Watching Gaddafi’s Madness

 

By: inoljt, http://mypolitikal.com/

It’s said that power corrupts, and that absolute power corrupts absolutely.

Late Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi presents an excellent example of this tendency. One could illustrate this fact through the usual means: by talking about how Gaddafi started out not half-bad and ended up a maniac. How he initially ensured the oil wealth of Libya went to the people of Libya, and how he ended up being overthrown by those same people.

But a picture is worth a thousand words.

This is young Gaddafi, back when he just took over control of Libya.

The man here is very different from the image of Gaddafi that the world is used to seeing. Gaddafi actually looks quite compelling here. He is charismatic and undeniably handsome, probably more handsome than a good majority of human males. This was before Gaddafi had been in power for a while.

Compare this to the Gaddafi we all knew and loved.

Not so handsome anymore.

One can see the effect of decades of absolute power just by looking at Gaddafi’s face. There is a peculiar effect that holding power has on the way people look (one can see it on the faces of many American politicians).  Gaddafi has the look of a man unused to being disobeyed or questioned. There is an air of manic about his eyes. It’s the look of a man who has held absolute, unquestioned power for too long.

One hopes that the next leader of Libya will not have that look.

 

 

Gaddafi’s Fateful Speech

 

By: inoljt, http://mypolitikal.com/

In February of 2011, Libya was convulsing with revolution against autocrat Muammar Gaddafi. Many Westerners were certain that Gaddafi would fall within days.

He did not. Rather, with the help of African mercenaries and loyalists, Gaddafi retook control of the streets of Tripoli. Rebel offensives in the east petered out, and Gaddafi’s armed forces began advancing towards the rebel capital Benghazi. Then the West intervened, and the rest is history.

It did have not to be this way, in fact. One main – and frequently underestimated – thing that caused Western intervention was Gaddafi’s rhetoric.

Specifically, on February 22 Gaddafi gave a speech to the Libyan people addressing the unrest in his country. This speech included such gems as:

Get out of your homes, to the streets, secure the streets, take the rats, the greasy rats out of the streets…

Now, Gaddafi had frequently given such speeches in the past; this was nothing new to those familiar with him. Libyans used to Gaddafi’s eccentricities were probably not that surprised by the rhetoric. Indeed, most people familiar with Gaddafi generally had tended to ignore his speeches.

Except on February 22nd things were different. This time the whole world was watching Gaddafi. On February 22nd, even the American cable networks (notoriously uninterested in world affairs) interrupted regular programming to hear him speak.

Most people probably expected Gaddafi to offer some concessions. Egypt’s dictator Hosni Mubarak, for instance, dismissed his cabinet during one such speech and promised to address the lack of jobs available for Egypt’s youth. People probably expected Gaddafi to sound like a reasonable person, like Mubarak.

Instead, they heard this:

So tonight, the youth, all the youths, not those rats who’ve taken the pills, all the youths tomorrow form security committees from tonight, they put green with red writing secure the cities, to bring back security to the cities.

When the Western elite heard Gaddafi say things like this (probably the first time many of them heard him speak at all), they were utterly shocked. Eventually they concluded two things. First, Gaddafi was a madman. Second, there would be a massacre if he ever took back the rebelling eastern regions.

Newspapers wrote articles with titles such as “Gaddafi: ‘I will not give up’, ‘we will chase the cockroaches’ .” They published his most inflammatory rhetoric; one Times article quoted him:

“We are coming tonight,” Colonel Qaddafi said. “You will come out from inside. Prepare yourselves from tonight. We will find you in your closets.”

There are hints of the effect the rhetoric had on Western officials. For instance, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called Gaddafi:

a ruthless dictator that has no conscience and will destroy anyone or anything in his way…That is just his nature. There are some creatures that are like that.

This is quite undiplomatic language, and it probably reveals a lot about what Clinton actually thought about Gaddafi. Later on she became a very influential advocate for American intervention to stop Gaddafi (indeed, it may have been Clinton that convinced Obama to intervene). It’s probable that Clinton watched Gaddafi speak on February 22nd, and that her impression of Gaddafi – as a “creature” – was formed in part by hearing his rhetoric.

In this sense Gaddafi made a great strategic mistake when he spoke on February 22nd. For decades Gaddafi had spoke in a similar mad style, and for decades he’d gotten away with it. When he spoke on February 22nd, he was probably addressing a domestic audience and trying to frighten the opposition. But not just the opposition was listening; so was the world.

 

 

OMG, I Agree With Michele Bachmann!

In the midst of the crapstorm that has become life in these United States, I sometimes feel as if I’ve slipped into a parallel dimension populated exclusively by tea partiers, Glen Beck clones, Sarah Palin stand up comedians, and our reigning dizzy queen Michele Bachmann. That’s why when I agreed with one of her statements, I headed straight for the antipsychotics.

Please God, don’t let me die a “dittohead”!

