Search This Blog

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Beware of a February Revolution

It is true that liberty is precious; so precious that it must be carefully rationed. — Vladimir Lenin

On February 4, 2011 I posted a blog titled Will Egypt Become an Islamic State? In the text I briefly touched on the fears I had for revolutions that began in the streets, especially in February. In this post I would like to expand on that fear and talk about the spate of popular revolts that are sweeping the Muslin world in the Middle East.

The symbol of all political revolutions is a spinning roulette wheel, with the croupier chanting "round and round the big wheel goes and where it stops, nobody knows." The leaders of a revolution are not necessarily the ones who end up in power. The people who rise up to overthrow one tyranny often end up suffering under another.

The French Revolution in 1789 was fueled by the desire of common citizens for human rights and freedom from oppression by aristocrats and privileged classes. The original goal was a constitutional monarchy, but an extremist faction, the Jacobins, managed to seize control, arrest and execute the royal family, establish a reign of terror, and eliminate all opposition. The Jacobins were in turn overthrown by their rivals, the Girondists, who executed them. The resultant constitutional republic, under the Directory, lasted about four years until Napoleon Bonaparte seized control and became first "consul" and then emperor — which was not at all what the original revolutionists had fought for.

In February 1848, the second French revolution overthrew the Orleans monarchy and established the Second Republic

In December of that year, Louis Napoleon was elected president. Three years later, he suspended the legislature and, by a coup d'état that even Marx admired [1], established the Second Empire.

In February 1917, the people of Russia overthrew the tsarist regime to rid themselves of its oppressive aristocracy and bureaucracy. Kerensky's democratic provisional government tried to work with the radical Bolsheviks and shared power with their network of "soviets." However, in October, the Bolsheviks engineered a revolution of their own and established a socialist tyranny (with its own aristocracy of bureaucrats) which was worse than any tsarist regime had ever been.

The Cuban revolution ended in February 1959, when Batista fled from the country. In this case, the leader, Fidel Castro, remained in power, largely by killing or imprisoning all of his opponents. Soon enough, the people of Cuba realized that they were under a harsher dictatorship than they had endured under Batista. (not on New Year’s Eve as portrayed in Godfather, Part II)

The revolution in Iran attained victory in February 11, 1979 when the royaAyatollah Khomeinil regime was overwhelmed and the shah went into exile. Although the preceding popular uprisings had been inspired by a variety of secular and religious motives, the most organized components were followers of the Ayatollah Khomeini, who returned from exile just before the shah's departure [2]. Thereafter, what began as an authentic and anti-dictatorial popular revolution, based on a broad coalition of all anti-Shah forces, was soon transformed into an Islamic fundamentalist power-grab. Ultimately, despite his numerous prior assertions to the contrary, Khomeini became the de facto ruler of a rigid Islamic theocracy.

Aside from noting that February is not an auspicious month for revolutions, we may infer from these examples that:

Only a small percentage of a nation's population may actually participate in a successful revolution. According to one author, "it is almost unheard of for a revolution to involve as much as 1 percent of a country's population. The United States included. Let us not neglect to mention that at the beginning of our revolution against the King of England many colonists were either ambivalent to or opposed the revolt.

As I have described elsewhere, apparently "spontaneous" demonstrations are often carefully organized by a small group whose existence is virtually unknown to the public. This seems to have been the case in Egypt.

These obscure or clandestine organizers may have an ulterior motive and are in a key position to divert a revolution toward their goals.

Let us now consider the current game of Middle East roulette — the apparently successful revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt, the civil war in Libya, the protests in Bahrain and Yemen, and the smoldering-fuse beginnings in virtually every country in the Middle East, including Jordan, Syria, Turkey, and Saudi Arabia.

Obviously, these uprisings have been fueled by secular unrest among poor and oppressed populaces, especially among students and the unemployed. But these spontaneously energized groups have received substantial assistance from several terrorist groups who have reasons of their own for exacerbating unrest in Islamic nations.

