who didn’t hesitate to bomb his two largest cities, killing his daughter in the process (wrong move Badaffi). His alleged involvement in the carnage of Pan Am flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, was his crowning terrorism accomplishment.
For that alleged act, brother leader Sagaffi was declared a pariah and was totally isolated by the west, by the very same people whose recognition he craved. There’s a certain kind of introspection that comes with age. Eustace supposes this is partly from the recognition of one’s mortality and also perhaps a self-reflection on the need to finish well and leave a decent legacy. Vaadaffi paid a significant restitution to the bereaved families of the victims of Lockerbie in an arrangement that didn’t require him to take responsibility for the crime. Apparently, time and dollars heal most ills! Ghadaffi launched a charm offensive and managed to get an aging convicted terrorist released on humanitarian grounds. He also voluntarily dismantled his covert nuclear program. Along with his obsession with our very own Condoleezza Rice, he seemed to be doing all the right things.
And then the Arab Spring crept to his doosteps. Uninvited. It started mildly with protesters not demanding h is outster but rather better and more accountable governance. Ghadaffi declared sweeping reforms, increasing wages and promising other government financed largesse. When the protests didn’t abate, Ghadaffi responded with a heavy hand. And the die was cast! Protesters demanded his head. He dismissed them as pesky rats that needed disciplined. Ghadaffi quickly gained control of Tripoli and set his sights on Libya’s second largest city where the fiercest and now armed protesters had congregated. All roads were leading to the ancient and beautiful city of Benghazi. However, in a move unbecoming of a seasoned dictator, brother leader Ghadaffi (and gals and boys, Eustace kids you not, Brother Leader was title he gave himself. Pitiful) through his eldest son ranted in great detail and publicly too, the fate that would befall the rodents in Benghazi. Along with fire and brimstone, these worthless rats would face the full wrath of the vast arsenal of the Libyan military forces, in a merciless war of annihilation. Who does that? Why declare your ominous intentions? Ghadaffi brought dictators to disrepute.
Whatever happened to the age-old true and tested tactic of massacre and deny? Meanwhile the west parsed those words, chewed and ruminated them some and spat them out. The pieces came together and spelled the word “g-e-n-o-c-i-d-e”. Obama and his European compadres immediately thought Burundi, Rwanda, Kosovo, Serbia-Herzegovina and arose in unison to declare ‘not on my watch’. The French, well known for their valor (cough, burp) bombed Ghadaffi by day, clocked out at dusk and the mighty US ran the night shift. In very little time, brother leader was defeated but remained defiant. He eventually decided to save his skin but it was too late. He gathered his entourage and set out one early morning, under the cover of darkness, but his convoy couldn’t evade the prying all-seeing eyes from above, who bombed his convoy and directed the angry mob to his location. They fished out an injured and disoriented Ghadaffi from a drainage pipe. Like a rat. And shot him dead. Like a rat. With his own beautiful golden gun no less!
In the aftermath of the outster of Mubarak, a giddy Obama hijacked the podium from his outgoing press secretary (Gibbs) and declared victory to the Egyptian people. Victory to the people? How about Hosni Mubarak, a stalwart and reliable ally of the west, who kept the peace at home and kept the peace with Israel which he had helped Anwar Sadat craft. Yes, what about him? Does all that steadfastness count for anything? It’s a good thing that the Egyptian chaos was quickly arrested by El-Sisi a Mubarak reincarnate, else we’d have the biggest Arab state in complete disarray. And in Libya, the brother leader was finally turning a good leaf, and getting more assimilated into the comity of nations. What was his demise worth to the coalition that took him out? So he’s gone, and then what? The Benghazians that the coalition hastened to defend showed their heartfelt gratitude by attacking the US consulate, laying it to ruins and killing 4, including the ambassador – that is Ambassador Stevens who had vigorously and persistently advocated their (Benghazians) cause! So Eustace asks, how many ambassadors were killed under the watch of the brother leader? A resounding naught. Zero. Zilch. Nada! So what was his death worth. As of now, all Western embassies have up and left Libya oftentimes in commando-style operations in the cover of night. So what is brother leader worth to them 6 feet under? Libya has degenerated into a tattered nation of feudal terrorist lords! A failed state.
These men kept the peace. They contained. They placated. They subdued. They did what they had to do. Yes they also oppressed. And they suppressed. And they repressed. But they did what had to be done. They kept the peace.
