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23 March 2011


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William R. Cumming

YUSUF! The motto of this blog should be your guidance. In a world where tyrants exist, it is the obligation of each individual and hopefully the combined power of those people to promote a more just and fairer world. So great post and please keep posting. Your voice is not to be silenced because you live elsewhere since my belief is that the goal of eliminating tyranny will also be the objective of well-meaning men and women. Welcome to the fight.


سيد‎ al-Misry, your eloquence and historical perspective is most appreciated.

I do indeed hope that we humans are able to act in so purposeful and noble a fashion. If not, dire times indeed will ensue. As rapidly as circumstances over the last millennium or so have outstripped our cultural ability to cope, I am not optimistic. However, if there were to exist a crucible within which such a solution could be mixed and forged, it is the levant with all the world-historical forces focused on it.



Mr al - Misry, wise thoughts. One could wish for more wisdom among the politicians and rulers everywhere. The past errors of commission and omission always come to haunt posterity. (Such a trivial statement from me that I do not know if it is worth sharing)

Yusuf  Al-Misry

Thank you Mr Cumming.

 Charles I

Yusuf, your posts have provided us historical, political, and cultural context for events in a region the west is heavily invested in but understands little.

Literally the second thing they taught me in law school was, if possible, hire an expert in the field at issue, or even better yet, an even smarter, more informed and adept lawyer than yourself, and all will be well served.

Given the consternation over whether to proceed in Libya or not, we need all the background, context, discussion and analysis our host can permit.

Thrashing out an "Obama Doctrine" on proptection/intervention/dictator regime change is indicated, no matter how elusive commonly acknowledged first principles may initially be.

Thank you for your many recent contributions and raising the discussion at issue.


Another great read. Thanks again, Col, Lang, for hosting this refuge of sanity.

Particularly beautiful was the line "There is no factory that makes revolutions somewhere...", even though it's not entirely true. Weren't many of the "Color Revolutions" to some extent "manufactured" here in the US? Not that I'm complaining; rather, I'm exploring the details of where to draw the line.

What lessons can we learn from the outcomes of those revolutions? Are there correlations with the timeing & methods of our involvement which would add depth & nuance to Mr. Al-Misry's thesis here?

Also, this thesis is particularly relevant to our policy toward Iran. Funding the MEK is NOT a smart way to improve Iran. Our history of "meddling" (Mossadegh, the Shah, MEK, etc) means we have to be extra careful to avoid tainting the "Green Revolution" there.

Note: this implies a point of connection with Habbakuk's great piece which follows this one on the site: that (like Isreaelis) USAmericans need to be more conscious of how our past actions are viewed by others in the world, and adjust current choices accordingly.

Michael Brenner

Our leader has spoken - finally. Now we have the spin on Libya. Here's my reading of its essence.

1. I’ve been on top of this from Day 1 and I've orchestrated the world-wide response.
2. Our principal objective has been reached: we have saved the citizens from Benghazi from a massacre. And we've given the opposition a chance to fight on a fair field.
3. Our military objective of establishing s 'free fly zone' was achieved in a less than a week thanks to the skill and devotion.....
4. I want to make one thing clear: this is not an American action, not a unilateral intervention. We are working together with 'X' countries to promote democracy and bring peace to the region. NATO allies, Qatar, AU...
5.Americans rightly wonder about how long this action will continue; is there a danger of a long-term involvement? I want to assure you that American involvement is self-limiting. By transferring command authority to NATO yesterday we already are exiting the first phase of the operation. We now will rely progressively on the efforts of other nations to enforce the no-fly zone.

Into ‘dead’ mike: “It’s win-win for us. If the opposition topples Gaddafi, I can take credit since I said that he has to go. If the crisis is protracted, then it’s a multilateral responsibility and we have to realize that America cannot be expected to do I all and do it on its own I’ve followed the responsible path of prudent idealism.”

“No, I have no plans to address the nation on the situation in Yemen, or Bahrain, or Syria or Jordan or = what do you call it, Iraq.” ‘Michele and I have to prepare for our trip next month to…..

