Madness Marches On
by PETER BROOKES
November 8, 2011
With Osama bin Laden, Anwar al-Awlaki and Moammar Khadafy swept into the dustbin of history and the full US withdrawal from Iraq in the works, there’s a prevailing sense that, for us, all’s reasonably right with the world.
Pity, but that couldn’t be further from the truth.
The Middle East, for instance, is aflame with challenges to long-standing American interests -- and leadership.
Start with Egypt. Eight months after President Hosni Mubarak’s ouster, the key Arab country has “progressed” politically to the point that the military is still in charge -- basically: “Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.”
The democratic transition is stalled, military tribunals abound, protesters are harassed, detained or killed, the media are being muzzled, the Muslim Brotherhood is poised for electoral victory, and Cairo is re-opening diplomatic ties with Tehran after 30-plus years.
In Libya, while no one will miss Khadafy, the uprising has created hundreds of militias, some bent on revenge. Questions persist about Islamist influence.
Concerns are rife about the security of left-over chemical weapons -- not to mention the up to 20,000 man-portable, surface-to-air missiles that vanished from the regime’s arms depots, with some spotted as far away as Egypt. The chances of their falling into the wrong hands are pretty darn good.
Plus, nary a thing has been done about the brutal crackdown by Syrian security services on regime opponents after months of protests -- with, perhaps, the exception of some feckless economic sanctions and lots of finger-wagging.
So far, some 3,000 to 4,000 protesters have died at the hands of President Bashar Assad’s henchmen. New talk of negotiations with the opposition is plainly just an effort to buy time while the regime works to snuff out the fires of revolt. (It’s probably time to talk turkey with Turkey about some tough economic sanctions on its Syrian neighbor.)
The Palestinians entered UNESCO last week, and are likely to approach other specialized UN bodies for membership. They haven’t stopped knocking on the General Assembly door for a seat in the UN main body, either.
The Middle East peace process? Going nowhere anytime soon.
Of course, after bungling negotiations for a follow-on force, we’re getting the heck out of Iraq by year’s end. Only a small military advisory group will remain behind at the US embassy.
Of course, while everyone will be glad to get our brave young men and women home for the holidays, security analysts are fretting that our departure will open the way for Iraq to fall into Iran’s orbit -- or for more sectarian and ethnic violence.
Speaking of Iran, has there been any real progress on putting the wrap on its nuclear (weapons) program? Don’t think so. An International Atomic Energy Agency study due out this week reportedly will unveil some damning details on Tehran’s nuke work. (Israel’s recent military and civil-defense exercises no doubt mean Iran is advancing on the nuclear front.)
While Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula’s al-Awlaki is gone, Yemen is still deeply troubled. The capital, Sanaa, is a war zone, and AQAP and its tribal pals are running rampant in the south, where they’re planning and training for more terrorism.
And that’s just the Middle East.
Elsewhere, there’s the mess in Mexico, the problems in Pakistan, North Korean nukes, the vagaries of Venezuela, al Qaeda’s Somali sidekick, al Shabab, China’s cyberspying on, well, everyone -- and international economic emergencies, among others.
The point is that while what’s happening at home is critically important, we had better pay attention to what happens abroad at the same time -- that is, unless you don’t mind frequent unpleasant surprises.
FamilySecurityMatters.org Contributing Editor Peter Brookes is Senior Fellow, National Security Affairs and Chung Ju-Yung Fellow for Policy in the Douglas and Sarah Allison Center for Foreign Policy Studies at The Heritage Foundation. He also spent some time aboard Navy EP-3 recce birds checking on Cold War bad guys. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.