Raging Ripples

Raging Ripples

ripplesAmbassador Carson’s warning yesterday appears to be true today. There are unsettling ripples all over Africa, all carrying the frequency of Trump mayhem.

Wednesday’s all-so-important Somali election is in real trouble because monitors can no longer go there (or more accurately, come back). Great hopes for Libya’s national coalition collapse. Egypt sends jetboats to threaten Ethiopia’s new dam on The Nile, Eritrea makes a new alliance with Saudia Arabia to destabilize Ethiopia. The Ivory Coast is challenged by new internal military struggles.

It’s all new and hard to unweave, and it’s all related to Trump.

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The Season Change… Again

The Season Change… Again

bokoharamleaderThis week’s aggressive attacks against Islamic extremists by Egypt, Jordan and now Nigeria is a significant turning point in the wars against ISIS and Boko Haram.

That’s not to say it’s a significant turning point in the “War against Terror.” But we’ll never get to figuring that one out until we start dealing in realities and admitting that the current western mission against ISIS and Boko Haram appears to be working.

It’s now been a day or more since countries in the region of Islamic terror have begun to fight back, and the response from the terrorists indicates they’re worried.

I believe the many seemingly disconnected events that happened this week in Africa and the Levant indicate that Islamic terrorists for the first time believe they are losing.

Al-Jazeera reported this morning that the Taliban and America are exploring “peace talks” in Qatar. The Taliban has had an office in Qatar for several years, and there have been other rumored meetings with America to no avail.

But in light of the much more extreme ISIS and affiliates, the Taliban now seems like Switzerland, very much worth talking to – or through – in times of travail.

Egypt bombed Libya, and Jordan bombed Syria and Iraq, to retaliate against ISIS’ beheadings of their nationals. In Nigeria a new offensive by the army claims to have killed hundreds of terrorists and reclaimed villages that had long been under Boko Haram’s control.

For so long Obama and other sane minds have explained that the war against Islamic extremists in the Levant will only improve when the countries in those regions actually pick up the fight.

Normally Boko Haram and ISIS would never the twain meet. The raw racism that exists between Arabs and Africans is something westerners can’t understand. It exceeds the antipathy of tribalism within Arabs (mostly Sunni versus Shiia) and Africans with their multitude of different ethnic groups.

If things weren’t going badly for radical Islamists as a whole, there would be no collaboration between the African Boko Haram and Arab ISIS. Yet that is exactly what is suggested today.

In a video released by Boko Haram vowing to disrupt the Nigerian election, the Boko Haram leader shows himself for the first time. That together with the professionalism of the production has all the markings of ISIS propaganda.

Recently the two groups released photos of each other’s flags and praised each other’s fighting. That’s hardly collaboration, but even if it’s a stretch to conclude anything more than empathy among villains that’s a significant change.

Almost exactly two years ago a similar new fight was happening in Mali. That represented the last hurrah of al-Qaeda. I predicted as such, and I think that is now what is happening to ISIS and Boko Haram.

Obama/Hollande’s strategy of chasing terrorists and wearing them down works, especially when countries in the area actually begin fighting.

As with al-Qaeda and al-Shabaab, they never disappear altogether and they fracture into new thugs, but they lose their original power and focus.

I’m not suggesting that’s enough, and I’ve often written how short-sighted this strategy is:

ISIS emerged from the fracturing of the Taliban and al-Qaeda. Boko Haram emerged from the defeat of certain Tuaregs and other Islamic groups. So theoretically we’ll spend eternity squashing one group that emerges in the pyre of the previous.

Yet call a spade a spade, folks. The single greatest threat today to the specific if questionable mission to defeat ISIS and Boko Haram is to deny they are being defeated, that the mission is succeeding.

So the single greatest threat is ourselves, those of us who thrive on the need to be threatened: The McCains and Grahams, the Righties and Fox News who can’t see beyond their nose and believe they’re threatened from all sides until the room is nuked.

It’s exactly what the terrorists want. It is, in fact, their only hope: turning America into the quintessential suicide bomber.

Fight of the Hyaenas

Fight of the Hyaenas

fightofthehyaenasEgypt’s bombing yesterday is proof positive that we have to get completely out of the current fight before something horrible happens.

The Egyptian president’s decision yesterday to bomb ISIS targets in Libya is a massive escalation of the current conflict. It turns it almost into something closer to the conflict in Ukraine, where tanks and SAM missiles replace swords and horses.

King Abdullah of Jordan sends a half dozen planes daily towards Syria, and now President El-Sisi is poised to send in tens of thousands of soldiers.

Egypt’s bombing was not just revenge for the ISIS beheading of 21 Egyptians several days ago. El-Sisi is just using that as a pretense.

It was not the actual beheadings that aroused El-Sisi’s attention as much as the backdrop: the Mediterranean Sea. ISIS was announcing that it had emerged from the southern deserts of Libya where it has been maneuvering to coalesce radical Islamists for more than a year.

ISIS wanted the world and especially el-Sisi to know that it is not a dumb desert phenomenon. There is little use in controlling an oil field if you can’t get the oil to port. ISIS beheadings made it to the port.

Neither was this a surprise to el-Sisi. He has been an ardent supporter of anti-Islamists in Libya, especially for General Khalifa Haftar. Haftar is an old and duplicitous face in Libyan politics who el-Sisi dusted off of the old generals’ shelf to become his proxy in Libya last year.

But despite Haftar’s several announced and only one partially successful coup against the powerless Libyan Islamic parliament, the old fighter suffered several military loses to ISIS in the last several months.

