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Killing a Washed-Up Old Yemeni Hasn’t Slowed al-Qaeda’s Progress

January 30, 2013 By: Scott Spiegel Category: War on Terror

AQ-in-SahelPresident Obama, you may have heard, personally and with his bare hands made the phone call ordering Navy SEALS to execute former al-Qaeda leader and September 11 mastermind Osama bin Laden in Abottabad, Pakistan on May 2, 2011.

Over the six years of the Iraq War before he took office, Obama railed against the Bush-initiated conflict, insisting that the good war was in bin Laden’s adopted home of Afghanistan.  Obama maintained that we wouldn’t make significant progress in the War on Terror until we had killed al-Qaeda’s former leader, whom all evidence indicated was a graying arthritic hermit dwelling in a cave somewhere.

Upon bin Laden’s death, Obama became strangely detached from Middle Eastern affairs, as though his work fighting Islamic jihad were done and Americans could at last breathe a sigh of relief.  (It was almost as if he had flashed a “Mission Accomplished” sign!)  But bin Laden’s former terrorist group appears to have marched on without him in the face of Obama’s utter lack of interest in exerting any effort to halt their progress.

Counterterrorism expert Bruce Riedel argues that, since bin Laden’s death, we are witnessing the third incarnation of al-Qaeda—al-Qaeda 1.0 lasted until the fall of the Taliban, and al-Qaeda 2.0 until the death of bin Laden—and that al-Qaeda 3.0 is the most dangerous version yet.  Al-Qaeda has fanned out to new regions and established fresh bases of operation in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, in Syria, Libya, Algeria, and now Mali.  Al-Qaeda has exploited Obama’s shortsightedness in dwelling obsessively on whether bin Laden still had a pulse, and has built safe havens, expanded the ranks of its recruits, and multiplied its financial resources from a decade’s worth of kidnapping ransoms.

Following the Muslim Brotherhood’s hostile takeover of Egypt—which Obama facilitated via his encouragement of Hosni Mubarak’s overthrow and his friendly discussions with the group’s candidate Mohamed Morsi—the nation now faces renewed threats from a resurgent al-Qaeda.  After bin Laden’s successor Ayman Zawahiri recently called for members of the network to kidnap and kill Westerners worldwide, a horrific Mumbai-style terrorist plot to murder hundreds of British tourists staying at the Sharm el-Sheikh resort was narrowly thwarted.  The presence of Safali Islam fundamentalists tied to al-Qaeda remains strong in Egypt, and al-Qaeda-affiliated groups have been attacking soldiers, gas pipelines, and churches.

In Syria, al-Qaeda affiliate al-Nusra is exploiting the revolt against President Bashar al-Assad’s regime by fighting alongside rebel forces, riding their momentum and waiting to grab power when al-Assad falls so they can restore an Islamic Caliphate.  Al-Nusra has committed dozens of suicide bombings, ambushes, raids, and assassinations in Damascus, Aleppo, and other Syrian cities, and has videotaped shootings and beheadings of al-Assad soldiers and posted them online to intimidate the opposition.  Al-Nusra hopes to replace something bad—al-Assad—with something even worse—a Taliban-style theocracy—in the same way that the Muslim Brotherhood helped protestors topple Hosni Mubarak in Egypt only to elbow their way into power and impose their own heavy-handed agenda.

Meanwhile, in Benghazi, al-Qaeda is targeting British and German tourists, whose governments are urging them to leave Libya for their own safety.  Benghazi, you may recall, is the site of the embassy storming last September that resulted in the deaths of four Americans, and was planned by al-Qaeda—or maybe it was a spontaneous protest over an amateur video; what difference does it make?

Then there’s the shocking hostage-taking at an Algerian gas plant last month, one of the largest and most sophisticated such operations in the region, which resulted in the murder of dozens of Westerners.

And Gadhafi’s ouster freed gun-runners to smuggle caches of Libyan arms, and legions of resistance fighters to flee, to Mali.  French troops are currently beating back al-Qaeda-affiliated terrorists in the North African country, an effort Obama won’t commit the U.S. to making.