These intrigues seem to defy analysis. The Middle East has always been a richly brocaded fabric of interwoven beliefs, traditions, deceptions, plots, and counterplots that are generally unfathomable to western observers. And contemporary Islam, although based on fairly straightforward documents that every one of its sects and factions would swear that they (and they alone) follow faithfully, is extremely complex and ambiguous. Nonetheless, although I only know what I read in the papers or see on TV — i.e. a handful of facts adulterated by propaganda, fabrications, surmises, and misinterpretations — I think I can discern a few major threads in this complex fabric.

Among the Islamic factions that advocate violence against heretics and unbelievers, Al Qaeda is one of several essentially Sunni brotherhoods, Hezbollah and Iranian fascism are Shiite, and the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas are considered to be Wahhabi and Sunni. Presumably, all of these organizations hope to utilize current Middle East unrest to expand their own influence and power. It may be significant that all of them have expressed their approval of the revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt.

Despite its professed hatred for Mubarak, Al Qaeda seemed conspicuous by its absence in the Egyptian revolution. Opinion is divided as to whether Al Qaeda will become more or less powerful in post-revolution nations. This might mean that their tactics and intrigues have become more subtle, as evidenced by their supposed presence in Yemen. One wonders what to make of Gaddafi's initial claim that Al Qaeda was behind the insurrection against him and his more recent threat to join them if the west intervened.

A more ominous speculation, inspired by Iran's emphatic approval of the current uprisings, is that they are part of a global scheme for Shiite domination of Islam. Although only 10 to 20 percent of the world's Muslims are Shiites, they constitute 90-95% of the Muslims in Iran, 60-75% in Iraq, Azerbaijan, and Bahrain, 45-55% in Lebanon, and 35-40% in Yemen. We tend to forget that Hezbollah, which now controls Lebanon, is a Shiite terrorist organization. The uprising in Bahrain has already been characterized as a Shiite attempt to overthrow their Sunni regime while the protests in Yemen may be, at least in part, a reprise of the five previous Shiite rebellions there in 2004-10. One analyst has gone so far as to infer that Ahmadinejad plans to encircle and conquer Saudi Arabia and thereby to attain Shiite control of the Islamic world. In this context, the recent constitutional referendum in Egypt is disturbingly reminiscent of a similar step in Khomeini's coup d’état in Iran.

And what of the Wahhabi? Although initially conspicuous for violence, the experience of their Hamas faction in Gaza seems to have taught their sister group, the Muslim Brotherhood, the art of the iron fist in the velvet glove — that being unobtrusively helpful leads to influence and power. They seem to have used the same approach during the Egyptian revolution, so much so that even Islamophillic PBS, in a recent Frontline broadcast, wondered what the Muslim Brotherhood is really up to.

Now we are engaged in a “kinetic military action” in Libya, a state where its dictatorial leader Moammar Gaddafi has shown disdain and opposition to radical Islam. Catherine Herridge writes on Fox “With a potential power vacuum looming in Libya, experts are watching a key Islamic terrorist group in the region for signs that its members will try to fill the void.”

“Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb — Maghreb is the Arabic name for northwest Africa — was designated a terrorist organization by the U.S. State Department in May 2010. A propaganda video, released last year by the group, shows its member doing weapons training.”

“From its base in Algeria, the group's reach now extends to the borders of Mauritania, Niger, Mali and Chad -- and Libya, where Col. Muammar Qaddafi has not only provided the U.S. with intelligence on the terrorists' operations but publicly spoken out against them.”

In a video statement obtained by the Middle East Media Research Institute, Qaddafi slams the members of the group, also known as AQIM, as bad Muslims. “The security forces found a mosque in al-Zawiya,” Qaddafi says. “In a mosque! Weapons, alcohol, and their corpses – all mixed up together.”

”With Qaddafi in hiding and potentially soon be out of the picture, the question is whether southern Libya will become a magnet for jihadist groups.”

