Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Thoughts about Libya and Syria

In our race to liberate Libya from Gaddafi, some Western leaders forgot that Libya (as the rest of North Africa) really doesn't look or act like a Western democracy. Most of the countries of Africa have borders formed not be tribal or ethnic boundaries but by former European powers. Many different groups are confined within these national boundaries (often still harboring decades or centuries old grudges).

Gaddafi and Hussein were brutal in part because they had to get these divergent groups to work together. Iraq consists of three different groups; Sunnis, Shias, and Kurds. It was easier to terrorize all equally than to workout out some type of compromise. Gaddafi successfully ran Libya that way for 40 years. Getting rid of Gaddafi does not mean Libya is going to become a democratic utopia in North Africa. Quite the contrary, the factions that were squabbling with Gaddafi will start to squabble with each other.

One of Gaddafi's sons stands to become either the next ruler of LIbya or leader of the revolutionary faction that will topple whoever follows Gaddafi into power. Nothing has really changed and actually Libya may follow Iraq into a destabilized, squabbling mirror of its former self.

Ambassador Rice is now taking Syria to task and wagging her finger at them as is to say, see what happened in Libya? It can happen to you! But there is a difference that the secretary seems to be ignoring. Gaddafi was very much a lone wolf in North Africa subsidizing his regime through supporting international terrorist groups (such as the Provisional IRA). In contrast, Syria is not a lone wolf and very much is under the influence of Iran (which provides funding and arms). Unlike Libya, Syria can deflect at any time its own domestic problems by starting a war with Israel. Israel is already experiencing problems with Egypt and having to deal with issues on two different fronts would be challenging even for the Israelis. Or Syria can pick a fight with Turkey and watch other Middle Eastern nations rise up against NATO.

Change is not always a good thing. Sometimes things change for the worse.

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