One military commander in Benghazi notes, “Libya became a haven for [al-Qaeda].  The Westerners are fearful that what happened in Algeria will take place in Libya.  And here, just like Mali and Egypt and Iraq, these groups have extensions.”  These groups have extensions in many other countries in the region, and we are soon about to find out the hard way which ones.

Liberals cite Obama’s bin Laden killing as proof that Democrats are tough on terror—maybe even tougher than misguided Republicans.  But in fact, bin Laden’s assassination made no dent in the War on Terror.  It will merely serve as a shield to hide Obama’s noninterventionist, ineffectual, crisis-precipitating Middle East policy for the next four years.


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Dems Prematurely Replace “Blame Bush” With “Blame Romney”

September 20, 2012 By: Scott Spiegel Category: War on Terror

Has Mitt Romney sewed up the 2012 election and begun issuing policy pronouncements via the Office of the President-Elect?  That’s what you’d think to hear mainstream news commentators tell it.

Witness the media uproar over Romney’s absolutely true, courageously firm observation that President Obama’s State Department is more interested in sparing the feelings of Muslim terrorists than standing up for American values.

Rather than evaluating and refuting his charges; rather than critically reexamining Obama’s approach; rather than considering the repercussions of the President’s conciliatory stance toward our enemies; liberals… blamed the crisis on someone who doesn’t even work for the government.

Rachel Maddow cried that we were in the middle of a tense, hair-trigger confrontation requiring suave diplomatic prowess, and that Romney may just have sent rioting protestors over the top.

Newsflash, MSNBC hosts: Rioting protestors were already over the top—literally, in the case of the embassy walls they scaled and the black Al Qaeda victory banners they hoisted after tearing down and burning American flags in Egypt and Libya.

Fanatic Muslim savages don’t need an excuse to wreak havoc against the West.  A few boilerplate conservative statements by an American presidential candidate don’t rouse them from a stance of tranquil tolerance to one of prickly outrage.  They’re already perpetually in a state of prickly outrage.

Rioters didn’t require a shoddy 14-minute YouTube film trailer to cause mayhem on September 11.  They were already sufficiently motivated to murder American ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens and drag his body through the streets.  Even the Obama administration now admits that Stevens’ murder was a terrorist attack, and new evidence suggests that Al Qaeda was behind it.

But by liberals’ calculation, the real policy-driver, the de facto Commander in Chief, the actual mover and shaker who’s screwing up the Middle East, is an unemployed father of five struggling to keep even with Obama in the polls.

Consider the essence of Democrats’ “Blame Bush” strategy, which they initiated at the height of the 2008 presidential campaign season and have continued right up through August’s lousy job numbers.  Remember that their approach did not merely take Bush to task for things he did wrong.  Most conservatives will happily rattle off a laundry list of complaints about Bush, from his expanding government entitlement programs to his failing to win the Iraq War early and decisively enough.

No, “Blame Bush” was the catchall excuse Democrats evolved to protect Obama from unflattering comparisons to the far more experienced Republican candidate Senator John McCain, and from criticism of his handling of the economy and international relations once President.

Obama wasted four years spending the country into oblivion; but when we failed to recover from the recession, Democrats blamed Bush for leaving him an economy much worse than was imaginable by anyone, including liberal economists we were supposed to trust regarding the restorative effect of Obama’s stimulus bill.

Obama spent four years bowing and scraping before our enemies; but when he pledged to sit down and talk with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad without preconditions, and Iran responded by defying the international prohibition on continuing its nuclear weapons program, Democrats blamed Bush for creating a hostile negotiation environment.

If Mitt Romney is elected president, Democrats’ strategy will transition from blaming everything on Bush to blaming it on Romney, as though Obama’s four-year stint in the White House left no trace.

But I don’t know anyone who anticipated that Democrats would be desperate enough to start blaming the unelected Romney for Obama’s failures.

Of course the real culprit behind the foreign policy debacle in Libya and Egypt is not Romney but Obama.  It was Obama’s State Department that failed to adequately secure the breached embassies ahead of 9/11, despite warnings of attacks; failed to deploy Marines to secure the premises; released from Gitmo a detainee involved in the attacks; fell all over themselves to issue apologies for Americans’ trampling on Muslim sensibilities; harassed the director of the trailer for making the video, Pastor Terry Jones for promoting it, and Google and YouTube for hosting it; and spent four years denying that America stands for any particular virtues that are superior to those of any other country.

