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26 January 2011


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Democracies have tended to evolve from liberal societies.

Recently, you can take a gander at what a modern illiberal democracy look like. It looks like Iran, or the Palestinian authority when Hamas won, or Hamid Karzai stuffing the ballot boxes.

William R. Cumming

Arnaud's summary and analysis seem correct except as to one point. The Royal Houses are much more delicately balanced than most know and doubt seriously whether contracted security or large oil revenues will provide stability needed this decade. After all Tunisia appeared to be quite stable. All it took was one self-immolation to set it off.



Again, I can tell why you were once an Intelligence Director.

The major flaw in the New Reality World’s View is the Businessmen/Politicians inability to understand their fellow humans. No matter how much money one makes by invading Muslim Nations and blowing up drone bombs, war by it very nature stirs human passions and hatreds. There is always blowback. The Mubarak family won’t be the last to flee to Great Britain.

Even, worse is the belief that cutting government spending in the face of nearly 20% unemployment will increase the number of jobs when in reality it will assure the Great Depression II.

Unfortunately, the Second American Revolution will be led by the Tea Party and all their nutty ideologues and their strange beliefs like the separation of church and state isn’t in the Constitution.

Since I lived through more than half of the 20th Century, it astonishes me how the world has forgotten all of its hard learned lessons. Yes, we now live in the Neo-Gilded Age; 1911 all over again.


Quoting Armand DeB refering to "Islamicist Rule": "A poor, ignorant populace is the cornerstone of their rule."
What nation is he describing that has Islamicist rule? His description fits how the Maghreb has been ruled by the existing satraps.
Sometimes the aged transmit wisdom: sometimes the fears masturbate the reptilian part of their brains and they transmit defeat and doom.
"A rattled U.S. President Dwight Eisenhower ordered the three allies out of Suez. And the Kremlin won the round." Thieves are thieves, Ike apparantly did not approve of thieves. If I remember correctly, Ike also did not approve of De Gaulle, Churchill, or Israel.
Show me a government that doesn't want to retain power at any cost, show me a desert religion that does not wish to impose its creed in place of civilization.
I will in turn show you a dead government and a dead religion.


As someone who is currently under the rule of a quite autocratic leader of a Christian Democratic Union party (CDU) which favors big giveaways to bank owners and money management, wants to change the constitution to let the army to be used as a interior police force and cuts my well earned pensions, I'd rather like any party that takes a different stand.

What religious flag they will fly I don't really care about.

I believe that I am not alone in the world in feeling like that.

Patrick Lang


You would care once they began to force you to live by their rules. pl

Patrick Lang


So, you believe that the populations would be less poor and ignorant under Islamist rule? pl

Clifford Kiracofe

We should be clear about what the Neocon's Middle East "Revolution" objectives are. Gen. Wesley Clark, for one, has made this perfectly clear. The final objective, of course, is EGYPT:

"This is an Excerpt from an Interview given by Amy Goodman from Democracy Now. She spends an hour with retired four-star General Wesley Clark. Here is a snippet of what he has to say about the War on Iraq, and the wars we may see in the future.

...About ten days after 9/11, I went through the Pentagon and I saw Secretary Rumsfeld and Deputy Secretary Wolfowitz. I went downstairs just to say hello to some of the people on the Joint Staff who used to work for me, and one of the generals called me in. He said, "Sir, you've got to come in and talk to me a second." I said, "Well, you're too busy." He said, "No, no." He says, "We've made the decision we're going to war with Iraq." This was on or about the 20th of September. I said, "We're going to war with Iraq? Why?" He said, "I don't know." He said, "I guess they don't know what else to do." So I said, "Well, did they find some information connecting Saddam to al-Qaeda?" He said, "No, no." He says, "There's nothing new that way. They just made the decision to go to war with Iraq." He said, "I guess it's like we don't know what to do about terrorists, but we've got a good military and we can take down governments." And he said, "I guess if the only tool you have is a hammer, every problem has to look like a nail."

So I came back to see him a few weeks later, and by that time we were bombing in Afghanistan. I said, "Are we still going to war with Iraq?" And he said, "Oh, it's worse than that." He reached over on his desk. He picked up a piece of paper. And he said, "I just got this down from upstairs" -- meaning the Secretary of Defense's office -- "today." And he said, "This is a memo that describes how we're going to take out seven countries in five years, starting with Iraq, and then Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and, finishing off, Iran." I said, "Is it classified?" He said, "Yes, sir." I said, "Well, don't show it to me." And I saw him a year or so ago, and I said, "You remember that?" He said, "Sir, I didn't show you that memo! I didn't show it to you!"

AMY GOODMAN: I'm sorry. What did you say his name was?

GEN. WESLEY CLARK: I'm not going to give you his name.

AMY GOODMAN: So, go through the countries again.

