What is now clear is that the only help Barack Obama was willing to give to the Arabs was his coldness to the Jewish nation. Or, and I want to be frank, his hostile indifference to Israel. It has been a not quite sub rosa sub-theme of his presidency since the beginning. He had not the slightest idea or maybe couldn’t care less that Zion and Zionism meant the retrieval of the Jews from a harrowing if remarkable history.
“Fear Stalks the Streets of Gadhafi’s Capital”; “Rebels Plead for Help.” The two quotes above are from headlines over articles on the front page of the Wall Street Journal on Thursday and Friday. They tell you as well as anything does of the terror that rules Libya. President Obama had first given a morsel of hope to the popular insurrection in Libya by allowing Hillary Clinton to suggest, although ever so tenuously, that America might impose a "no-fly zone" on Muammar Qaddafi's increasingly brutal attacks on the populace.
The fact is that almost everyone has dirty hands. Everyone: politicians (even “statesmen”), banks, governments, international organizations, newspapers, universities, scholars—they are now mortified to (have to) admit that they made common cause with Muammar Qaddafi and his favored son Saif. Thursday’s Financial Times carries a half-page article by Michael Peel on some of Qaddafi’s intimates: Tony Blair, the London School of Economics (LSE) and Political Science, the Carlyle Group (America’s most politically wired investment ensemble), the great revolutionary democrat Hugo Chavez, etc.
For years, those obsessed with forcing Israel to make all kinds of concessions to the Palestinians—on territory, on settlements, on refugees, on Jerusalem, on security, on water, on air space, on everything, in fact—argued that the occupation was the powder keg on which the kings and colonels of the Arab world sat waiting for it to explode. This was and is a curiously Judeo-centric perspective on the world.
I’ve been trying to add to my knowledge of the Arab countries now in the “massacring-their-people” stage. All of the big powers have both rewarded and connived with Colonel Qaddafi to keep him and his family in power for 42 years. Not, by the way, that he is a king or anything. Moreover, he is not the first of the military colonels in the Arab world to take control of the state and turn it into a “revolutionary socialist” regime, so-called. More formally: the Great Socialist People’s Libyan Arab Jamahiriya.
Dictatorships fear nothing quite like they fear a mob in the streets. In Tunis and Cairo, however, it was not mobs that gathered but crowds. Non-violent crowds, thoughtful crowds. Alas, there were some 300 dead among the protestors. So this was not exactly a costless revolution in terms of human life. Still, the dynamics that unfolded in Tahrir Square were rooted in peaceful communications. In many ways this was a re-enactment of the Committees of Correspondence. These were initiated in 1773 by Dabney Carr, an intimate of Thos.
For nearly three weeks as I watched the exhilarating news coming from Cairo, I had in my head four great canvases by Delacroix that hang forbiddingly in the Grande Galerie at the Louvre: The Massacre at Scio, The Bark of Dante, The Death of Sardanapalus, Liberty Leading the People.Each of them is a passionate semblance of the threat of death or of death itself. I cannot imagine anyone who has seen these impressions ever having them completely out of his head. I know the images in the Dante very well because I happen to have in my house a Cezanne oil study of the Delacroix original.
The president has found his fall guy, his collective fall guy, for his failure to see that several sort-of U.S. allies were in terrible trouble: The intelligence community, we are now told, was to blame. But the truth is that, if anyone is at fault for misreading the Arab world, it is Barack Obama himself. Not that many other presidents and their administrations have seen these realities clearly. (John Foster Dulles, secretary of state to Dwight Eisenhower, believed he could transform the Egypt of Gamal Abdel Nasser from a Soviet satrap into a pro-Western republic.
When one wave of revolution hits an Arab country it is very likely to hit several others. Like the revolts of the colonels. It started with a coup d’état of army colonels by Gamal Abdel Nasser (who supplanted his lackey Muhammad Naguib) in early 1953. There followed another coup of colonels in Syria which then teamed up with Egypt to comprise the United Arab Republic in 1956. The preposterous flag with two stars, one for each state, is about as deep as the union was.
The numbers may look identical. But it was not the same bombing. Early last week, the Times' Stephen Lee Meyers, based in Iraq, reported (and I commented on) the bombing in Tikrit that took roughly 50 lives--give or take a dozen, more likely give. The number of wounded was, of course, enormous and also uncertain. Alas, the Times news staff in Iraq is getting basic training in how cruel people can be to one another.