(Does Obama really think having a half-Indonesian sister so endears him to the Muslim world that his State Department doesn’t need to raise the security level a notch at Middle Eastern embassies every time 9/11 rolls around?)

Mitt Romney’s Libya statement—like his 47% “gaffe” earlier this week—provided a badly needed kick in the pants to a nation accustomed to four years of Obama.  Romney’s clarification of the situation in Libya and Egypt constituted the proverbial wakeup call: “The first step in realizing our country is weak under Obama is realizing we have a problem.”

But who will Democrats blame Obama’s failures on for the next four years if Romney loses?

Previously published in modified form at Red Alert Politics

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Time Magazine’s Person of the Year: The Rabble-Rouser!

December 28, 2011 By: Scott Spiegel Category: Miscellaneous

Time magazine recently awarded its vaunted Person of the Year title to “The Protestor.”

The increasingly irrelevant weekly has been moving away from traditional designations of actual, individual human beings as Person of the Year for a while now.  Apparently the left-leaning journal has been ever more swayed by the collectivist notion that there are no individual heroes or titans that drive the world—just influences, movements, and groundswells.  Recent winners of Time’s award have consisted of The Peacemakers (including founder of modern terrorism Yasser Arafat), The Whistleblowers (including an Enron staffer who warned about bad accounting practices), and The Good Samaritans (including certified bobblehead Bono).

At least those titles went to groups of several persons each.  Time’s latest choice encompasses literally millions of human beings.  It’s as vague and vacuous as the phrase “War on Poverty.”

(I suppose we shouldn’t be surprised at Time’s latest addle-headed selection; this is the same magazine that chose Vladimir Putin as Person of the Year in 2007 and, um, “You” in 2006.)

Throughout its lengthy cover story, Time boosts “protesting” as if it were just another Internet craze, like planking, owling, or Batmanning.

In saluting The Protestor, Time recklessly combines the following disparate groups: pro-democracy protestors in Tunisia, Egypt, Syria, Libya, Algeria, Yemen, and Bahrain; anti-corruption protestors in Russia and India; Tea Party protestors; Occupy Wall Street protestors; “Real Democracy” protestors in Spain; public sector union benefit cut protestors in Wisconsin; and austerity cut protestors in Athens and London.  Practically kissing cousins!

In a related photo essay, the editors casually juxtapose portraits of figures from different groups: an Egyptian democracy demonstrator next to an Occupy Wall Streeter; a Tunisian women’s rights advocate beside a Greek austerity protestor.

The spurious comparison of democracy advocates to anti-capitalist ne’er-do-wells is no doubt a means for liberal Time editors to pat themselves on the backs.  By placing leftist rallies in the same league as pro-freedom demonstrations, they grant the former a degree of legitimacy unobtainable through these mob movements’ flimsy philosophical grounding or scant public support.

Predictably, Time focuses on the superficial similarities between Arab Spring and Occupy/austerity protestors, such as their relative youth, use of social media to mobilize, display of slogans, clashes with police, and impatience with “the system.”

In a video explaining the reasoning behind his choice, the author of the Time piece—whose nephew was a figure in the Occupy movement—claims that the Arab protests are a more “extreme” version of what happened in New York.

This is utterly wrongheaded.

Pro-democracy protestors and Occupy/austerity protestors not only have nothing in common, they’re polar opposites.  Arab Spring demonstrators protested for more freedom; Occupy parasites protested for less.

Occupy Wall Street protestors want more government regulation of the financial sector, tougher restrictions on bank lending practices, greater taxation of high-income earners, more wealth confiscation and redistribution, and more government control of health care, college tuition, and private sector wages.  Public sector union members crave more taxpayer dollars for lavish benefits and pension packages few in the private sector receive and more power to bully employees into joining unions.  Austerity protestors demand more government-mandated support for slothful Southern European lifestyles.