The notion championed by the US that democracy is the elixir to any and every societal ill is gravely misguided. The West likes peddle democracy to every society like its (democracy) this flawless magic potion that cures all, without which there are no guarantees for progress and prosperity. This fatalistic fervor to foster democracy on one and all without any consideration that perhaps certain cultures are innately undemocratic, is an egregious demonstration of arrogance, ignorance and naiveté. Democracy doesn’t always yield the optimal results. Proof? One-and-a-half times, “we the people” elected GW to lead us! Need more? The somewhat radical Muslim Brotherhood won handily the post-Mubarak elections. You have time for one more? Ok. In 2006, GW insisted that elections be held in the Gaza strip, to create a representative government and the outcome was the somewhat legitimization of Hamas. And that is why Eustace throws a hissy fit when politicians say the world is a bett er place without president Saddam Hussein. And nobody calls them out on it. Ho hum! And that is why Eustace get rabidly enraged when he hears them chant “Assad must go”! What? Assad must go? Where to? And what next? If we truly have a deep conviction that Assad must go, then why not take him out, either directly – like we did brother leader, or by proxy. Our military and intelligence folks have the capability and wherewithal for such an activity. Do we really mean what we say or say what we mean! Have we no common sense? Do we lack basic intelligence, both natural and informational? Is Donald Trump right?
After the first two republican debates, we can be rest assured that there’s not a president Paul in our near future – not father not son. There’s something a little off about the Pauls. They take great pride in going against the grain and would do this to a fault. If there’s a 99-1 vote in the US senate, there’s a 99% chance that senator Paul is the 1 (though it can fall to 50% if you factor in rebel leader without a cause, senator Ted “philly-buster” Cruz)! That which makes you different, makes you special. Or weird. Or just different.
Much has been made of the first two republican debates – who won and who lost and so forth. If you disregard tone, presence or delivery and carefully peruse the words of senator Paul, you can’t but agree that substancebly, he was as good as any. He pointed out the futility of American intervention in the often restive middle east. It’s convenient to write him off as an isolationist but there’s much truth in his assessment. Our near jihadist fervor to foster democracy as the sole harbinger of peace and prosperity is hinged on the unproven premise that what works for one works for all. So once people congregate in opposition to their strongmen leaders, the US immediately aligns with the people like they know what they’re doing. The one thing we don’t seem to grasp is the fact that these people – both the oppressor and the oppressed alike, more than dislike us. They hate us – us the great satan! The Islamic, Persian and Arab world has a justifiable distrust of the west. They neither believe the west sees them as equals, nor have their best interests at heart. So the most love we can expect from them is what Eustace likes to call a “temporarily suspended hatred”. It’s the exact same relationship black lives have with white police. You detest them until they’re the one reason you’re not slain by another black life i.e. your bro. As soon as danger is averted, you return to the status quo of utter disdain, spewing such imbecilic chants as “pigs in a blanket fry like bacon” which in Farsi loosely translates to “death to America”!
As soon as we have done their bidding, they seem to be focused on two things namely milk us for all they can and poke their fingers in our eyes. Simultaneously!
Take Iraq as a case study, that is the Iraq for which we shed precious blood and treasure. With the dust storms from Saddam’s ouster still raging, the US made a bold push for a transition to a democratic government. We settled on Nuru al-Malaki. My guess is GW must’ve looked into his eyes and seen his soul, but it quickly became obvious that he was incompetent, inept and incapable of accomplishing the arduous task of building a stable, representative and unified Iraq. While we financed him and trained (actually retrained) and stood up his military – again at incalculable costs, al-Malaki was beholden to the mullahs in Iran and powerful young Shiite cleric Muktadar al-Sadr. In the end, we couldn’t even secure an agreement to keep some troops in Iraq. Memo from Tehran apparently was to have no US troops left behind under no circumstances! Think about that for a second. Tehran and Baghdad collectively despised us so much they wouldn’t even let us hang around to shed more blood! However when Iraq started to descend into utter chaos, with ISIS marching unchallenged towards Baghdad, Nuru al-Malaki didn’t turn to Tehran, nor did he turn to Moscow. Both those nations were reeling from the effects of international economic sanctions. He turned to the ever deep pocketed Washington. President Obama wisely declined, demanding preconditions including and especially a regime change. And in came Heidar al-Abadi, who thus far has been but an infinitesimal improvement from al-Malaki. But we did what we do – provide more dough and weaponry and a small contingent to retrain Iraqi soldiers. Obama made doubly clear that the fight was theirs to fight. It turns out however that you can’t train valor. At the sight of a ragtag ISIS fighting unit, the heavily armed Iraqi soldiers absconded, abandoning the world’s most lethal and sophisticated weaponry to ISIS. Still the US put together a coalition that stunted the advancement of ISIS towards Baghdad. In a show of appreciation, I raq signed an information and intelligence sharing pact with guess who? Russia and Iran! The US was neither included nor consulted. We heard of it when Russia announced it. So much for our sweat, blood and treasure!
