NB. Most of the postings (and the regularity of) the Gleanings comes from Fabian Pascal (oao), who blogs at The PostWest.
Paul Pillar: Dictators Learn Their Lessons (MUST READ)
The United States has been giving the North Koreans not only a single lesson but a whole course on what to do with its nuclear weapons program. The Iraq War, coupled with U.S. policy toward North Korea itself, taught the lesson that if you’re thinking of getting involved with nuclear weapons, go full steam ahead so you can get at least one bomb in the basement as a deterrent before the United States or someone else uses military force to get rid of you. Now with the Libyan situation, the lesson is to cling to whatever nuclear weapons you have already managed to make. The rulers in Iran, being no dummies, are almost certainly drawing the same lessons. It will be very difficult, and will take much time and effort, to cause such lessons to be unlearned.
The unfortunate lessons are the sort of indirect effect that gets too little attention before major initiatives like the military intervention in Libya. It is not as if the possible impact on the perceptions of third parties is never considered, but the consideration gets narrowed to a single notion: that if the United States does not use force in the situation under discussion, its credibility will be damaged and other governments will not believe that it will not use force as necessary in other situations in which its vital interests may be at stake. As Benjamin Friedman points out, the historical record belies that notion. Governments do not gauge credibility that way because what the United States does when its vital interests are not at stake is a poor indicator of what it will do when they are. In contrast, the experience of Qaddafi’s regime in dealing with the West is directly applicable to the predicaments of an Iran or North Korea.
Robert Kaplan: The Middle East Crisis Has Just Begun (MUST READ)
The United States may be a democracy, but it is also a status quo power, whose position in the world depends on the world staying as it is. In the Middle East, the status quo is unsustainable because populations are no longer afraid of their rulers. Every country is now in play. Even in Syria, with its grisly security services, widespread demonstrations have been reported and protesters killed. There will be no way to appease the region’s rival sects, ethnicities and other interest groups except through some form of democratic representation, but anarchic quasi-democracy will satisfy no one. Other groups will emerge, and they may be distinctly illiberal.
Whatever happens in Libya, it is not necessarily a bellwether for the Middle East. The Iranian green movement knows that Western air forces and navies are not about to bomb Iran in the event of a popular uprising, so it is unclear what lesson we are providing to the region. Because outside of Iran, and with the arguable exceptions of Syria and Libya itself, there is no short-term benefit for the U.S. in democratic revolts in the region. In fact, they could be quite destructive to our interests, even as they prove to be unstoppable.
Eric Trager: Sphinx, Lies, and Audiotape
On a hot July evening this past summer, toward the end of our interview, Aref Desouki, vice-chair of a faction of the liberal Ghad Party, suddenly got defensive. After dodging questions about Egyptian State Security’s infiltration of his party, the bespectacled, cane-carrying mathematics professor wanted to emphasize that political conspiracies aren’t unique to Egypt. “You are controlled in the U.S. by an underground government,” he said, completely seriously. “A secret government that is related to the Zionists and the Jewish-Christian Zionists. For at least forty years, the U.S. has been more supportive of Israel and no U.S. president can go against this or he will be killed, like Kennedy. And when Clinton talked about Arab rights, they sent Monica to his office. And Monica is Jewish.”
Barry Rubin: Western Media Discover Egyptian Revolution Not So Moderate; Muslim Brotherhood is Powerful, Still Deny That It’s Radical
It seems mere days ago that every reporter and expert on all television channels and newspapers was preaching that Egypt’s revolution was a great thing, run by Facebook-savvy liberals, inspired by President Barack Obama and “universal values.” Those silly, paranoid Israelis had nothing to worry about. Christians were backing the revolution and everyone was going to be brothers, but not Muslim Brothers because the Muslim Brotherhood was weak, moderate, opposed to violence, and full of great people. Anyone who said anything different was screened out and vilified … So now the New York Times tells us such things as “religion has emerged as a powerful political force.” How do they cover their past mistakes? They erroneously add, “Following an uprising that was based on secular ideals.” They have discovered that a lot of army officers like the Muslim Brotherhood, which we knew about long before simply by watching how officers’ wives were transformed from imitators of European fashions to being swathed in pious Islamic garb.
The Telegraph: Libyan rebel commander admits his fighters have al-Qaeda links
In an interview with the Italian newspaper Il Sole 24 Ore, Mr al-Hasidi admitted that he had recruited “around 25” men from the Derna area in eastern Libya to fight against coalition troops in Iraq. Some of them, he said, are “today are on the front lines in Adjabiya”.
Mr al-Hasidi insisted his fighters “are patriots and good Muslims, not terrorists,” but added that the “members of al-Qaeda are also good Muslims and are fighting against the invader”.
Mark Steyn: The Art of Inconclusive War
The blood-soaked butcher next door in Sudan is the first head of state to be charged by the International Criminal Court with genocide, but nobody’s planning on toppling him. Iran’s going nuclear with impunity, but Obama sends fraternal greetings to the “Supreme Leader” of the “Islamic Republic.” North Korea is more or less openly trading as the one-stop bargain-basement for all your nuke needs, and we’re standing idly by. But the one cooperative dictator’s getting million-dollar-a-pop cruise missiles lobbed in his tent all night long. If you were the average Third World loon, which role model makes most sense? Colonel Cooperative in Tripoli? Or Ayatollah Death-to-the-Great-Satan in Tehran? America is teaching the lesson that the best way to avoid the attentions of whimsical “liberal interventionists” is to get yourself an easily affordable nuclear program from Pyongyang or anywhere else as soon as possible.