Pro-democracy protestors, meanwhile, desire freedom of speech and freedom to run a business without the government throwing them in jail or confiscating their property.

Lumping pro-democracy protestors in Arab dictatorships with Occupy Wall Street malcontents is like massing Martin Luther King followers with Ku Klux Klan marchers and naming Person of the Year “The Racial Justice Advocate.”

Yes, Occupy and union protestors were “inspired” by the Arab Spring and conferred with several of their leaders.  But these groups clearly were stimulated by Arab protestors’ techniques, not their pro-liberty message.

Even the Time piece’s author seems to recognize on some level that he’s comparing apples and oranges.  As he notes, “The protesters in the Middle East and North Africa are literally dying to get political systems that roughly resemble the ones that seem intolerably undemocratic to protesters in Madrid, Athens, London and New York City.”  Then why dishonor the former by tossing them in with the latter?

If protest was on Time editors’ minds—and there certainly was a lot of noisy protesting this year—then their Person of the Year title should have gone to Mohamed Bouazizi, the Tunisian street vendor who set himself on fire after bureaucratic authorities repeatedly quashed his efforts to sell his wares and make an honest living.  Bouazizi was the single person most responsible for setting off the chain of pro-democracy protests in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, et al., and the subsequent elections and tumultuous regime changes that will alter the course of Middle Eastern history for better or for worse.

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Newt Is Right: The Palestinians Are an Invented People

December 14, 2011 By: Scott Spiegel Category: Israel

Frontrunner-of-the-month GOP presidential contender Newt Gingrich caused a stir at Saturday night’s Iowa debate when he affirmed his previous characterization of “an invented Palestinian people, who are in fact Arabs and were historically part of the Arab community.”

For once, Gingrich is correct.

The label “Palestine” was used historically to refer to the area between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River (and beyond); the term had no political import.  During the first half of the 20th century, “Palestinian” referred largely to Jews living in Palestine.  The Palestine Post, for example, was printed in Hebrew and English, and in 1950 was renamed The Jerusalem Post.

The British, who controlled Palestine after WWI, divided it in two in 1923, giving 75% of the land—the area that is now Jordan—to Palestinian Arabs, and the remaining 25% to Palestinian Jews.  But that wasn’t good enough to satisfy regional Arabic despots.

In 1947, the United Nations proposed a partition plan to create side-by-side Jewish and Arab states out of the 25% that was left of the original Palestine, west of the Jordan River.  The Arab regimes surrounding Palestine rejected the deal; this resulted in the 1947-1948 Civil War and the creation of the Jewish state.

During the subsequent 1948 Arab-Israeli War, started against Israel one day after it declared statehood, Arab governments encouraged hundreds of thousands of Palestinian Arabs to flee their homes in order to facilitate the onslaught of the invading armies of Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, and Yemen against Israelis.  These regimes promised to return to Palestinian Arabs the property they had left once Israel was defeated; however, Israel won, and refugees were forced to relocate outside of Palestine.

As Gingrich noted, plenty of Muslim countries could have given Palestinian Arab refugees a state, but none did.  The countries to which refugees scattered—chiefly Syria, Lebanon, and Jordan—suppressed any burgeoning sense of Palestinian identity to a far greater degree than Israel ever did.

Strangely, Palestinian Arab refugees did not protest after the Arab-Israeli war when Egypt and Jordan grabbed the Gaza Strip, the West Bank, and Jerusalem—the same territories that the United Nations had set aside to serve as their home state.  To this day, Palestinian Arabs insist on being granted, not the territory set aside for them in 1923 in present-day Jordan, not the territory taken over in 1948 by Egypt and Jordan, but one tiny sliver of land in the Middle East that has served as a refuge for Jewish Holocaust survivors and a base for Jews to call their home state.

The “Palestinian people” was a fiction created post-WWII to facilitate the insertion of a fifth column inside Israel to demand endless, untenable land concessions and eventually encroach upon the entire Jewish state.

