Monday, June 8, 2009

Favorable Portents Overseas; Green Shoots?

There are some political green shoots happening overseas. For example, in Lebanon, the political winds seemed to be strongly going Hezbollah's way. Thus it was surprising to view the following headline today on Lebanon Elects Pro-West Alliance as Hezbollah Challenge Fails.

Here are the essentials, with the final paragraph below perhaps the most important:

Lebanon’s pro-Western coalition defeated the Iran-backed Hezbollah bloc to win re-election in a vote that may help President Barack Obama reinvigorate peace efforts in the Middle East.

The governing alliance headed by Saad Hariri gained 71 seats in yesterday’s election to the 128-member parliament, according to official results announced by Interior Minister Ziad Baroud at a press conference in Beirut today. The Hezbollah-led grouping won 57 seats, he said.

Victory for Hariri’s coalition comes days after Obama’s June 4 visit to Cairo and his call for a “new beginning” between the U.S. and the Muslim world. Hezbollah has opposed American policy in the region, mocked Arab allies of the U.S. for failing to help the Palestinians, and resisted international efforts to disband its militia, which fought a monthlong war with Israel in 2006.

“This was the first real victory by pro-American groups in the ideological battle that has defined this region in the last 10 years,” said Rami Khouri of the American University of Beirut. Previously, “every time the U.S. tried to help somebody in the region, it hurt them and they lost.”

Another green shoot in Pakistan, where informed opinion I have seen was that most of the country regards the Taliban as over-zealous country bumpkins, reports that their sort of savagery is creating its own backlash, from Villagers angered by mosque blast attack Taliban.

Here is most of the story:

UPPER DIR: Two Taliban commanders and their four fighters were killed in an armed action taken by a tribal Lashkar in the Doog Darra area of Upper Dir district on Sunday. (Ed.: I believe a tribal Lashkar is a militia.)

(According to AP news agency 11 militants were killed in the attack.)

The Lashkar was formed in Hayagay Sharqi, and was supported by people of Hayagay Gharbi, Doon, Kilot and Miana Doog villages, after the suicide attack on a local mosque during Friday prayers that killed over 30 people, including several children.

The Lashkar stormed Taliban bunkers in Doog Darra, Salam Bekay, Ghazigay, Shatkas, Panaghar and Maluk Khwar and torched about 20 houses of people who harboured militants.
People from several other villages joined the Lashkar to expel Taliban from their area.
According to local people, both sides were using heavy weapons in fierce clashes between the Lashkar and the Taliban.

Sources said the village force was attacking Taliban positions in Shatkas, Miana and Doog Bala.
Meanwhile, people of Maluk Khwar and Panaghar villages, who were active supporters
of the militants, also parted ways with them after the mosque blast and announced support for the tribal Lashkar and vowed to evict militants from the area.

Doog Darra area, it may be mentioned, was attacked by planes in the third week of May.
Two men of the Lashkar identified as Shah Khalid and Mohammad Ayaz were injured in Sunday’s clash.

The militants, holed up in their stronghold of Shatkas and Gazigay, were putting up stiff resistance, the sources said.

Agencies add: The incident underscored a swing in the national mood towards a more anti-Taliban stance . . .

Other articles I have read in indicate that the locals' anger toward the U. S. and the national government over drone airstrikes has often been overcome by a greater anger at the disgusting, totalitarian tactics of the Taliban.

Finally, while this is not really "new" news, the belated acknowledgement of the success of the surge strategy in Iraq has finally occurred in Obama Central of the mainstream media --- Newsweek. Fareed Zakaria writes in the current issue in Victory in Iraq:

When the surge was announced in January 2007, I was somewhat cautious about it. I believed that more troops and a proper counterinsurgency strategy would certainly improve the security situation—I had advocated more troops from the start of the occupation—but I believed that the fundamental problem in Iraq was political discord among the country's three main sects and ethnic groups. The surge, in my view, would alleviate those tensions but also postpone the need for a solution. Only a political agreement among these groups could reach one.

I was wrong in some ways. First, the surge turned out to be a more sophisticated strategy—encompassing political outreach to the Sunnis—than I had imagined.

It's hard to believe Newsweek is crediting George W. Bush not just with a military success but with a "sophisticated strategy".

Much that happens in the world is cyclical. The international news has been generally unpleasant since September 11, 2001. In retrospect, the economy has stank or at best mouldered since early 2001. When America said goodbye to the Truman Presidency in 1953 with his miserable 23% approval rating and then suffered through a recession from 1953-54, how many foresaw a decade of peace, prosperity, and booming stock market? And how many people on the morning of November 22, 1963 foresaw the troubles of the next two decades?

So let us hope that despite the numerous policy mistakes of the past year and past decade that have allowed Big Finance to lead us to the current economic disaster, cyclical and other forces will erode its primacy and allow natural forces to do what America likes to think it does best-- make money. And let brutes such as the Taliban and Hezbollah fall of their own weight without American bombs trying to do it from the air.

Copyright (C) Long Lake LLC 2009

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