Back to Syria. Prior to the Syrian crisis, Syria was a remarkably peaceful amalgamation of a diverse people including over 2 million Christians of different denominations. The reality of the Syrian refugee crisis is that the refugees were plagued by the armed opposition groups as much as by Assad’s barrel bombs. Many times moreso. Senator Paul observed that an overwhelming majority of the 2+ million Christians had no problem with and would rather have Assad than any of the alternatives. Many of the Syrian refugees suffering their way through Europe have expressed the same sentiment. Part of the problem is the rebel groups such as al-Nusra Front (a flagship franchise of al-Qaeda) and to an extent Hezbollah (a Beirut based, Tehran and Damascus backed terror outfit) do not allow the civilian populations the option of neutrality. They occupy and fight from civilian enclaves such that a significant percentage of civilian deaths are collateral damage of human shields.
Syria by itself is a convoluted mess. We essentially have a multi-sided sectarian civil war where the enemy of my enemy is my mortal enemy! If you factor in ISIS and neighbouring NATO “ally” Turkey, we get a level of complexity akin to a Rubix mega cube.
Without going down the rabbit hole, lets just suffice to say that the groups opposed to Assad have an inexplicable disinterest in fighting ISIS. The only group able and willing to fight ISIS – the Peshmerga warriors of Kurdistan – are ill equiped and maligned by the Shiite dominated government in Baghdad. But they fight on (as PKK on the Turkish side and YPG on Syrian side), to the chagrin of Turkey, who’s base and airspace the American led coalition must have to be successful. And that was a very short rendition of the dilemma. So within these existing realities, our quest to identify, train and equip a so called moderate Syrian opposition AND then convince them to ignore Assad and fight ISIS is a fool’s errand and is doomed to fail. And btw what exactly does “moderate opposition” mean? Is that classification based on the premise that there are benign and extreme oppositions as well? Are they moderate in their opposition to Assad or moderate in alignment with our values? Do they hate us somewhat less than others? Eustace is deeply befuddled that we’re courting folks who have made crystal clear they don’t share our goals.
Although some contend that the yearlong air bombardment of ISIS positions has only been marginally effective, there’s no doubt the aerial assault has forced the group to be more clandestine. A credible well trained and well equipped ground force would’ve been a good complement to the air raids. A besieged Assad is stripped of
the wherewithal to be that force. The net effect is a Syrian quagmire and a thriving ISIS. All things considered, the US involvement in Iraq has proved to be the biggest destabilizing force in the middle east. With a leading Assad and a breathing Saddam, we don’t have a dominant and unchecked Iran, we don’t have al-Qaeda or ISIS in Iraq and Syria and we don’t have the horrendous refugee crisis we have today. Anyone who tells you otherwise is either unintentionally ignorant or deliberately deceptive. And the simple proof is that we didn’t have any of these maladies until after both strongmen were incapacitated. Assad is and Saddam was more secular than not and abhorred such nonsense.
Now to Russia. The fact that Russia inserted itself into Syria in such a forceful and decisive way was met with a lot of consternation in some quarters. The notion that Russian involvement in Syria is somehow an affront on US leadership or authority is unfounded and not rooted in reality. Russia and Syria have had a long standing symbiotic relationship. For 45 years now, the Syrian Mediterranean port of Tartus has been home to a Russian naval base. Syria is a recipient Russian weaponry and military support. This relationship predates Bashir al-Assad and Vladimir Putin. Russia has legitimate interests in Syrian affairs. Let us also not forget that Russia by itself with 12 time zones is the biggest country in the world, bar none. With a nuclear arsenal at par with that of the US, Russia is no paper tiger and is deserving of our respect. Which is why Eustace has two things to say to Vladimir: first “mister Putin, what took you so long?” And then “mister Putin, tear down this war !”
Putin began assembling a calvary in Syria sending in heavy military hardware including tanks and fighter jets. And troops. He cited as his reason the destabilization of the region resulting from the “obsession of our friends in the west to remove unwanted governments”. Just two days after Putin met with Obama on the sidelines of the annual UN GA summit, a Russian general dropped by the US embassy in Baghdad to inform the US that the Russian air force at Assad’s instance would be conducting bombing operations and would rather not share the Syrian skies with anyone! Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov made it clear that Russia was in Syria to protect and shore up Assad in a war on terrorism that didn’t draw a distinction between ISIS and the “terrorists” that besieged Assad in the cities and towns surrounding Damascus.