In an interview with the Dutch newspaper Trouw in 1977, former Palestinian Liberation Organization leader Zuheir Mohsen admitted, “The Palestinian people does not exist.  The creation of a Palestinian state is only a means for continuing our struggle against the state of Israel for our Arab unity.  In reality today there is no difference between Jordanians, Palestinians, Syrians and Lebanese.  Only for political and tactical reasons do we speak today about the existence of a Palestinian people, since Arab national interests demand that we posit the existence of a distinct ‘Palestinian people’ to oppose Zionism.”

How much clearer can it get?  How much more nakedly could the founders of the Palestinian strategy reveal their modus operandi?

That the Palestinian people are invented is not in question.  The only question is whether they should be awarded their own state.  Anyone who cares about the security of Israel, the only free nation in the region, should answer with a resounding no.

Back to Saturday’s debate: Moderator George Stephanopoulos asked Gingrich if he thought his comments were dangerous.  Gingrich replied, “Is what I said factually correct?  Yes.  Is it historically true?  Yes…  [E]very day, rockets are fired into Israel…  Hamas does not admit the right of Israel to exist, and says publicly, ‘Not a single Jew will remain.’ The Palestinian Authority ambassador to India said last month… ‘Israel has no right to exist.’”

He continued: “The Palestinian claim to a right of return is based on a historically false story.  Somebody ought to have the courage to go all the way back to… the context in which Israel came into existence…  ‘Palestinian’ did not become a common term until after 1977.  This is a propaganda war in which our side refuses to engage.”

In response to Gingrich’s defense, hapless Mitt Romney floundered all over the place, claiming that, although he mostly agreed with Gingrich, it was a “mistake” to call the Palestinians an invented people (though they are), Gingrich had made it “more difficult for [Israelis] to sit down with the Palestinians” (though it’s already impossible), and Gingrich had decided to “throw incendiary words into a place which is a boiling pot” (though the situation is already hopeless).

Despite his ideological missteps, character flaws, and general unsuitability to be our nominee, I’m happy to give credit where credit is due, and in this case it goes squarely to Gingrich.  As he summed up, “It is helpful to have a president of the United States with the courage to tell the truth, [like] Ronald Reagan, who went around his entire national security apparatus to call the Soviet Union an evil empire and who overruled his entire State Department in order to say, ‘Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.’  Reagan believed the power of truth restated the world and reframed the world…  I will tell the truth, even if it’s at the risk of causing some confusion… with the timid.”

If Gingrich doesn’t get the nomination—and he doesn’t especially deserve to—he may at least serve the same function that other unlikely nominees have served on various issues from Santorum (Iran) to Cain (taxes) to Bachmann (ObamaCare) to Perry (Social Security): namely, to push Mitt Romney to the right.  Based on his comments on the Palestinians, Gingrich may even serve as a model for pressuring our nominee to speak the truth.

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Conservatives: Yesterday’s Cold Warriors, Today’s Cowards

February 09, 2011 By: Scott Spiegel Category: War on Terror

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If Hosni Mubarak is a crooked card dealer guaranteed to stiff anyone who plays at his table, most conservatives’ reaction to the events unfolding in Egypt has been to throw their support to the house rather than pro-Western Egyptian protestors, simply because the latter might not win the game against the Muslim Brotherhood.

In the early 1990s, when the U.S.S.R. disintegrated and Soviet provinces began deposing their Communist overlords and electing pro-reform leaders, I must have missed the barrage of sworn affidavits from fringe groups in every Eastern European state promising they would never attempt to form voting blocs that would influence their nations’ parliaments.

I don’t recall President Reagan speaking out against demoralized Eastern bloc peoples who yearned to breathe free, telling them to zip their lips, stay home, and put up with political oppression, because neo-Communist groups might someday try to swoop in and fill the power vacuum.

The number of conservatives who have been getting it wrong, and liberals who have been getting it right, on Egypt is embarrassing.

For example, Mark Levin claims that the Eastern European revolutions were different, because those nations had a “tradition” of democracy before they were enslaved by Communists.  Oh?  So no nation can become democratic unless it was democratic at some point in the first place?  Doesn’t that preclude half the world from ever becoming democratic?

When did the political party that won the Cold War decide it would be prudent to wave the white hankie and let monsters—I mean sweet, dear friends of the U.S.—like Mubarak stay in power over the wishes of their subjects?

