Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The Kicking In Of A Rotten Door. Part Three, The Shores Of Tripoli

Or the Wrecking Ball of History Takes Another Swing.

Sometimes I truly regret taking History as a major in college. It is not only that the job prospects with a history degree are anemic even in good economic times, it is also that I can see things that are painfully obvious to me, but whiz past 99% of my fellow citizens. Case in point: Libya.

Forgive me for beating on this dead and now throughly mangled horse dear reader but, we are living in a period of huge historical change. Some very large chickens are coming home to roost. Huge, monstrous, misshapen poultry the size of turbo-prop airliners have returned to the farm, and are about to kick bottoms and take names. The long suppressed dreams, wishes, ambitions, yearnings, goals and ambitions of millions in the Maghreb are being unleashed. What began as a small spark in Tunis has now become a wind-fed wildfire and is building in to a firestorm.

I had a feeling that Libya was going to be a flash point. No right thinking people could tolerate the corruptions and shear clown-car antics of Muammar Abu Minyar al-Gaddafi indefinitely. The man is a poster-child for the dangers of self-indulgence. He follows the pattern of most Tin-Pot Dictators and Pugilists in that he did not have the common sense to quit while he was ahead; he stayed on long past his prime.  There will be no palatial rest home on the Sinai for Gaddafi; no retirement at  Sharm el Sheikh.

The reason Gaddafi was headed for a fall is depressingly simple; in a word it is corruption. The man, the regime, has been befouling the Maghreb since 1969. That is just too long dear reader. There is no nice way to put this; he got sloppy and stupid in those forty odd years. He has become thoroughly invested in his own PR and his own oddball little world.

Do not underestimate the power of entropy in this sad tale; this regime has been in a death spiral for quite a long time. The signs were glaringly obvious to those who would look. Any leader who runs around with a Praetorian Guard made solely of virginal Amazonians has a serious disconnect with reality. The five hour long speeches to the U.N. were also a rather big hint. And the cloths, sweet Baby Jesus on a pogo stick, how could a person miss those cloths? The man was outlandishly dressed for a Gilbert and Sullivan operetta, never mind the world stage. There is no propaganda in the world that can counter that kind of sheer idiocy and self-indulgence. The citizens of Libya had to be secretly fuming at the laughing stock their leader ( and thereby their nation) had become.

Add to that insult the injury that is routinely dished out by an autocratic state, and Libya was due to explode. When Egypt gave Mubarak the heave-ho it was almost inevitable that Gaddafi would be challenged. Once challenged, it was almost inevitable that he would react badly. The threat of Civil War by the regime was answered by the populace with a resounding “Have At You!” While there is no confirmation, I am sure that the military has fractured thanks to the heavy-handed machinations of Muammar and son. The best guess is that the lower ranks, especially the Captains and below, are the ones defecting. They are younger and less welded to the regime. They are the new generation. In them is the store of four decades of resentment, frustration and anger. They see no point in killing their own people for this corrupt, venial, and despotic regime.

Ironically it was the opening to Libya via the “Global War on Terror” that made some of this possible. With the opening to the West, Gaddafi’s regime lost its raison d'ĂȘtre. The army may have stayed loyal if Libya was still on the axis of evil. The fiction of Libya being a revolutionary regime in opposition to West could have been maintained. But thanks to a confluence of idiocy in D.C. and egomania in Tripoli, the ideological underpinnings of the Libyan regime were shredded.  For a becoming a client in the GWT, Gaddafi got a modicum of respectability. It looked like a good idea all around until a fruit vender in Tunisia set himself on fire as an act of protest and subversion.

From such small pebbles do mighty avalanches grow. Of course Washington, and the hermetically sealed chattering classes that rule there, was caught flat footed. It is only partly correct to blame 20th century thinking in a 21 century world for this failure of foresight. How to talk about this inconvenient truth? How to bring up some of the hard-edged facts on the ground without being branded an Isolationist or a Far-Left Loon, or both? This is not just an elite locked into a Cold War mindset. This is something more profound and much more unpleasant. This is Hegemony. More bluntly: this is Empire.

