Friday, October 21, 2011

Book End to Last Post

It's Over!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

The Barbarian in Tripoli

Of all the tyranny in the Middle East, there is none uglier than that personalized by Muammar Abu Minyar al-Gaddafi. This tyrant is not only a cruel dictator who has robbed a resourceful nation of its future, but he is also a bona fide thug with a long resume in international murder. Even Hollywood could not make up such an evil character had it not sadly existed. This incoherent, and clearly ignorant, tyrant has been permitted for far too long to hijack the aspirations of the Libyan people, serve as an embarrassment for the Arab World, and pose a clear and present danger to the security of the world.  His time is up!

For the past week, the Libyan people have been demonstrating remarkable courage in the face of atrocious acts of murder committed against them by regime elements and their mercenaries. Their determination is growing stronger with every bullet that is fired by this cowardly regime. This is confirmation, yet again, that the barrier of fear in Libya and across the Middle East has been shattered. No longer will a brutal tyrant like Gaddafi terrorize his people into perpetual subservience. This new generation will not permit it!

In Libya, for "justice to rain down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream", it is not enough that Colonel Gaddafi be deposed. He must face justice at home or join Charles Taylor in the Hague for his crimes against humanity. The international community, specifically Europe, should be ashamed of its support for this ugly regime in the last few years. Time has come for them to cleanse and redeem themselves; time has come for them to renew their commitment to human rights and stand forcefully with the Libyan people against this notorious killer and his kin.

Time is Now!

Friday, February 11, 2011

Congratulations Egypt - Mabrouk!

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Suleiman the Terrible

The man whom the Pharaoh designated as his Vizir to the delight of many in the West became NOT the "transitional" shepherd they hoped for, but the very embodiment of what is old and wrong about the Middle East.

The indignant Vizir wielded his cane at the crowd and demanded subservience to the rule of their all-knowing Master. He told them that they are incapable of deciding for themselves what the Court can decide for them; that they are unworthy of freedom because they are too uncultured to know what to do with it. As he began to receive a standing ovation from anti-Arab bigots the world over, he warned the 'impertinent' crowd in the town square that disobedience of the Pharaoh "will not be tolerated".

What a shameful display!

Suleiman the Terrible embodies the story of an old elite in the Arab World that suffers from a serious deficit of self-respect. They carry around a complex of inferiority that they contracted from a bygone era. An era of colonial conquest that told them of the helpless inferiority of their minds and the uncivilized ways of their kind. They came to believe that, in the Arab World, to rule is to to dominate their fellow man like a Master would his mule. They went on to oppress their fellow citizens and deny them their essential dignity. They denied them both liberty and opportunity for fear that the 'uncivilized' mind may grow to challenge their authority.

The clock has now run out on this self-hating tyrannical class. After half a century of abject failure, gross injustice, and lost opportunity, the time is up for the likes of Omar Suleiman and Hosni Mubarak.

Friday, February 04, 2011

Not your Daddy’s Middle East

The persistence and courage demonstrated by the Egyptian people against Government-sponsored intimidation and violence in the past two days should quash any doubt on this side of the Atlantic that this is for real. There is no turning back, the Pharaoh is dead, and the people are resolutely in charge of their own destiny. One man at Tahrir Square summed it up this way: "Even if I have to die tomorrow, I have lived today as a free man. Mubarak's not gone yet, but we're the ones who are directing events, not him. These people all around us are the ones who are going to determine the future of the Middle East”. The level of commitment and conviction expressed by that one protester at that moment is, simply put, transformational.

As one might say: This ain’t your Daddy’s Middle East no more!

Yet, some pundits and lawmakers beg to differ. Predictably, it's all about them and their 'strategic considerations'. Their arguments make up a giant piñata of egotism and hypocrisy that betray the very ideals they proclaim to hold dear. One conservative pundit wondered “which revolutions ever led to democracy”. He must have forgotten that his own nation was founded on one (someone should send him a license plate from New Hampshire). Some worried out loud about the price of oil, which…well, let’s just say that their priorities need rebalancing and a visit to the head doctor would be a good idea. Others dished out boilerplate propaganda to warn about anti-western takeovers and policies.

First, the facts on the ground do not support these scare-mongering theories, unless we make them into self-fulfilling prophecies. Though there are many risks and hardships ahead, the scenes, signs, and faces on the streets of Egypt tell the story of a broad-based movement of people determined to free themselves and their nation from autocratic bondage. It is not a monolithic group worked-up in some hate-filled march against the West. If anything, their conduct is really remarkable given the barrage of violence directed at them by pro-government forces. Second, to make support for other peoples’ freedom conditional on whether or not we agree with them reeks of hypocrisy and, ironically, autocratic tendencies.