William R. Cumming

Well PL over two weeks into the Japanese catastrophe. And further along in Libya. Any status report you can give based on your special knowledge and expertise at this point in time?

Unfortunately, looking still like a long hard slog for the insurgents and NATO to me? but I lack your knowledge and expertise! BF Ali's early on analysis looking more accurate IMO!

Patrick Lang


More accurate than what? I think a time line of six months is an approximation to an end state. Outcome? That depends on what people do. What am I, a fortune teller? pl

Mark Logan

WRC, If you hunger for information, there is a lecture from Lisa Anderson, long-time professor at the American University in Cairo, on CSPAN you might find interesting. She claims to know a bit about the tribes in there, and has some interesting opinions on the subject.



Dr. Brenner,

"Into the mike..." So true. I'm sure Obama is now desperately wishing he had a ranch in Texas where he could spend the days cutting mesquite and serving up BBQ to the White House press pool. Weed-eating in the windy city doesn't quite have the same cachet.

William R. Cumming

Thanks PL and thanks Mark!Apparently the battle in the Western desert continues unabated.


I'm impressed. Not by the post but by this barrage of praises to the author.

To even remotely suggest that the US intervention might have been “in the interest of the US to guarantee the continuation of the flow of oil and the stability of that country...” is not only naive, it shows a total lack of basic understanding of the oil industry realities, reserves , global energy markets and geopolitics.
In short, Libya’s share of global oil production is marginal and could easily be replaced tomorrow by Saudi Arabia. Considering King Abdullah’s recent largess to his people I’m sure they will be more than happy to do so. The only country which could be directly affected is probably Italy. But with Berlusconi in power, I don’t think anyone would give a hoot.

As for the stability of Libya, it seems to me that the only concern for America is if Libya were to become a new breeding ground for terrorists who hold a grudge against us. And at this point there is no concrete evidence of this happening. However, should it be the case, there is nothing America would be unable to control and manage at this stage of the “revolution”. Especially if we are directly involved with the opposition, whoever they might be.

I am also a little confused and puzzled by your theoretical assumptions that if Qaddafi were to prevail, “oil pipe lines explosions, foreigners in oil fields kidnapped,” will ensue. It is my understanding that most foreigners working in oil fields have already been evacuated but maybe some Chinese. I don’t see Qaddafi taking them hostage anytime soon. And what pipelines are you talking about? The Saudi ones? Or the Libyan’s? in the case of the former , it is highly improbable. And in the latter, it would only affect Qaddafi’s own ability to buy out his support.

Furthermore, to compare the situation in Iraq to the current wind of revolt throughout the ME add to the naïveté and lack understanding of geopolitics and human realities that emanates from this post. The opposition in Iraq was real. It may not have been well organized. Or it might have been hard to find decent interlocutors whose main concern was the well being of the Iraqi people. But it was always there. The Iraqi opposition was not “fake” as you suggest. Or as some conspiracy theorists in the Arab nationalist movements would like you to believe.

But most importantly, I am left frustrated by your recommendations and guidelines for US intervention abroad. It is the topic of this post after all:

You suggest America to steer clear of foreign political events and turmoil, especially in countries where anti-US sentiment is prevalent. And whenever possible take on the role of counselor/advisor to those autocratic regimes that "might" listen . And what is the moral ground or economic and political necessity for such a position on the part of America? Is America Egypt’s big brother? Is America Tunisia’s big brother to take on that role?

You say, only when it has been firmly established that the uprising is real, strong and native to the place should America make a decision to overtly and/or covertly support the opposition movement.
To believe that any country would seat out any uprising in a country where political events can drastically affect its policies back home is ludicrous and very naïve.

It is clear that you are having trouble drawing guidelines for US intervention abroad. And who wouldn’t? Being American doesn’t make it much easier. Especially if one is not privy to what is really said and done at higher levels of the decision making process [ie:Wikileaks].

But what strikes me as utterly irreverent on your part, is that nowhere in your post do you suggest where and when Americans’ own interests might take part in the decision process. And whether one likes it or not, it is a fundamental element if not the only one that is considered by any government in foreign intervention. Believing otherwise is just plain naïve and immature.

