Bangkok is in chaos. Thousands of anti-government protesters (called "red shirts") have settled into the streets of the Thai capital and are living in an organized camp that offers free food, toilets, and even makeshift hair salons. On April 10, government forces attempted to disperse the crowds, spurring street clashes that killed 25 people. On April 22, grenade explosions rattled the city, wounding more than 80 people, including four foreigners. And, on Wednesday, clashes between protesters and Thai troops left one soldier dead.
Waverley Avenue in Watertown is about half a mile from my house in Cambridge. Two Pakistani men were arrested yesterday in their apartment down the road. It was big enough news to persuade the Boston Globe to run two above-the-fold articles under the headline “2 held in local antiterror raids.” A third man was nabbed in Connecticut. Yet another was imprisoned in Pakistan. And good luck to him. So it turns out that, despite Janet Napolitano’s instinct to pass out Valium after every shock to public peace, the failed Times Square car bombing was no “one-off” at all.
Having failed (and failed abysmally) to curb Iran’s nuclear vault, what’s called the “international community”—a very silly phrase, isn’t it?—is attempting to focus an accusatory spotlight on Israel’s long-held (but ritualistically shrugged off) capacity to make atomic war.
A dazzling essay by Fouad Ajami in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal made the point, apropos Faisal Shahzad, that the bestowal of citizenship “gave him the precious gift of an American passport but made no demands on him.” It also allowed him to travel 13 times to Pakistan and back over the last seven years—just one exemplar of the hundreds of thousands (more likely millions) of youngish men who have both domicile and liberties in the West but burn with fire for the perilous fevers of the Old Country.
Everybody actually knows that. “The new Middle East” is a psychedelic fantasy of the perennially intoxicated peace processors. The dream will go on forever. And maybe it will be punctuated positively a tiny bit by practical arrangements on the ground.
Imagine a national leader dependent on American support, but who knows that the U.S. Ambassador has threatened that it will be withdrawn; who has heard Senators, and the French foreign minister, call for his removal; and who is referred to throughout the Western press as “weak and unreliable.” That man is not Hamid Karzai, who visits Washington this week. It was Nouri al-Maliki, Prime Minister of Iraq, three years ago. Yet Maliki has since transformed himself from reputed weakling to overbearing strong-man, even while being dependent on U.S. support.
Last Friday, the Pakistani Taliban established a YouTube site titled Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan News Channel. (Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, or TTP, means Pakistani Taliban Movement and is the group’s official name.) Two days later, on Sunday morning, a video appeared there taking credit for Faisal Shahzad’s botched car bombing in Times Square. It featured a collage of images (slain jihadis, a Predator drone, Barack Obama, etc.) patched over an audio recording from Qari Hussain Mehsud.
Actually, the insolvency of Greece also made rough waves in America. Shortly before 3 p.m., the major stock indices (S & P, Dow and NASDAQ) were about to register 10% southwards. Not good news. And the fact they all ended the market day at roughly 3.5% down was only relatively good news, very relatively. This was not a good week for Wall Street. Of course, it was a disastrous week for Greece, which, mirabili dictu, avoided default only because the professional Eurocrats in Brussels and in other boring cities where “Europe” is headquartered went into hysterics.
So what happens now? That's the question Britain asks itself this morning. It would have been easier to answer if the country had managed to make its mind up yesterday. but for the first time since 1974, a British general election has produced no winner, only multiple losers. Gordon Brown remains prime minister for now but his credibility is destroyed and it seems most unlikely that the country would wear any coalition deal he cobbled together.
The only good result of this trauma is that nobody died. And, of course, we now know—as if we didn’t know before!—that we can count on the local police, the FBI, and the Joint Terrorism Task Force to actually come through with the culprit and the evidence against him. (The fecklessness of the Justice Department is another matter. At first, it did not read Faisal Shahzad his Miranda rights. Then, when he began copiously to spill the beans, the Holder folk did inform him. Maybe they were afraid that they’d learn too much.