One heartening moment this week, nonetheless, was the scene of an attentive crowd in Tahrir Square watching and applauding President Obama’s speech on Wednesday. To be sure, that is not a final judgment on US policy by the Egyptian street—We have a long way to go and much more to endure, but it sure was a good sign.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

On Egypt: If I can offer some advice...

If I could offer some friendly advice to the Obama Administration it would be to get with the program—quickly and in unequivocal terms. They simply cannot put a dead fish back in the water and pretend all is well with the world. The risk they run by doing so is seeing disappointment with their position quickly devolve into outright hostility. The Administration needs to understand that what is happening on the streets of Egypt is NOT like a negotiation for Health Care or Tax Cuts here in the U.S. This is a moment of truth that requires a strong stand on the side of righteousness and justice for a people who have been oppressed and abused by illegitimate rule.

If I could offer some friendly advice to U.S. lawmakers, it would be to say that this is not about you—Not everything is about you. This is about the people of Egypt and the people of the Middle East who have long suffered under autocratic rule. If some of you are going to complain that mandated health care coverage here in the U.S. is government overreach, then how can you reconcile that with the excuses you make for a police state? And please let us stop with the fear-mongering and the dire predictions of ‘Islamist takeovers’ and ‘war with Israel’. Unless you want the so-called ‘war on terror’ to be permanent, this is an opportunity to steer the Middle East on a new course—one that can lead to societies that are busy building a future for themselves rather than plotting insurrections against the status quo.

If I could offer some friendly advice to Arab rulers, both present and future, it would be to learn to govern with humility and passion for the common good of their people. Instead of loading up fleets of airplanes with luxuries on vacation getaways or building extravagant palaces where obnoxious waste abounds, strive to build your nations up to earn a respectable place on the world stage. Labor to lift your people up from what has sadly become the scourge of the world. Live up to the example of Omar Ibn al-Khattāb and not that of Hārūn ar-Rashīd. Doing so will earn you a legacy far more rewarding than the luxuries you enjoy in the present at the people’s expense.

To be sure, revolts can liberate and transform entire societies, as was the case for a number of Eastern European nations following the collapse of the Soviet Union. However, those who ride the wave to power in the aftermath of the current uprising must know that democracy is not merely a slogan. It is the foundation for sustainable government; it is a central pillar to a truly new, peaceful, and prosperous Middle East. So, unless the emerging leaders hold those truths to be self-evident, they ought to spare the people of this battered region further turmoil OR eventually meet the fate of those whose fall they seek today—Just as the Iranian theocracy will soon find out.

Friday, January 28, 2011

An Opportunity for Change that Can NOT be Squandered

As I am looking out my window this morning watching the aftermath of a snow storm in Washington DC, my ears are glued to a live news feed from the streets of Egypt. So, I wonder whether these gathering winds in the Middle East are as temporary a phenomenon as what is outside my window or if this is truly the long-anticipated day of reckoning for the post-colonial oppressors of the region. The fall of Ben Ali in Tunisia gave us 10 million reasons to hope that that day has indeed arrived. And the Tunisian people are owed a debt of gratitude for shattering a thousand myths about the region and its people. They are owed much more for showing through a level of conviction and persistence, not seen since the colonial days, that the Middle East is capable of freeing itself by itself and that ‘stability’ through oppression will not stand.

The status quo is a sham: The false choice given to justify support for secular oppressors to guard against Islamist rule is a lame punt and poor policy choice for the West. For one, the U.S. must always stand firmly on the side of freedom and never cease to demand justice for those who have none. It is not only a moral imperative , but also the right policy—one that does not cower to boogey-man fears and does not search for what is convenient, but rather for what is right. Second, the realities of the Middle Eastern Street make support for the status-quo a policy devoid of material facts: The demographic realities of the region will invariably force a change. The growing frustrations of a young, unemployed and oppressed generation cannot find resolution through the status quo in a region with perverse deficits in human development and global competitiveness.

To be sure, we do not know how all of this will play out, but something new and different is happening. Tunisia gave us the example and inspiration, but Egypt is the country that can set an irreversible course to a real transformation. So, let’s hope that the people of Egypt will be as persistent as their Tunisian brethren to force change through non-violence and civil disobedience. The world, in this era of instant media coverage, will stand behind the people of Egypt and will not tolerate the repression of peaceful demonstrators. If the people of Egypt succeed, then a new Middle East will be truly in action. In the heat of current events, however, one hopes that the people will constantly remember that once the old regime is out of the way, they will have to come together and get to work on building free and prosperous nations.

A revolution may only take weeks or months to achieve its political ends, but nation-building will take decades for the people of the Middle East to achieve their aspirations and command the respect of the world.