It is off-putting to even use those two words; Hegemon and Empire. We are supposed to be the good guys, spreading peace, prosperity, and democracy all over the world. Still, if it quacks like a duck, swims like a duck, eats like a duck, and has the bill of a duck, it is at least some kind of water-foul. Our blind spots are the blind spots of a Hegemon. We value control and stability over everything else. We ignore any and every datum that contradicts our rational for overlordship. We refuse to believe that other people may want to do things differently, or more exactly to be separate from us. We refuse to see other cultures or other polities as legitimate. Most importantly we keep butting in were we are not welcome. It is called over-reach, and we have a very bad case of it.

The awful truth is that the U.S. is over-extended. We are attempting to run the lives of too many people in too many lands and we are paying the price for it. We are bogged down in two wars of choice; neither of which make any sense. We pointlessly invaded Iraq and handed that oil-rich state over to Iran. Prior to that, we charged into Afghanistan with insufficient resources, and then lost the whole thread of why we went into the graveyard of empires in the first place. Mission creep in both Iraq and Afghanistan has occurred, with Afghanistan that taking the prize for the worst example. Where is OBL and his unhappy al Qaeda campers? Not in Afghanistan anymore.  What to do? Let’s blunder into Pakistan with all the subtlety of a bull elephant in heat; that will gain us friends and influence people.

What is required, and what is unlikely to occur, is a total re-think of what the National Interest really is. I’m afraid that Obama does not have the mental landscape to accomplish this. He is mired in outdated concepts of power politics that died with the Soviet Union.

This whole GWT or whatever it is called now, is bunk. It is nothing more that an attempt to rehash and re-fight the Cold War. Only this time we are going to fight it “right” or at least in the way the NeoCons think is right. This time we are going to be perfect Barbarians; perfect berzerkers. We are going to swing our mighty axes, and damn the consequences. We have our freshly minted Yoo memo in our hands , and with this unholy dispensation we are out to crush some skulls, and a few naughty bits while we are at it. We are going to follow Dead-Eye Dick Cheney’s guiding star, and toss civilized behavior aside. We will allow ourselves to slip into delusion and mania.

I don’t see how in the present right-wing induced mania, and the toxic politics that it engenders, the US, how we manages to have a serious discussion about where our National Interest lies. We will instead have a side-show about how Obama “lost” Egypt or Bahrain or whatever. Our nation will continue to be the deer in the headlights, constantly run over by the Peterbilt of onrushing events. Even if Obama had a good foreign policy notion rattling in his skull, and he does not, he could never get it past the partisan hacks now in control of the Republican Party-- and sadly the Democratic Party too. What will never be considered is whether the particular nation under discussion was “ours”  in the first place.

My only hope, and what a oxymoronic and despairing hope it has become, is that the onrush of events outpaces any consensus the elites of D.C. come up with. As with everything else in the fever swamps of the Potomac, any consensus derived by those political idiot-savants will have no correspondence with facts on the ground. The D.C. consensus will be exact opposite of what needs to be done; no matter what it is. Our system of government is fundamentally broken. It is shot through with corruption and only serves the narrow interest of a very few, very inbred, very greedy, very short-sighted interests. When the tail of crony capitalism wags the dog of U.S. International policy, no good will come of the process.

But back to the original subject of this post, that of Libya. The regime is done for. There is no victory other than a Pyrrhic one for Gaddafi and company. All roads lead to ignonymity. The only question is whether the road taken is on the Interstate or on a slower, more scenic, secondary or tertiary route. My guess is most people will not want to watch the final end of Muammar Abu Minyar al-Gaddafi. This is not a man fated to die in his sleep. My guess is his will be a very nasty and bloody end; definitely not family viewing material. This is what happen when you cry havoc and let loose the dogs of civil war; quite often the dogs eat you. And on that very grim and macabre note I will leave you, gentle reader, until next time for part four, five, perhaps six. History is not done, not by a long shot.
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