If Mubarak were to stay in office, as most on the right are demanding, he would be unlikely to unilaterally meet protestors’ demands to institute freedom of the press and assembly, release hundreds of incarcerated political prisoners, and revoke the never-ending so-called emergency laws that give the Egyptian government perpetual unchecked power to crack down on anyone deemed a threat to its rule.

But a new leader—even Mubarak’s recently named vice president, Omar Suleiman—would have a plausible excuse to implement new policies, and the changing of the guard would allow Mubarak to save face.  Such pro-liberty developments would be especially likely if buttressed by the support of Egypt’s armed forces, which have pledged not to fire on the Egyptian people and have so far come down firmly on the side of the anti-Mubarak protestors.

Mubarak may be the new Iranian Shah of 1979, and President Barack Obama may be the new President Jimmy Carter, but that doesn’t mean the Muslim Brotherhood is the new Ayatollah Khomeini.

The Muslim Brotherhood, evil as it is, has 100,000 supporters in a country of 80 million, about .1% of the population.  Recoiling in mortal terror over the possibility of the Brotherhood managing to take over Egypt is like worrying that the Natural Law Party will win the U.S. presidential election and force everyone to practice transcendental meditation.

Even if the Brotherhood is better organized than most other political groups in Egypt, the bad example of Carter supporting the toppling of the Shah only to let him be replaced by the Ayatollah serves as a valuable warning that the West cannot let just anyone take Mubarak’s place.

As I wrote last week, the problem with our administration’s reaction to the turmoil in Egypt isn’t that Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton are doing too much—it’s that they’re doing too little.  They should not only encourage this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to bring down a dictator, but work with regional players, pro-Western dissident groups in Egypt, and opposition leaders (excluding the treacherous Mohamed ElBaradei) to ensure that power is transferred to the right people after Mubarak goes.  They should threaten to freeze military aid and withhold recognition of any new Egyptian government that does not meet certain preconditions such as honoring Egypt’s existing peace agreement with Israel.

No one agrees more than I that neither Egypt nor any Middle Eastern country would be safe with anything like the Muslim Brotherhood or any other faux-moderate, terrorism-supporting, Sharia-loving group close to the reins of power.  The fact that Obama would even speak to members of such an organization other than to tell them to get the hell out of the way is a deep, disfiguring scar on his foreign policy.

But when you’re playing a high-stakes game like regime change, sometimes you have to roll the dice and take a risk; you can’t always guarantee the outcome.  The Right should man up, encourage pro-Western forces to exert their utmost influence on Egypt, and stop lecturing Egyptians to accept the status quo of tyranny and terror.

Conservatives would do well to remember these words from George W. Bush’s second inaugural address: “The great objective of ending tyranny is the concentrated work of generations.  The difficulty of the task is no excuse for avoiding it.  America’s influence is not unlimited, but fortunately for the oppressed, America’s influence is considerable, and we will use it confidently in freedom’s cause.”

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Obama’s Backward Strategy of Oppression

February 02, 2011 By: Scott Spiegel Category: War on Terror

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Liberals mocked George W. Bush’s “Forward Strategy of Freedom,” sneering that it was corny and idealistic, wouldn’t work, and didn’t suit exotic, backward, brown people who wouldn’t know what to do with liberty if it fell in their laps.

In the years since U.S. forces ousted the Taliban in Afghanistan and deposed Saddam Hussein in Iraq, the world has beheld a remarkably long line of popular uprisings in Middle Eastern and Eastern European states that has thoroughly vindicated Bush’s approach.

Four months after U.S. Marines took Baghdad in Operation Iraqi Freedom, a quivering-in-his-boots Muammar Gaddafi acknowledged Libya’s responsibility for the 1988 Lockerbie bombing and paid billions in compensation to relatives of victims, and to those of the UTA Flight 772 bombing and the Berlin discotheque bombing.

Three months later we witnessed the Rose Revolution in Georgia, in which the public protested against rigged parliamentary elections, removed President Eduard Shevardnadze, and installed reformist Mikhail Saakashvili.