GEN. WESLEY CLARK: Well, starting with Iraq, then Syria and Lebanon, then Libya, then Somalia and Sudan, and back to Iran."

Phil Giraldi

The panic about sharia law is somewhat misplaced. Only two countries in the Muslim world have total sharia law - Iran and Saudi Arabia. The rest have criminal codes based on French and British models. Sharia is sometimes applied to civil law, particularly family and inheritance law.

I also note that Arnaud and Colonel carefully do not equate an Islamic government with aggression towards its neighbors. The two do not automatically go together. Let them do what whey want within their own borders.

The present Turkish government is an improvement - it is less corrupt and I believe it will relinquish power if voted out of office, which is as much as anyone can hope for these days. Having watched the State of the Union Address last night for the first time, I think there is more to despair about in our Republic, our constitution dying with a whimper.



It all looks good to the neocons who were good at playing Blitzkreig and other such board games. No dead bodies, angry relatives, etc, just cardboard counters on a mapboard. Loads of fun!

Patrick Lang


I liked the computer versions even more. pl



So do I. But your decision making isn't clouded by them since you've experienced the reality.

Too bad none of the neocons played the ones about German merchant raiders in WWI or WWII. Lots of boredom interspersed with a little dice rolling. Kind of like finding the original al Qaeda members .

Medicine Man

Pity they've graduated from being clowns with a Risk board.

Adam L Silverman

I have to concur with Mr. Giraldi regarding Iran and Saudi, but I'd like to take it a step further. Neither form of government and governance, the former based on a version of Twelver Shi'ism and the latter on the Wahhabiya variant of Sunnism, is really too exportable. Though the Saudi version has the potential to travel a bit further than the Shi'a. The Iranian model can really only travel to those places that have really numerically strong Twelver majorities, so it could work in Iraq (and was a huge fear for many Iraqis I talked to and dealt with both Sunni and Shi'i), some of the other Gulf States, and thats pretty much it. Maybe Lebanon, but I don't see the other ethno-religious or ethno-national groups going for it. In the case of Wahhabiya the Saudis have spent lots of money trying to export it, and while they've made some in roads, I don't see it mapping on very well to the Islam of a lot of communities where there understanding of their faith is both communally determined as COL Lang has repeatedly pointed out and where that determination is tightly tied to other forms of identity - kinship, linguistic, geographic, etc. The real problem that we have is that we have to few Islamic movements and party that have come to power to be able to accurately forecast. The FIS in Algeria who had their electoral victory voided was one such opportunity. They had made concessions to play by certain rules, and while I'm not so naive to believe they'd have kept them all, it would have provided us with an example that was different from the Iranian or Saudi model. Additionally, and back to the identity bounded discussion, should various Islamic movements come to power I think we can expect to see some real variation based on whether they are within or without the Arab world, as well as whether their focus is really on the state they seek to govern or if it's on capturing the state as a basis to export their form of governance and Islam. The former would seem to be much more manageable - and by that I mean we could deal with them through diplomacy and economics, while the latter would likely be the real trouble spots.

Doug Tunnell

Mohammed elBaradei to Newsweek today:

"Of course, you in the West have been sold the idea that the only options in the Arab world are between authoritarian regimes and Islamic jihadists. That’s obviously bogus. If we are talking about Egypt, there is a whole rainbow variety of people who are secular, liberal, market-oriented, and if you give them a chance they will organize themselves to elect a government that is modern and moderate."

elBaradei is reportedly preparing to return to Egypt despite death threats. Was there encouragement from Washington ? And will Mubarak's police let him in ?


Lets not forget what happened to the secular nationalist movements: Mossadeq, Nasser, Arafat, all of whom, to some degree, fought the Islamic aspects of their time.

The west didn't like them either.

The issues are not religious at root, but the social solidarity of religion is now a "last gasp' strategy to achieve some kind of political sovereignty.


I am not convinced that every Arab country in revolt would end up with Islamist rule.
So far in Tunisia and Egypt it is not about religion, but economics and corrupt leaders.
But however it goes it is up to their people, not the US.
Besides which, who in their right mind believes the US actually wants to have to deal with people ruled democratic governments in the ME. Not me.


Doug Tunnell,
a possible return of El Baradei to Egypt US inspired? The guy who was the devil incarnate for the neo-cons for undermining the war cases against Iraq and Iran, now a US ally? If true, pricelesss.


Arnaud de B. is generalizing heavily- his blank historical sweep does not cover the specifics. There is no organized Islamic movement that could "easily" take over Tunisia from the multiple and well-established secular currents.

On the other hand and from the viewpoint of the countries of the region, a unified Islamic dominion over the region may be one way to achieve some of the goals that have not been achieved through the dictatorships that have been shored up by the West; containing Israel, controlling resources would be 2 goals that Western interference has prevented so far.

