Al Qaeda has sought to stir up the masses and inflict terror to topple dictatorships in the Middle East supported by the West, most notably the United States.
But it seems as if what might have been a dream for Al Qaeda could turn into a nightmare for the terrorist organization that purports to be doing the work of Islam. I mean what if the people in that region throw out all the dictators but refuse to ally themselves with Al Qaeda? (I think I touched on that same issue in one of my recent blog posts).
By the same token, what if the Middle East goes totally democratic but does not align itself entirely with Western interests?
Events are moving so fast there now that it is hard to keep up with, and since our own news media is fairly ignorant of anything outside of the United States, it has been difficult to get much background for this whole story.
I mentioned this before, as well, but you should check out the Al Jazeera website English version. Originally written off as a propaganda tool for Al Qaeda, and at the very least totally anti-U.S., Al Jazeera seems to have greatly upgraded and seems to be going to great lengths to be objective and to present a sophisticated look at the news. I even see that it is covering news in other areas of the world, to include our neighboring country of Mexico. Try finding much about Mexico in the U.S. news media, good luck! (a sensational and superficial story about the ongoing drug wars from time to time, maybe, and that is a major story, but it should be covered much more fully).
Apparently Al Jazeera gets most of its funding from the Emir of Qatar, and gets some revenue by selling footage to other world news outlets, to include CNN, as well as other broadcast deals and advertising. And who knows? maybe it’s all an elaborate plot to get us hooked and steer us away from the truth in some subversive master Islamist plan, but for now I’d say Al Jazeera is a good source of information — you have to take all info with a grain of salt no matter what the source anyway. (For background on Al Jazeera: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Al_Jazeera )
Just one more thing on that: I was watching a kind of panel discussion on Al Jazeera and it struck me how sophisticated these people were and how they seemed to be concentrating on the issues rather than playing to the camera and coming up with clever one-liners and comebacks to bring attention to themselves instead of the story as many of these groups on American commercial media do.
So, there was a revolt in Tunisia and then the major one in Egypt. The dissidents in Iran have flared up again, but have been met with heavy resistance from the government security forces there. In Algeria there was a flare up met with an immediate crackdown by the government before it could get very far. And there are uprisings in Yemen and Bahrain and other Arab states (and yes, Iran is not Arab; it is Persian).
I have been hearing that what happens in one country over there, such as Egypt, might not happen in the same way in other countries. Their individual social structures and economic situations are not all the same.
What is especially interesting to me is that so far in Egypt — and they really have not gotten anywhere yet as far as democracy, except getting rid of Mubarak — is that so far there does not seem to be the fighting between religious factions as has been the case in Iraq.
I do understand that tribal loyalties could get in the way of successful democracy movements in some Arab states, such as has been the case in Afghanistan.
But I think that both the United States and Al Qaeda could come out of all of this with egg on their respective faces if the people really do usher in democracy but do not align themselves entirely with the West or bow down before the alter of Islamist extremism (“Islamist” seems to be the new or preferred word to replace Islamic, with the former meaning extremist and the latter referring to the religion itself or the religion in general).
The West has had a long unpleasant history in the Middle East. Both the French and the British created colonies in the area (to include North Africa) to exploit natural resources and agriculture production, and then the British developed the oil industry in the region originally and created what amounted to artificial nations, combining peoples or different tribes and religious factions, with it being necessary to have strong authoritarian rule to keep them from each other’s throats (not unlike how the old Soviet Block dictators kept control of masses who when left to their own devices murdered each other).
When the U.S. became the leading world power after World War II, it was felt we had to support any dictator that was anti-communist. We felt the masses were too ignorant to be self-governing and that they would fall prey to the communists, wreaking havoc with Western capitalism and more to the point cutting off the oil supply.
No sooner, though, had the communist threat disappeared (fall of the Soviet Union and its Eastern Block countries), than it was replaced with the Islamist threat.
But whether it was communists or Islamists, the need for oil is what the West has been concerned about in the Middle East.
The reality has been that oil from that region is vital to our (the West’s) whole economy. Maybe we always thought, well someday, we can help those poor people get their freedom, but right now we need the oil.
But for the masses in the Middle East, to include millions of young adults hooked up to social networks, that someday is today and I don’t think we better get in their way.
We really need to be developing alternative sources and forms of energy and working on overall energy independence anyway.
Meantime, the oil producers there still need our business.
Hindsight is always 20/20, but it seems we should have been using our influence over there to foster democracy all these years, but who knew that people really wanted to practice what we preach?