“Cully Stimson, a former deputy assistant secretary of defense who is now a fellow at the conservative Heritage Foundation said the Al Qaeda affiliate may turn out to be an adaptive enemy. AQIM has found their niche. They are going to exploit that to the degree they can,” Stimson said.

James Jay Carafano, the Deputy Director, for the Institute for International Studies at The Heritage Foundation writes: “Now that NATO has arrived, as Libyans look to the future, all things are possible. That's the problem-all things are possible. On the up side, NATO has never failed. On the down side, now the alliance has its first opportunity.”

“This isn't like the conflicts in Bosnia, Kosovo and Afghanistan — the alliance has neither a compelling interest nor an unshakable U.S. commitment backstopping NATO at war. Even then, these examples are hardly reassuring. Case in point: Slobodan Milosevic held out so long in the face of the bombing campaign over Kosovo that many feared the alliance's resolve would give out before the Serbian strongman gave up.”

“Since Obama's election, NATO nations serving in Afghanistan have been looking over their shoulder to make sure the U.S. is still there. Compared to earlier battles, Libya is at the end of the earth of NATO's core interests. So the real question is, what the alliance will do if times get tough? What NATO will leave behind?”

“Even in the best-case scenario, where Qaddafi trips over a tomahawk, Libya will be a largely ungoverned space. In every conflict in the Islamic world since 9/11, Al Qaeda and its affiliates have tried to flood-the-zone, pouring in foreign fighters, turning the conflict into a recruiting poster, a training ground, and a launching pad for trouble elsewhere. Al Qaeda had a pipeline funneling fighters from North Africa to Iraq; surely they will try to turn it the other way round.”

Rather than rush to Tripoli, NATO ought to sort through the opposition and make sure it's not backing the next Taliban. Next, they should focus on building the capacity of a legitimate opposition so that as they expand their influence, the rebels bring security, liberty and safety to the people —rather than chaos, privation and opportunities for a slew of Al Qaeda wannabes.”

Personally, I believe in all of the above. I suspect that all of these factions are maneuvering and trying to manipulate each other. The real question is whether they can work together. Despite past enmities, the answer is probably yes. They all share a common goal, the establishment of a pan-Islamic caliphate throughout the Middle East, and common objects of hatred — Israel and the United States. We should not ignore the possibility of intrigues involving non-Islamic groups.

The numerous parallels between Islamic and Marxist ideology may inspire intervention by communist cells and nations, although Islam claims to be vehemently anti-communist. I see this opposition to communism along theological lines, not it’s communal of social justice aspects. If you look at Islam it has a long history of herding people into communal cells.

I never liked roulette. But I am forced to stand by and watch this game, with an ever-growing suspicion that the wheel is crooked. The house always wins, but who's running the house?

I do not believe, that with the west’s current push for political correctness to Muslims and Islam we cannot have an intelligent debate of what radical Islam is and what it means to the world. Every time someone opens his mouth to question Islam he is shouted down as an Islamophobe or a racist by the social progressive left. Every time Churchill stood in the House of Commons to decry Hitler’s actions and aims, he too was shouted down — until Hitler invaded Poland and the bombs began dropping. How long will we have to wait?

So, the question we have to ask and get answers to is: is this another popular uprising, but will the aftermath be worse than what Libya has now? In the words of an ancient Chinese philosopher, “be careful what you wish for, you may get it.


[1] Marx and Engels thought that the 1848 French revolution would trigger a wave of proletarian revolutions all over the world-as some seem to think is happening now. Marx's The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte, published in 1852, can be construed as a rueful realization that revolutions can be derailed by clever coups d'état.

[2] Khomeini's return to Iran, just before the Shah's downfall, is curiously reminiscent of Lenin's return to Russia's Finland station, in April 1917, to start the Bolshevik October revolution. One might infer that Marx learned from the Bonapartes, Lenin from Marx, Khomeini from Lenin, and the current plotters from Khomeini.

No comments:

Post a Comment