Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Events, Unfolding As They Will

Strange how things have worked out. George W. Bush was considered to be a bit of a roughneck, an anti-intellectual, not too bright as evidenced presumably by his mangled syntax. The current President of the United States represents the polar opposite; a smoothly cosmopolitan academic whose lyrical rhetoric transfixed his audience who worshiped him into the White House.

When the fearfully dramatic, horribly destructive 9-11 attacks occurred, the American administration was swift to arrange for flights from the United States to the Middle East - in skies that went into immediate lock-down - to spirit Saudi royals out of the U.S. With the knowledge that most of the attackers were Saudi nationals, as was Osama bin Laden. American corporate ties with Saudi Arabia overrode all other considerations.

The Bushes, father and son, both in the oil business doing work on behalf of corporate tycoons and Saudi royals whose close personal relationship with the Bush clan was semi-public knowledge, made their accommodation somehow with the fact that those two things intersected; lucrative oil transactions, and a Wahhabist ruling class that generously funded jihad.

In the new administration, with a president who felt it was his mission to mend relationships with the Muslim world, Barack Obama addressed the Muslim world on a trip to Cairo, offering a hand of friendship to Iran. Predictably, Iran shunned any offers of conciliation. American forces in Iraq and Afghanistan did not endear the U.S. to the Arab/Muslim world, though this was a situation President Obama inherited from his predecessor.

As an American, as an American President, Barack Obama could not but be committed to the wars that were handed over to him. Just as he had of necessity to take responsibility for the financial collapse that was inherited thanks in large part to the previous administrations' (including a Democratic one) laissez faire attitude toward accountability and responsibility.

What is telling at this point is the reaction of the diplomatic/academic/statesman/world leader to the events that have suddenly exploded on the world stage, with the meltdown of long-time Arab and Muslim, Middle East and North African traditional politics, from dictatorships to tyrannies, theocracies to monarchies - and they are not all quite the same thing.

Just as the situations in each of those countries; Tunisia, Egypt, Bahrain, Algeria, Libya, Jordan, Syria and Iran is somewhat different by degree, by their discrete populations' levels of education, wealth and expectations. And by their regimes' level of permissible openness in accountability, the news media, religious dictates.

Barack Obama's - and by extension, America's - lacklustre reaction to situations they hardly know how to parse and react to, vacillating, attempting to bide time, ending up failing the test of reliability if not outright extension of loyalty to past long-time allies in the geography has vexed and dismayed Saudi Arabia. For it now understands that should finally its own population become sufficiently fed up with the status quo, its American ally would decamp.

All the trust and support emanating from the West toward the autocratic regimes of the Middle East have suddenly gushed down the drainpipe of events washing away the despotic and fear-driven restraints of the socially and politically oppressed. Wobbling on the edge of collapse are both the moderately autocratic regimes and the savagely repressive ones.

Europe is now concerned with the prospect not only of losing a goodly portion of its energy supplies, but also of becoming overrun by migrants desperate to escape the turmoil being unleashed in their countries of origin. The United States is facing the prospect of energy shortages reminiscent of what occurred in the mid-to-late 1970s when rationing became a near reality.

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