Very disappointing and superficial article.



I am not convinced that every Arab country in revolt would end up with Islamist rule. So far in Tunisia and Egypt it is not about religion, but economics and corrupt leaders.
The Iranian revolution was also not about religion either.

The Islamists managed to come to power anyway, perhaps (and I am speculating) because of all the various opposition groups they were the strongest or most skilled or best organised or most motivated (take that, arch villain world communism). And then there's chance and opportunity, and the shrewd or instinctual ability of people to use it.

Revolutions are chaotic, the greater the chaos, the more important becomes chance. Take that self immolation in Tunisia and what it led to - a random event sparking unforeseeable events.

The neo-cons wanting revolutions are in effect ignoring that revolutions are always a gamble, despite ample historical example strongly underlining that, because they still believe in that end of history.

That said: While the neo-cons are cheering this on, I don't see the usual fingerprints on these events - no 'branding' (colour code and/or a fancy name), a pro-western figurehead, apparently no NGO involvement, it is not happening in an election context (involving [probably justified] claims of stolen votes), no i-phone vids straight to facebook, no twittering. This appears to me to be spontaneous and genuine, and, so far, spontaneously and genuinely chaotic.

Clifford Kiracofe

So what has changed from this New York Times report in 2007? What new opportunities are now in Tunisia and in Algeria for the "Wahhabis" as the extremists are commonly called on the street in Algeria. Informed Tunisians are aware that the Gulf Wahhabi complex targeted Tunisia in the 1980s-90s:

"They say North Africa, with its vast, thinly governed stretches of mountain and desert, could become an Afghanistan-like terrorist hinterland within easy striking distance of Europe. That is all the more alarming because of the deep roots that North African populations have in Europe and the ease of travel between the two regions. For the United States, the threat is also real because of visa-free travel for most European passport holders to American cities.

The group, the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat, known by its French initials, GSPC, has for several years been under American watch.

"The GSPC has become a regional terrorist organization, recruiting and operating in all of your countries and beyond," Henry Crumpton said last year as the U.S. ambassador at large for counterterrorism. "It is forging links with terrorist groups in Morocco, Nigeria, Mauritania, Tunisia and elsewhere," he said at a counterterrorism conference in Algiers.

Officials say the GSPC is funneling North African fighters to Iraq but is also turning militants back toward their home countries.

The GSPC's ambitions are particularly troubling to counterterrorism officials on the watch for re-emerging networks that were largely interrupted after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, against the United States. While most estimates put the group's current membership in the hundreds, it has survived more than a decade of Algerian government attempts to eradicate it. It is now the most organized, best financed terrorist group in the region.

On Sept., 11, 2006, Al Qaeda anointed the GSPC as its representative in North Africa. In January, the group reciprocated by changing its name to Al Qaeda Organization in the Islamic Maghreb, claiming that Al Qaeda leader, Osama bin Laden, had ordered the change.

"Al Qaeda's aim is for the GSPC to become a regional force, not solely an Algerian one," said a French counterterrorism magistrate, Jean-Louis Bruguière."

So if one raises this issue in 2010 post "Jasmine Revolution" is that now politically incorrect and "alarmist"?

A few terrorist incidents against tourism related targets would hammer the extremely vulnerable Tunisian economy. If some were discontent with the economy prior to "Jasmine," they may well not yet have seen the worst.

William R. Cumming

Most of the discussion of revolutions involves those before the invention of AK-47 and successors, easily mastered b 10 year olds. Somalia may be the future for the Arab world. Dense overpopulation and many many guns and warlords. Would the US like this Arabic world? Probably!

Patrick Lang


Moralistic drivel. Once again, foreign policy is not about "justice," that word so worshiped in the arab World and so unobtainable. Foreign policy is about power. Also, once again you mis-state my position. I do not wish to dictate to the Egyptians or any other group of foreigners what their government should be. No. What I want is that the United States not blindly and stupidly help put in power Islamist governments who will inevitably be our adversaries. pl

Patrick Lang


Come on! You sophisticated Europeens are supposed to understand underlying truths. Islam is a seamless garment. Like medieval Christianity it encompasses all the aspects of life and thus the Islamists stand ready with the support of the masses to take control away from the Europeanized seculars. pl


Col. Lang,

I was under the impression that there was significant backlash in Iraq against the savage and brutal actions of the Sunni extremists in Iraq.

Having seen what a Bin Ladenist type of rule has to offer, will there not be a reaction against such radicals trying to impose such a draconian way of life on a newly liberated people?

Also, will this be bringing about sharpened tensions between the Sunni and Shia in the region? Or will this cause them to coalesce?

There doesn't appear to be any option but to sit back and allow these things to work their way through the states involved.

Perhaps this could be the beginning of an Islamic reformation?

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