If the news headlines are true and Libyan strongman Muammar Qaddafi’s days—if not hours—are numbered, then let’s hope the Obama administration will lead from in front and take measures to help the transitional Libyan government protect, preserve, and hopefully publish documents from Qaddafi’s archives.
Saddam’s documents provided a treasure trove of information about academics, journalists, and international diplomats long on the take from Saddam’s regime but, alas, too few were published. What was exposed through the oil-for-food was a tantalizing window into international corruption.
Muammar Qaddafi’s rule, which began nearly 42 years ago, appears to be in its death throes. Rebels have entered Tripoli, and if news accounts are to be believed, the regime’s defenders are collapsing faster than anyone expected. The “ring of steel” Qaddafi had supposedly erected around his capital proved as formidable as all the defenses Saddam Hussein had boasted would keep Baghdad safe from an American-led invasion in 2003. This is hardly surprising: Regimes like Qaddafi’s or Saddam’s depend on fear to survive. They have little love or loyalty to call upon. Once the veil of fear protecting the regime is pierced–once it appears its enemies are ascendant–dictators like Qaddafi and Saddam discover how few real friends they actually have.
But while the end of Qaddafi’s rule–if that is in fact what we are seeing here, and we should always keep in mind initial reports are fragmentary and often wrong–is to be welcomed with open arms, a couple of caveats should be kept in mind.
One week after her triumph in the Ames straw poll, Michele Bachmann isn’t feeling much love from the political media. The entry of Texas Governor Rick Perry has dominated the news and taken some of the steam out of any momentum her Iowa win might have given her. That’s a problem for a candidate who hasn’t the financial resources of either Perry or Mitt Romney, the third member of the GOP’s first-tier troika. She is still viewed by many Republicans as an outlier on policy and unelectable, and there’s little question party leaders are hoping she will fade before the Iowa caucuses where she is favored and disappear quickly after them.
But as formidable as Perry appears to be, it’s way too early to write Bachmann off as some have already done. Here are four ways for Bachmann to stay competitive and keep herself in the conversation. She needs to get personal, get serious, get better staff work and get lucky.
Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak has issued a statement indicating Israel’s “regret” about the death of three Egyptian security officers who were apparently killed by Israeli forces returning the fire of terrorists escaping into Egypt. However, that was insufficient to satisfy the Egyptian government. Cairo said it was still intent on withdrawing its ambassador to Israel, and the military government there was also insulted by Barak’s comments about Egypt losing its grip on the Sinai after Palestinian terrorists used the peninsula as a base to launch the attacks on the Eilat region that took the lives of eight Israelis on Thursday.
But the world is still waiting for Egypt to express its own regrets about the fact its territory was used by terrorists. Its government seems a lot more concerned about trying to stop Israel from pursuing the Eilat murderers and those who sent them to kill than in policing its own border and keeping the peace. That is a fact members of the United States Congress should remember when they are next asked to approve of the next installment of $2 billion in aid to Egypt.
In the immediate aftermath of the bloody terrorist attacks that took the lives of eight Israelis in the Eilat region, I wrote on Thursday the incident illustrated the pitfalls of allowing a Hamas terror state to be situated on Israel’s doorstep. The decision of the Hamas regime in Gaza to launch a barrage of approximately 100 missiles at southern Israel since then has made that danger all the more palpable. Though Jerusalem hopes it can avoid a further escalation (such as the commitment of ground troops), recent events call into question its ability to deter further attacks.
The mainstream media has reported these attacks and even the assaults on Eilat and Israel’s counter-attacks against the bases in Gaza from which the terrorists set forth as if they were just another episode in the so-called “cycle of violence” between Arabs and Jews. But these latest incidents bring into focus the futility of an American Middle East policy whose sole focus has been to pressure Israel to accommodate Palestinian ambitions. The Palestinian state that already exists in Gaza is a loaded gun pointed at Israel’s head every moment. Its leaders also seem to believe the price of another Israeli counter-offensive such as the one that took place in December 2008 is too fraught with danger — both in terms of the loss of Israeli life and the international opprobrium that it would incur no matter how careful its troops were in seeking to avoid civilian casualties — for Netanyahu to consider measures that might truly threaten them.
As is often the case, the most interesting point in this New York Times article about a Taliban attack on the British Council in Kabul was buried at the very end. After recounting this suicidal assault–which was dealt with almost entirely by Afghan security forces–the Times notes:
NATO officials, however, say that despite appearances, the Taliban’s promised uptick of violence in the warmer months has largely not emerged. Violence was still up in the first part of the year, according to Western military and intelligence officials. But since May overall insurgent activity has begun to decline from last year’s levels, even as improvised explosive device attacks have risen, taking a major toll on civilians.
I was disappointed to learn earlier this year that Bahman Baktiari, head of the University of Utah’s Middle East Center, had been accused of plagiarism. The University of Utah believed the evidence conclusive and after an investigation, dismissed him. Baktiari was author of the well-regarded Parliamentary Politics in Revolutionary Iran, perhaps the best political history of immediate post-revolutionary Iran, and while I do not understand his subsequent academic dishonesty, the University of Utah honors itself by making such behavior have a consequence.
Not so the New York Times. John Hinderaker at the always excellent Powerlineblog highlights a seriously flawed story written by Eric Lichtblau. Not only did Lichtblau get almost every fact wrong, but he also appears to have allegedly plagiarized (an equally flawed) piece over at Think Progress. The New York Times may lament the decline in its readership across the political spectrum. Its willingness to place politics over ethics may explain why even many liberals recognize the Grey Lady is a shadow of its former self.
The Georgetown Hoyas came to Beijing for a “China-U.S. Basketball Friendship Match.” It didn’t quite work out that way. Instead, the Hoyas’ game on Thursday against the Bayi Military Rockets–a professional team made up entirely of People’s Liberation Army soldiers–ended in a vicious, bench-clearing brawl.
The Washington Post notes that “an unidentified Bayi player pushed Georgetown’s Aaron Bowen through a partition to the ground before repeatedly punching the sophomore guard while sitting on his chest,” while “Georgetown senior center Henry Sims had a chair tossed at him by an unidentified person.” Check out this picture of a Chinese player stomping a defenseless American collegian lying on the floor. The Post also observes that “the game-ending fracas marked the second time that both benches emptied in a rugged contest marred by fouls, an inordinate number of which went against the Hoyas. By halftime, Bayi had 11 fouls while Georgetown had 28″–which suggests the Chinese referees were hardly impartial.