In 2004 we watched the Orange Revolution in the Ukraine, in which protestors kept Viktor Yanukovych from assuming office as Prime Minister after fraudulent elections and instated pro-reform Viktor Yushchenko.

In 2005 we observed the Cedar Revolution in Lebanon, in which citizens rioted to protest the assassination of pro-Western former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, the presence of tens of thousands of Syrian troops, and the rule of a pro-Syrian government.

Days after the Cedar Revolution, we had the Tulip Revolution in Kyrgyzstan, in which protestors ousted corrupt President Askar Akayev.

In 2009 we monitored the Green Revolution in Iran, in which thousands of citizens rioted over the rigged presidential election that kept Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in power.

In December 2010 we saw the Jasmine Revolution in Tunisia, in which protestors ousted secular autocrat Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali, the first ever peaceful removal of an Arabic leader.

Earlier this month in Yemen, protestors marched in Sanaa and called for the removal of President Ali Abdullah Saleh.  Protestors in Albania demonstrated against Prime Minister Sali Berisha.

Over the past week, millions of protestors in Egypt have rioted in Cairo, Alexandria, and Suez, demanding the ouster of autocratic leader Hosni Mubarak and the release of hundreds of political prisoners.  Mubarak has since fired his cabinet and claimed he will not run again after serving out the final year of his current term, but has not responded to protestors’ demands.

Egyptian protestors modeled their protests after Tunisia’s, which in turn were made possible by the chain of protests and regime changes leading back to Iraq and Afghanistan.

Given Egypt’s size and prominence in the Arab world, deposing Mubarak would likely spur a wave of protests against other autocratic regimes in the region.

So what has Obama’s response been to all of this activity in his first two years in office?

Why, his response has been to cozy up to Soviet-influenced Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chavez, illegitimate Honduran President Manuel Zelaya, Islamist Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, genocidal Iranian leader Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and autocratic Egyptian leader Hosni Mubarak.

Obama has been courting tyrants in fulfillment of the self-defeating strategy of “engagement” with the world’s most brutal, unreformable despots.

Unfortunately, he has offered less encouragement for those trying to overthrow these despots.

When Iranians rose against the mullahs and were slaughtered in the streets, Obama dawdled a week before raising an eyebrow over the carnage.

When Tunisians rose against their autocratic government, Obama waited until the deposed president had safely fled to Saudi Arabia, then preached “calm.”

Now Obama’s tepid response to Mubarak has been to murmur, “What is needed are concrete steps to advance the rights of the Egyptian people”—as if Mubarak and the rest of the world didn’t know that.  Obama has failed to call for Mubarak’s resignation, free elections, or a pro-liberty government, or to spotlight Egypt’s abysmal human rights record, out of fealty to the fallacious notion that Egypt is a reliable U.S. ally and must be appeased.

There are grave concerns over what types of leadership would replace those deposed in Tunisia and Egypt, including Islamist groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood that would try to creep in and institute Sharia.  But the original demonstrators—not the riffraff who want to loot and steal, not the convicts released from jail, not the Brotherhood—were grassroots and pro-liberty.  The impulse of any genuinely pro-freedom Egyptian protestors is to be commended, not discouraged.

I have a problem with anyone who would tell everyday Egyptians that they’re not allowed to protest because their “allies” aren’t sure whether a new government would be better or worse than the current horrid one.  Anyone who could look in the eyes of courageous Egyptians who want to live in freedom from censorship, repression, and fear of their government and tell them to shut up and go home does not care whether Egyptians ever have freedom.

Contrary to popular opinion among many conservatives, Obama has not been doing enough to encourage and guide such popular revolutions while in office.  The U.S. should be standing up for freedom-seeking protestors and working with regional players to capitalize on power vacuums to ensure that pro-liberty governments take office.

Sadly, Obama’s approach to the flurry of popular uprisings has been, not to condemn tyrannical governments and encourage pro-liberty regimes, but to waffle on regime change and coddle dictators.

Every time Obama fails to stand up for liberty abroad, he discourages oppressed peoples from toppling the tyrants who rule them.

Obama’s policy is the opposite of Bush’s.  It is a Backward Strategy of Oppression.

