Friday, March 25, 2011

DAY 324 COUNTDOWN TO EGYPTIAN DEMOCRACY

Please Explain

This morning I heard a U.S. ambassador very cogently explain why the U.S is involved in another military action in the Middle East.  He explained that the country is ruled by a terrible tyrant, that the people have bravely risen up against the tyrant, that we support their quest for basic human rights and dignity, that the tyrant threatened to massacre his opponents, and that only our intervention would prevent a humanitarian disaster. 

The ambassador convinced me.  I agree with him that we should be standing up for the people trying to throw off the chains of bondage in . . . . Iran and Syria.  Whoops.  I meant Libya.  It's just that I am downright confused.  All the arguments the ambassador made for involvement in Libya apply equally if not more to Iran and Syria and, for that matter, to the Ivory Coast and probably a dozen  other countries where despots rule.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

DAY 325 COUNTDOWN TO EGYPTIAN DEMOCRACY

DEFINING CHUTZPA

I cannot remember which columnist it was, but just the other day I read a column which said the Arab League had surpassed the traditional definition of "chutzpa" as the man who kills his parents and then pleads for mercy before the judge as an orphan.  The columnist asserted that the non-fiction example of the Arab League requesting Western establishment of a Libyan no-fly zone and then promptly criticizing its implementaton surpassed the fictional orphan of the traditional definition.

Well, I think Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, who up until now has seemed to me to have more common sense than your typical high political appointee, may have just moved past the Arab League as quickly as Barry Bonds passed Mark McGwire for the steroid-enabled annual home run record.  According to NPR, Secretary Gates had landed in Israel today and acknowledged that terrorists had blown up a bus in the middle of Jerusalem (a friend of ours was just down the block; our son's fiance heard the explosion from their apartment), killing one and injuring about 30, some critically. 

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Where Are You Now, Jimmy Carter

Former President Jimmy Carter, who has made a post-presidential career out of being a somewhat self-righteous arbiter of fair elections and advocate for allegedly oppressed populations, at times contrary to the sitting president's policies and wishes, has been strangely silent at the stirrings of the masses in the Arab world. 

Well, perhaps it is not so strange when you consider that the self-appointed guardian of democracy and freedom has accepted millions of dollars in gifts and loans from some of the most brutal dictators in the Middle East.  Just one example is the tens of millions of dollars donated by Saudi kings and princes to the Carter Center.  The Saudi largesse often constitutes major chuncks of the Center's $36 million annual budget.

It seems that when it comes to oppression by Arab trillionaires, Jimmy Carter believes that silence is golden.

Wake-up call for Georgetown

The head of the London School of Economics recently resigned because the university had accepted a large donation from a charity run by one of Colonel Gaddafi's sons, among other ties to the nutty and ruthless dictator.  It's no secret that many of the top U.S. universities have substantial ties to equally repressive Middle East regimes. 

Indeed, there are endowed chairs in the names of kings and princes at a number of well known universities, and there are a few Middle East studies departments that would be mere shadows of themselves if not for the largesse or, perhaps more accurately put, the purchase, by Middle Eastern tyrants.  Despite the pronouncements of academic independence and integrity, some might reasonably conclude that these relationships account for the huge focus by many Middle East departments on the alleged oppression of the Palestinians by Israel while truly repressive regimes have by-and-large been given a pass.

 Item for the dean's suggestion box:  start cutting the ties and sending the dollars back before the embarrassing brutality makes it to CNN.

DAY 329 COUNTDOWN TO EGYPTIAN DEMOCRACY

If my math is right, it has been 36 days since I started my skeptical Countdown to Egyptian Democracy, and 15 days since I last posted an item.  The delay in posting was due to travel back to Sacramento and getting settled back in after three months in Jerusalem.  The skepticism and perhaps cynicism in the Countdown is the dismal record for democracy in the Arab world and, pardon the probable political incorrectness in this, the historical and cultural factors that do not give much hope for the prospects of Western-style democracy taking root in that part of the world. 

Why Moammar? Why Now?

The current mission against Libya's Colonel Gaddafi is a bit murky.  Is the objective to simply protect those trying to overturn him so that they can hopefully finish the job they started?  Is it to protect innocent civilians?  Is it to remove him from office?  Is it to kill him? 

There is no doubt that the Colonel deserves to be banished from the face of the earth.  If there was capital punishment for erratic, irrational behavior, or for weird dress by a dictator, the man would leapfrog over all his fellow tyrants in the queue.   His years of repressive rule and his current willingness to murder his opponents garner him no sympathy.