The US has a terrible image abroad in general and in the Arabo-Islamic world in particular because of its unconditional support of Israel. But that shouldn’t prevent her from taking the necessary action when in its best interest.
America has also done a very poor job at telling their story, at communicating with people in the streets of Jerusalem, Beirut, Algiers or Sana’a about who they are and what they want to achieve.

At the dawn of the 21st century and at the age of the internet, I find the ignorance regarding America of people in the Arabo-Islamic world as shocking and appalling as the one we carry towards them. And although we both share common responsibilities, it is our duty to own up to our mistakes and shortcomings and stop blaming the other one for our misunderstandings.

If the victimhood mentality is rampant in the ME, it should remain as foreign to the American spirit as it has always been.

William R. Cumming

Bruno! Interesting comment and probably accurate.
But as for me trying to follow events in
Russia, Germany, the EU and India and China, as well as S. America somehow time did not seem to allow prior to 9/11/01 any effort on Islam and the ME and Maghreb. But since then trying to keep up. Reading over 100 pre-and post 9/11/01 books of interest, e.g. the "LOOMING TOWER", "IMPERIAL HUBRIS", "Against all Enenmies", the "Age of Sacred Terror" and many Bernard Lewis and Robert Fisk books. Well still inadequate I know.
But I think that my concern about US actions in the ME and Maghreb are based on your concerns and very incompetent handling of political/military affairs by the US leadership. Perhaps asll the successful missions and ops are classified but I think the US record is terrible beginning post WWII when the Arabists were driven out and excluded from key positions in the US foreign policy establishment. Hey we thrived in being ignorant and laughing at those who were knowledgeable. And yes the SUN last I heard is the center of the UNIVERSE. But the US is not.

Yusuf  Al-Misry

1 The reference to oil interests was in response to another post. However, I believe it is an important factor, not so much in Libya's production, but rather in its reserves and the quality of its crude.But I do not believe that oil was the reason why the US should have interfered.. Please read again.
2 Do not be confused or puzzled by my "theoretical" assumption that Q could have prevailed. If you follow the news, he was prevailing. Ajdabia fell under his control and he was preparing to proceed to Benghazi. That was not neither naive or imaginary. Excluding this possibility is simply ignorance not of the Middle Esat but of what is aired in the TV set in your living room
3 The opposition in Iraq was not a popular uprising. The popular uprising happened earlier and was left on its own to be crushed with no mercy. In fact, that was the time to assisst the Iraqis. I still see the war wrong and I still see the Iraqi opposition groups as fake opposition.
4 Please read again. In many cases, US and EU should assist countries like Egypt and Tunisia through a period of transition and after decades and dictatorship. We need advise in training the police force and drawing methods to oversee the stock market etc.
5 "what strike me is that no where in your post you suggest where and when the US interests should be part of the decision making process"...When we are talking about countries that are allied to the US and countries that are not, that implies what you said was not mentioned.
There is no victim hood mentality neither naivety..and could you please spare these descriptions and just deal with the content. I expected such an allergic reaction but you perhaps should read the post again to understand.You assume I said something and you answer it. It will help if you quote. Taking sides was qualified in the post.But pleased do not rewrite what I wrote in your own words. It is not fair for both of us..And what is this about Arab Nationalism..This movement is no more for decades now..I can not listen to an Arab Nationalists because they are hard to.
be found nowadays.


As I was alluding in my previous email, Arabs and Muslims around the world bear their share of responsibilities for allowing some in Congress and in the media to manipulate public opinion hence our foreign, domestic and military policies.

Throughout history, the US as much as countries like Saudi Arabia, Pakistan or Egypt all had and still have today to do with the hands they are given: some a strong conning Jewish lobby while others a strong populist Arab nationalist movement; Some an influential religious establishment while others vociferous and idealist global crusaders for democracy. In all instances, the ones in charge of leading the country have to deal with people more or less educated, more or less aware of the realities of governing while maintaining social cohesion and progress.

