The persistence of optimism towards the coming new face in the governance for much of the Middle East has been difficult for me to understand. The predictions of Western style secular democracies completely ignore the desire of these countries’ masses for a strict Islamic leadership and Sharia Law. The media carefully presented the view of these uprisings calling for democracy and individual freedoms while editing out and turning a blind eye towards the Islamic fundamentalist side of the demonstrations. When the initial minority that had honestly desired to gain individual rights and freedoms along with economic reforms allowing for individual enterprise free from strict government cronyism control allowing a select few to own the choice sectors of the economy while subjecting the rest to restrictive licensing and regulations that prevented private productivity and profits, the media cameras stopped filming and they simply ran with the selected videos from the initial days. The continuing demonstrations that have continued well past the detailed coverage were not calling for economic reform but demanded Islamic reforms. In the end, there will be elections that will not elect a progressive majority; it will elect a majority who will implement strict Islamic Sharia Laws as the guiding basis for governing.
Perhaps it would be best to look at examples from some of the countries where leaders have stepped down or are about to and see who the likely leaders are and what will be their main policies. Mubarak stepped down in Egypt and a military council will act as a government until election this summer or fall. Potential candidates for President span from Ahmed Shafiq who was former air force commander and minister for civil aviation as well as a close associate of former president Hosni Mubarak,who was Arab League Secretary General, of International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) fame, to Ayman Nour who is considered the most progressive and liberal in the group. Every one of the choices takes the position to break all relations with Israel and to negate the Camp David Accords Treaty. Some have taken what should be seen as an extreme position that should Israel take military actions against Hamas, Egypt should declare war on Israel in response. Most Middle East polls and experts are almost unanimous in the opinion that even if it is not literally the Muslim Brotherhood ruling Egypt, they will have a large influence and the government will be influenced by Islamic Sharia Law.
Presidentof Yemen has agreed to step down. Yemen is a country of three geographic sectors, each with their own particular influences. Those living in central Yemen near the Capital are the most progressive and as a rule, with the highest per-capita wealth. The northern parts of Yemen are tribal where conflict is common. The southern third of Yemen has fallen almost completely under the control of al-Qaeda. Of the three groups, al-Qaeda is the best organized and very well-armed. A number of analysts have expressed expectations that without outside intervention, al-Qaida is quite likely to either take control of Yemen or cause it to become another failed state similar to Somalia which would allow al-Qaeda to operate freely which would spread terror throughout the Arabian Peninsula. Perhaps Yemen should get more attention from the Western nations than wasting their efforts, military efforts, and treasure on Libya.
One item that should get some mention is the accusations some have made placing Iran as attempting to take advantage of the uprisings to expand their control over the region. This theory was most shrill in discussions about the unrest in Bahrain. There are theories that the uprising by the Shiites and the decisive intervention by Saudi Arabia after receiving a request from Bahraini King Hamad bin Isa Al-Khalifa came uncomfortably close to a direct war between Iran and Saudi Arabia. Despite a fair amount of sabre rattling by Iran, it was very unlikely that Iran would have any desire to initiate an armed conflict with Saudi Arabia as Iran does not have military equipment anywhere near on a par with Saudi Arabia which has large amounts of modern American arms including fighter jets, attack helicopter, armor, and naval ships.
This article would be remiss should we not mention Syria. Finally, the members of Obama’s Administration have come around to recognize that Syrian President Bashir al-Assad is not the great reformer they had been touting far too long. Now some are claiming that we need to intervene in Syria exactly as we have in Libya and for the same Right to Protect (R2P) reasoning. My question is the same for Syria as I had with Libya, who are we putting in power replacing the current government. Do we know who the protesters are and what it is they actually want? Would the next government be any improvement or would we be wasting our military efforts, our monetary investment, and eventually possibly our troops. Would Syria and Libya end up as it appears Egypt is heading to do, enact an Islamist Sharia based government? As horrible as both al-Assad and Kaddafi may be, there might be something to the old phrase, “Better the devil you know than the devil you don’t know.” The more I watch the efforts made to reform the Middle East simply come unraveled even before we have brought our troops home, the more I wish not to waste any more of our resources in futile efforts like we seem to have been doing in Iraq and Afghanistan. Perhaps we would be better served to stand back, watch and see who and what survives, then we can decide if we approve or if we should simply act to restrain those we oppose. So far, active involvement has not seemed to produce desired results. I am a firm believer in not continuing to do that which is obviously not working.