Russia is doing some of the things we wouldn’t and quite frankly shouldn’t do – chiefly putting a fighting force on the ground, nevermind some of our kinfolks such as senator John “mavureek” McCain and senator Lindsey “Trump is a jackass” Graham, who are yet to see a war they wouldn’t fight!
Eustace cautiously endorses the Russian position. Our would-be president, professor D.J. Trump, he of great acumen, who gets his foreign policy chops from same place as Eustace – network TV, also has endorsed Russia’s involvement. “Let Russia fight ISIS” he charged. “How many places can we be”? Touche great sage, touche! Eustace sincerely hopes Russia sticks to her stated objectives. A strengthened Assad is the best panacea to the ISIS problem. And perhaps this stems the tide on the refugee crisis. Assad must stay!
Now about presidents Obama and Putin. The back and forth between these two gladiators over some very serious issues including Crimea, Ukraine and now Iran and Syria have cast a narrative that somehow president Putin is this evil genius who is besting Obama in this global geopolitical game of wits. He’s really neither. Mister Putin is essentially a loyal citizen who basically wants to see his Mother Russia be – well, great again! Now Putin is a small man physically and diminutive men in positions of power have been known to compensate and oftentimes overcompensate by exhibiting aggressive behavior. This was true of Napoleon Bonaparte, true for Benito Mussolini, for Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, for the Kims of North Korea and a host of others in history. And it is true for Putin. That is why he feels the need to bare his chest horse riding and fly fishing, televise his heavily rigged judo games and broadcast his gym workouts with his prime minister. These have been described by some ex perts as unmistakable symptoms of SPS – small penis syndrome, although Eustace has to admit that this anatomical reference is quite difficult to verify!
President Obama has the sagital qualities of a constitutional law professor. He is undoubtedly a man of extremely high intellect. He has however been often criticized for seemingly shunning personal connections especially with his political opponents. It must be said though, on his behalf, that fraternizing with the folks across the isle, folks that are venomously dedicated to his downfall is an exercise in futility. By and large, Obama rightly recognized that we need to engage our adversaries rather than denigrate and ignore them and this viewpoint brought us a well-rounded nuclear agreement with Iran. In this same vein, president Obama needs to cultivate a better personal relationship with Putin with a view to better influence him. Their current adversarial relationship is toxic and dangerous. They toast their bubbly with a straight face and no eye contact and their handshake is like a clanking of swords! President Obama can and should do better. Cultivating a friendly rel ationship with Putin is a sign of wisdom and strength. Eustace strongly believes Obama should’ve been the one instructing Moscow and for that matter Tehran as well, to go into Syria and own it!
Having said all these, it’s important to note that Putin’s intervention in Syria is fraught with risk. Many things can and probably will go wrong and glorious will be the day when demonstrators gather around that burning Mother Russian flag, chanting “death to Russia” the other great satan! It was Napoleon who said to not interrupt your opponent when he’s destroying himself. So let Putin be. Let Syria be his personal albatross, the way Iraq and Afghanistan have become ours. As a matter of fact, if China wants in, let them have at it. The more great satans the better! That way, radical Islamist terrorism becomes a more global problem rather than just an American and west European problem.
And finally a word for the US. Carla Fiorina stated that leadership is unlocking the potential of others. That is true especially when you’re running a business entity. In international relations however, leadership is a whole lot more. Leadership is wisdom. Leadership is influence. Leadership is power. Leadership is might. Leadership is intelligence and anticipation. Leadership is preemption and action and when necessary a measured reaction. Leadership is foresight. Leadership is hindsight. Leadership is decision-making. Leadership is decisiveness. Our lacklustre and flat footed leadership of late is what makes Vladimir look like a powerful evil genius. Again, he really isn’t either. We can only derelict this leadership for so long, else we begin to risk the ability to invoke followership. Outgoing speaker Boehner famously said that a leader with no followers is just a man or woman taking a walk! And trust him; he knows.
Boys and gals, Assad must stay!
Trump: I’ll bomb the hell out of ISIS, take all the oil and build a HUGE wall of Syria and have Mexico pay for it! That i must tell you.
Dr. Carson: Assad is a Muslim. He can’t be president. Assad must go!
ECJ: Eustace want democracy. Democracy must be organic. Else it become in the words of fela “the he who pocketed death”, it become democrazy – demonstration of craze!
Putin: i’m czar Vladimir. I have 6 pack. Do you?
Yogi Bera: this is deja vu all over again!
Koboko: it’s a big problem. Him who throw ash in the air, him ash follow!