In that respect, America has not been worst than any other country that share most of our values. Academics, writers and journalists the likes of Lewis, Scheuer or Fisk, all contribute positively to the intellectual debate on Islam. However, we will always fail to gauge their respective validity as long as their contribution has not passed the test of those same people they try to understand.

What do Muslims think of their writings? If Muslims can identify themselves in the writings of those authors, I am willing to consider those authors as valuable source of information on the subject.
So-called experts on America abound in Europe. However the number of them in whose writings I can identify as an American is just a few. However most of the experts on America you here on TV in Europe are just ignoring talking-heads using popular ignorance and mythology to further their career.

It’s all a matter of knowledge and the methodology to acquire it. And as long as we the people do not pick our experts appropriately, as long as we do not have a rigorous methodology in acquiring our knowledge, there will be bad foreign and military policies.
And I don’t believe that we always “thrived in being ignorant and laughing at those who were knowledgeable.” Our Forefathers were amongst the most knowledgeable, educated and affluent people of their time. And with the decision to entrust them with our future as a new Nation, came a great country.



When I was in High School I had a conversation with my English Teacher, whose father was a very famous philosopher. I was telling him how much I would love to know how to write. His answer was disturbing by its simplicity:

“If it's clear in your head, writing it comes naturally."

William R. Cumming

Thanks Bruno and yes accurate info hard to get anywhere!

Also now consider that the US effort in Japan catastrophe well far and away exceed the scale of the Libyan event looking back from the perspective of a decade. Whatever the economics of the Libyan situation Japanese situation will have momentous impact on world economy IMO and should Japan decide to forgo future nuclear power expansion and go back to buying fossil fuel in form of LPG or oil huge new demand impact. By the way Tokoyo regional demographic is 36 million and GOJ has now announced drinking water again safe for children! Time will tell.

But hey how does Libya get its fresh drinking water?

Yusuf  Al-Misry

You disagreed with what I previously wrote about the backwardness of the Salafi movement.
You disagreed about my assessment that to sustain democracy in Egypt we need a vast economic development plan.
You disagreed with my assessment that Q had a possibility to prevail.
Then you tell me about your teacher who has a great father.
Wish I could have known him.
Arabs say"the empty mind likes to play the judge".
I asked you in a previous post to write about the Salafi movement. And to the second time: Could you please write to everyone here about those whom you called your Salafi friends? (one request tho, remember your teacher's advice)



Obviously you didn’t get what I previously wrote about the Salafists. Nor did you get the gist of my last intervention. But why the hell bring back the Salafists on the table? Why should I write about them in this post? Any particular relation with the subject at hand, namely: guidelines for US intervention abroad?

One thing I noticed talking to a lot of people in the ME, even with the most well intentioned ones: they often let their emotions, ego and personal vendettas get in the way of sound and wise judgment.

Indeed I do not agree with a lot of what you have said in the past. But I did agree with most of what you said in “History According To Prof Baram by Yusuf al-Misry”. I just didn’t feel the need to praise you. And maybe I should have. It would have spared me some of your aggressive vitriolic rhetoric.

The fact is that although I appreciated some of what you wrote, I didn’t like the tone of your comments. You could have made exactly the same points you made without being so personal and harsh in your response to Prof. Baram.

I’m glad though to see that it is not a personal grudge you hold against me in particular but rather a treat of character in the way you manage disagreement with people.

I hope you will not judge me too harshly this time.

William R. Cumming

Okay listened to the President last night, followed MSM analysis and some other opinions, and still am mystified as to why the US thinks it intervened, continues to intervene, and will end its intervention. I was in favor remember of intervention. Can anyone explain clearly what they think the political leadership in the US thinks it is doing in Libya? Are they correct in their analysis? But intro of A-10's and AC-130's interesting.

My analysis at this point after the first few weeks, US and coalition air strikes, and world opinion all leads to MQ thinking he can outlast the insurgents! I think he is wrong but I do think PL's six month time frame looks more like it. Can US sustain its involvement for 6 months? Perhaps!

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