“Let those near and far know that the Egyptians have a shield that protects and preserves the security of the country, and a sword that eradicates terrorism,” the Egyptian military said.

El-Sisi is no Mother Theresa. Egypt today suffers a repression not unlike during the days of Mubarak. So whether El-Sisi’s action in Libya is good or bad or moral or immoral it’s the fact that many of us have been shouting to Americans for years:

It’s not our war. It’s theirs.

And if “they” take it up, then we can debate the sides we’d like to support, and I hope that will restrain any involvement we deem worthy because…

… there is no good side. ISIS is bad. El-Sisi in Egypt isn’t particularly good. King Abdul in Jordan isn’t your model of democracy and King Salman of Saudi Arabia stones adulterers and tears the skin off bloggers.

Al Qaeda is a grumpy old if still dangerous demon. Iraq has fallen completely apart as Sunnis and Shiias fight even within Baghdad. Afghanistan is ready to implode.

And not one of these – not all of these allied could bring the battle back to the Twin Towers. Don’t let the terrorists play on these latent fears. Not even they truly believe their religious hyperbole. America is a symbolic punching bag for all struggles, because we have nothing left to conquer than our self.

The fight in the Mideast is now distinctly, definitively not ours.

How many westerners have been beheaded? How many Egyptians?

I learned long ago as a guide in Africa that you don’t go into a hyaena fight, no matter how good the pictures might be.

Libyan Democracy in Action

Libyan Democracy in Action

stockpileweaponsThe cocks have come to roost in Libya: yet another example of why instant democracy is a bad idea.

With all the rest of the troubles going on in the world Libya is being neglected if not ignored, and yet the fighting this week in Tripoli rivals almost anything that’s happening right now in Gaza, the Ukraine or Iraq.

The Tripoli airport is in shambles. The tower is down. About 20 commercial jetliners sit idle at wrecked gates or scattered among the tarmac.

“Foreign diplomats, workers flee Libyan chaos by thousands,” the Los Angeles Times reported this morning.

The Philippines is among the dozens of countries evacuating its nationals. This will mean that Libya’s hospitals will collapse.

Thousands of Libyans themselves are also fleeing. Tunisian soldiers killed two trying to stop the crowds surging across the border.

The Washington Post tried to sort out the combatants yesterday and decided that militants, previously from the city of Misrata, are coming out on top. They’ve almost taken over the Tripoli airport.

And it’s not the national Libyan army that’s stopping them. The army has disbanded and many of its highly skilled soldiers – trained by the U.S. and allies – have fled to their respective militias… with their modern weapons. Also supplied by the U.S. and its allies.

The Misratas haven’t taken over the Tripoli airport because several other militant groups led by the Zintanis are in the passenger terminal shooting back.

At the height of the Libyan revolution, Zintanis and Misrata militias fought side-by-side.

And in Benghazi, where the Libyan revolution began three years ago, guess who’s now in control? A former Gaddafi general.

“Towns fight towns; Islamists oppose nationalists; federalists rise up against central government; ex-Gaddafi units clash with former revolutionaries – and everyone has guns, artillery, tanks and missiles, taken from the vast arsenals the deposed dictator had stashed across the country,” Reuters reported yesterday.

After the fall of Gaddafi, western powers led by the U.K., France and Britain stepped in to quickly create democratic institutions. A democratically elected government, fully in place two years ago, was deemed freely and fairly constructed by outside western observers.

The problem is that each individual faction thinks that democracy will immediately get them what they want. The Zintanis, coming from remote Berber mountain villages, felt Gaddafi stole their oil and gave them nothing in return.

The Misratas, more developed and mercantile, fear any kind of religious law and believe their taxes are too high.

Neither grievance has been addressed by the weak existing government, in large part because it has never been able to enforce anything. Too many people have too many weapons.

“Hampered by hypocritical ‘no boots on the grounds’ orders, Western military advisers could do little as Gaddafi’s vast arms stocks were pillaged by all comers,” explains London’s Telegraph’s Mideast correspondent.

Stepping beyond journalism, Richard Spencer then reminded British readers that “I … tried to alert the authorities… to the presence of 100,000 landmines, boxes of Semtex, anti-tank and anti-aircraft missiles lying unguarded in a field and adjacent warehouses in south Tripoli. Nothing was done, and within days they had been pilfered.”

As a columnist for Gulf News Spencer was more explicit:

“The same powers [that topped Gaddafi] seem to have turned a blind eye to a nation whose current sorry state is partly a result of their own faulty policies.”

Which faulty policies? Any of a million that contribute to the toppling of an authoritarian regime replaced by democracy.

I admire the New York Times this morning for warning western countries against abandoning Libya, but the Times analysis is simplistic. This isn’t just a battle between Islamists and non-Islamists: it’s much more complicated than that.

You can’t turn democracy on like a light bulb above the sink. It takes years, often generations to evolve. It’s both the reason that Russia is sliding back into authoritarianism and China is inching towards real democracy. Both of these dramas will likely continue long after I’m gone.

It was the height of absurdity to think that the arsenal of destruction Gaddafi had amassed could be managed by a fledgling democracy. That was the first mistake.

Democracy often works badly. Take our own current state of affairs, although we’ve dealt with ups and downs for so many years I’m hopeful we’ll finally creep out of the irresponsible governing abyss we now found ourselves.

But we demonstrate a certain immaturity if we think that the “help” we gave the Arab Spring revolutionaries would result in anything other than the bloodshed currently playing out. That was the second mistake.

You can’t liberate the oppressed with democracy. It never fills a void. It must be built carefully and that takes a lot more time than American and British election cycles.