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Israel to U.S.: “You Are the Weakest Link!”

June 15, 2010 By: Scott Spiegel Category: Israel

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Image by Scott Spiegel via Flickr

The list of countries that have provided tacit support to Israel for its imminent launch of preemptive missile attacks on Iran’s nuclear weapons facilities now includes: Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Kuwait, Turkey, Egypt, and… not-the-United-States.

The Saudi government recently conducted drills to ensure that their missile defense system does not shoot down Israeli jets that might fly over their airspace in the near future.  This is crucial for any bombing raids Israel may conduct on Iranian nuclear facilities, because the only feasible route to Iran’s nuclear plants is over a wide swath of Saudi Arabia.  Israel might also need to fly over Jordan and Kuwait, which have not objected to this arrangement.

A much quicker, as-the-crow-flies route to Iran’s cluster of nuclear facilities at Natanz, Qom, Isfahan, and Arak would be directly over Iraq.  However, use of this flight plan has one sticking point: the U.S. commander-in-chief’s stubborn refusal to allow Israel to fly jets through Iraq’s airspace.

In arriving at this position, President Obama may have been following the advice of Zbigniew Brzezinski, former National Security Advisor to Jimmy Carter, who infamously offered the charming advice last year that if Israel tried to use Iraqi airspace to attack Iran, the U.S. should shoot Israeli jets down.

Saudi Arabia has never exactly considered Israel an ally, as the U.S. does.  Yet the Saudi government recognizes the danger a nuclear Iran poses to their country and the region, and is willing to clear a corridor of airspace for Israel over their country.  Why is Obama unwilling to do the same over Iraq, which isn’t even his country?

In 2007 Turkey allowed Israel use of its airspace in a sneak attack on a developing nuclear plant in Syria, Iran’s primary ally in the region.  At the time, the Syria attack was seen as a test run for an upcoming Israeli attack against Iran’s facilities, which means that Turkey was essentially helping Israel prepare for such an attack.

Egypt has also recently looked the other way as Israel sent warships and a nuclear-capable submarine down the Suez Canal toward the Arabian Sea in preparation for a conflict with Iran.

But due to Obama’s creepy, subtly anti-Semitic foreign policy, Israel must instead hurl its jets in a wide, boomerang-shaped flight path all the way around the southern tip of Iraq, across the Persian Gulf, and back up to central-northern Iran to get to the country’s primary nuclear facilities.

George W. Bush was certainly no hawk regarding the prospect of the U.S. attacking Iran under his watch.  However, it’s safe to assume, given the precipitous progress of Iran’s nuclear program over the past two years, Iran’s alarming self-declaration as a nuclear state this spring, and Israel’s brave willingness to confront Iran alone, that Bush would not have denied Israel the right to fly over Iraq if he were still President.

To put all of this in perspective: our current president is refusing to allow the only stable democracy in the Middle East (Israel) to serve as the U.S.’s front line of attack against the greatest state sponsor of terrorism in the world (Iran), by letting them fly over a country we recently liberated (Iraq) in order that they might serve as a model for neighboring dictatorships on the brink of regime change (such as Iran).

Ah, you say, but surely Obama has some other diplomatic maneuver up his sleeve, some nonmilitary means of pressuring Iran to abandon its nuclear program and allow weapons inspectors into the country.

Actually, no—the Obama administration has been working to weaken Congress’s proposed U.S. sanctions against Iran.  Obama fears that these injunctions may go too far and anger our allies.

These are not the sanctions imposed by the UN last week—the ones which we waited forever to be implemented, which two of the largest nations in the world (Brazil and Turkey) rejected, and which are watered down to the point of futility.  These are additional sanctions that would apply only to U.S. companies and not be legally binding on other countries.

The EU has already agreed to oil and gas sanctions of their own that go beyond the mild-mannered penalties imposed by the UN.  So even the likes of France and Germany are going further than the U.S. in isolating Iran, yet Obama still sees the need to appease our allies.

Americans ought to be deeply troubled by a U.S. foreign policy that fails to be as supportive of Israel’s right to defend itself as the doctrines of Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and Egypt.

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