A New Kind of World War

After two World Wars, I think many of us have a concept of how WWIII would go down. Lots of us assume it would pick up where WWII left off, namely with the use of nuclear weapons. The real pessimists among us figure this would be the last World War since we would make the planet uninhabitable from nuclear decay by the time we were through.

Recent events, however, have me thinking out of the box a little. I think we may be witnessing WWIII right now but it’s not at all how we imagined it. This World War doesn’t involve countries banding together to fight other countries. This World War involves country after country exploding from within. It started in Tunisia. Then Egypt. Now the countries experiencing civil unrest have grown to include Yemen, Bahrain, Libya, Algeria, Iran, Jordan, and Syria. Saudi Arabia’s leaders are supposedly very nervous.

Our “War Against Terror” has been supplanted by a war against tyranny. The Allied Forces consist of mostly young people, wired together through social networking. The “Axis” forces consist of government after government of decades-old despots and dictators. The United States which had no problem choosing sides in the first two World Wars has the dilemma of finding some of its friends on the Axis side.

All the more interesting is that ordinary working folk in this country are being supported in their civil protest by … Egypt. Will we explode from within also? Will Obama find himself part of the Axis while the people of Madison, Wisconsin join the Allied Forces? Will the United States become embroiled in WWIII, the War Against Tyranny?

Stay tuned.

Respectfully,
Rutherford

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Being on the Right Side of History

While enjoying my morning dose of MSNBC chatter the other day I heard Richard Haass, President of the Council on Foreign Relations say something interesting about the conflict in Egypt. He basically said that we’re all way too quick to declare which “side of history” is the right side and the wrong side. “Being on the right side of history”, Mr. Haass says, is an awfully overused phrase.

Being a card carrying liberal, being on the right side of history has always been one of my rallying cries. Mr. Haass’ remarks made me rethink that for a moment. In Egypt we have a  leader who has clearly outstayed his welcome. However for the past 30 years, he has served America’s interests quite well. For that matter, we have no idea what follows should Hosni Mubarak abandon his office. So as I’ve said in a prior post, we are indeed between a rock and a hard place in how we react to this situation.

On a more philosophical note, where exactly do  we get off telling any nation how to conduct its affairs and who should lead it? I don’t have an easy answer for this question either. Leaders provide leadership. The United States is a world leader. So is it incumbent upon us to provide advice to any country in time of crisis? Clearly, doing so can cut both ways. It has been noted that in an interview with ABC’s Christiane Amanpour, Mubarak’s body language betrayed a frustration with perceived lack of support from his longtime ally, the USA. By the same token, it appears that the “people” demanding change are not satisfied with what they view as a less than full-throated advocacy from Obama.

Some conservatives and even some liberals are angry that Obama and his White House didn’t get on top of this situation when unrest first stirred in Tunisia. In the words of my blogger friend Gorilla of “The 800lb Gorilla”:

Obama’s failure to cool the situation and work in structured change with the leaders- using carrots and sticks- has allowed the situation to get out of control.
via Sleeping Through 3 A.M. « The 800lb Gorilla.

I have even heard the liberal media call the White House flat-footed when it comes to the Cairo uprising. Again, I have to ask myself what could we really have done and what should we have done? While Egypt’s future has tremendous impact on us, it is by the same token really none of our business.

So here we sit relatively helpless to effect a positive outcome in the Middle East. Hindsight is 20/20 and the only way to know you were on the right side of history is with hindsight. For the time being, all we really can do with any moral authority is ask the Egyptians to stop killing each other.

Respectfully,
Rutherford

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What to Do When Your Buddy’s Girlfriend Dumps Him

Foreign affairs is not my strong point. I’m better versed in domestic issues. But I do see a current American dilemma boiling down to the following scenario:

You’ve known your buddy for years. You’ve had good times. When you see your buddy treat his girlfriend pretty shabby, you look the other way. After all, your buddy is one of the only guys in his neighborhood whom you feel you can count on. Suddenly one day his girlfriend says she’s had enough. She burns his clothes and tosses them out the window. She goes running out the front door. He chases her out of the house. Does he have a gun? A baseball bat? Maybe he’s just shaking his fists? What do you do? You love the guy after all. But you’ve got standards. You see how he’s mistreated her all these years. You know she has every right to protest. She has every right to want him out of her life. So the best you can do is tell him to stop shaking his fist, or to put down the bat or the gun. You love the guy but you don’t want everyone thinking you condone his bad behavior. Then again, he is one of the only dependable guys in the neighborhood. Man, you’re in a spot, aren’t you?

For the past thirty years, we’ve been buddies with Hosni Mubarak. We’ve stood by as he has promised governmental reform to his people and never delivered. Now in a wave of protest that started in Tunisia and spread to Egypt, Mubarak’s people are pissed and they’re not going to take it anymore. But as in the case of the guy whose buddy’s abused girlfriend finally leaves him, President Barack Obama had to walk a fine line this week of pledging support to Mubarak while warning him not to run after his “girlfriend” with a baseball bat or a gun.

This business of allies is quite complicated. Sometimes you make friends with the best of a bad bunch. In an ideal world, would we really be friends with Hamid Karzai or Asif Zardari, two men who repeatedly snub us in both word and action?

Well, as I said, I’m no foreign affairs expert. I just know it’s a real pain when your buddy’s been acting like an ass and finally gets called on it. Now you’ve got to choose between loyalty and virtue. This week, it looks like we tried to have our cake and eat it too.

Respectfully,
Rutherford

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