When I was young, I knew everything. Now, I know next to nothing except one thing: There are people who know the stuff I don’t know and wish I did. Once you realize this, the problems of life boil down to what expert to follow: Which car mechanic will only put a fresh coat of grease on your steering wheel; which financial adviser had two personal bankruptcies under his belt; which Parisian restaurant in California is actually owned by a Persian. Fortunately, although I know less and less, my BS detector has never been so sensitive. Which brings me to the Middle-East rebellions and revolutions.
The man-child President Obama is tongue-tied about the events. I don’t blame him that much this time. His worldview with the US as responsible for all the evils in the world did not prepare him for the actions of independent actors like the Arabs who have had it with tyranny. And it’s true that the US and other developed countries acquiesced fro thirty years and sometimes actively supported the tyrants. (I have written on this on this blog: “Obama Did Not Lose Egypt,” “Update on Egypt… ,” ) One observation well worth reporting by way of paltry defense I owe it to Charles Kauthammer of Fox News): Our dictators are not as blood-thirsty as the self-made and erstwhile “socialist” middle-Eastern dictators. Mubarak bowed out after a minimum of bloodshed and Ben Ali of Tunisia discreetely caught a late-night flight. Right now, it looks like the grotesque dictator of Libya will kill as many as necessary to try and hold on. He was never one of our boys. Of course, no one doubts that the Iranian Islamist regime would gleefully shed rivers of blood to preserve its divine mandate over 75 million Iranians. After it has already executed people just for protesting in the streets. One of the next ones too may well be Assad of Syria. I think there won’t be long street demonstrations there. We will wake up to the spectacle of Assad hanging from a lamp-post in Damascus.
Give me crooked rulers over totalitarians anytime. The latter remain totalitarian and they inevitably become crooked too (or their families).
My political and, especially, my moral expert, on the Arab world is Professor Fouad Ajami of Johns Hopkins University. CNN has the good sense to put him on frequently. Ajami said categorically that Pres. Obama should tell Khaddafi to leave. Ajami says it would do a world of good and little harm. I believe Ajami and so should the President since he seems to receive no advice. Frankly, I am not surprised that citizens of countries where 50% or 60%, or 70% of the population profess to hate America would care about American-given legitimacy. It turns out there is no other game in town, except perhaps the UK, and Australia is too small. Finland has not volunteered and no one knows where it is anyway. The other democratic countries appear washed up and, to a large extent, they are.
My own observation: In five or six years analysts will discover that demography is the primary cause of the sudden series of explosions of discontent in the Arab world. Very large numbers of young people who think they are well educated and who are actually educated enough to inform themselves via the foreign media have understood that bureaucratic autocracies are not going to give them a future. That’s equally true whether the country is reasonably prosperous, like Bahrain and Libya, or frankly poor, like Tunisia and Aden.