The Maybe I’ll Certainly Run for President in 2012 Unless I Change My Mind Before Deciding to Redecide Again candidate laid into The Messiah™ for leading his uncoalesced coalition into Libya. Not surprisingly she’s against it, though I’m confident she would’ve been for it if Obama had decided against intervention. But this this time? I agree with her.

Doin’ the Tripoli Tango
Obama made a mistake in entering the fray. Michele and I agree there seems to be little compelling strategic US interest involved. As for the humanitarianism angle, there are places that DO involve strategic US interests AND plenty of poor wretches being ground under the jackboots of a dozen Col. Loony Toons and DickTaters. We aren’t feeling particularly humanitarian there, so WTF? The US simply cannot be the world’s cop. There’s an infinite supply of bad people and you can’t wipe them all out without weakening yourself. Even Bush the Lesser understood that, though he sometimes didn’t act that way.

I think Michele’s a little weak on the whole “al Qaeda” is afoot angle and by referring to the fiasco in the making as the “Obama Doctrine” she’s ignoring the fact that one decision does not a full doctrine make. These decisions should and are based on the conditions at the moment, whether they’re good or bad.

Now, we’re  seeing the ghosts of neo-conservatism on Obama. He’s apparently signed a “secret order” authorizing covert support for the Libyan rebels. We’re slow learners about this whole, “let’s have a big freedom party and call all the poor kids over for punch, cookies, and purple thumb votes” thing. See Exhibits A (Iraq), B (Afghanistan), C-Z (dozens of other places where we’ve intervened to no great or lasting effect).

In case you haven’t noticed, democracies ain’t easy. If they were, the US would be in a lot better shape than we are. Bringing freedom to people takes more than no-fly zones, 10+ year wars, or secret orders. It’s an illusive thing being imposed on countries that have no real government to begin with – much less a democratic one. It’s a step learning curve, particularly when you’re being shelled by heavy artillery.

What’s it All Not About?
The question here isn’t whether the Carebear acted too slow or too fast. The question isn’t that he pulled together a coalition – no matter how feeble it is. It’s not about using the UN for a fig leaf. It’s not about how or if he consulted Congress. It’s not about whether he’s more inconsistent than George, because they both were. It’s about why we went in and now that we’re there, how the hell we’re going to exit.

The secret order suggests he’s going down the same rabbit hole as our previous Emperor. We’re already hearing about how things are just going ducky and how we’ll be out of Gaddafistan within days or months. It all sounds distressingly like the nearly 8-years the Dub prattled on about how things would be over soon in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Yeah, how’s that working out for us?

Never go into a battle unless you know what it means to win and how you will win the peace as well. If you’re stupid enough to go in and it becomes plain you had the intelligence of a donut to do it, figure out how you’re going to back out, gracefully or otherwise. The battlefield of statecraft is pock-marked by the bodies of countries that don’t learn those lessons. I don’t know about you, but I’m not in the mood for contributing more cannon fodder for a questionable war.

So Michele, hat’s off to you!

Maybe there’s hope for you yet.

Cross posted at The Omnipotent Poobah Speaks!

 

 

 

A Textbook Example of Media Embellishment

I recently wrote a post title: The Great Twitter/Facebook Revolution Fallacy. This post noted that:

For some strange reason, the American media has always been obsessed with Twitter and Facebook…

This applies to foreign affairs as well. In the context of the events occurring in the Middle East, the Western media loves to argue that Twitter and Facebook constitute catalysts for revolution in the modern era. Indeed, some articles called the 2009 Iranian protests the “Twitter Revolution.”

It then went on to argue that, in fact, Twitter and Facebook played a negligible role in the Arab revolutions, given the very very few individuals in those countries who use Twitter or Facebook (let alone have access to the Internet in the first place).

In fact, given that the Internet was blocked for much of the Egyptian protests, it’s safe to say that Twitter and Facebook had absolutely no role in the Egyptian revolution during its most crucial period. Neverthess, many still insist that the revolution could not have happened without sites like Facebook and Twitter.

Let’s add Youtube to the list.

America’s media has always exaggerated the role that Youtube plays in spreading political change and unrest. A few days ago, the New York Times wrote an article titled Qaddafi Youtube Spoof By Israeli Gets Arab Fans. This article was an inspiring story about how:

A YouTube clip mocking Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi’s megalomania is fast becoming a popular token of the Libya uprising across the Middle East. And in an added affront to Colonel Qaddafi, it was created by an Israeli living in Tel Aviv…

Mr. Alooshe, who at first did not identify himself on the clip as an Israeli, started receiving enthusiastic messages from all around the Arab world. Web surfers soon discovered that he was a Jewish Israeli from his Facebook profile — Mr. Alooshe plays in a band called Hovevey Zion, or the Lovers of Zion — and some of the accolades turned to curses. A few also found the video distasteful.

But the reactions have largely been positive, including a message Mr. Alooshe said he received from someone he assumed to be from the Libyan opposition saying that if and when the Qaddafi regime fell, “We will dance to ‘Zenga-Zenga’ in the square.”

It sounds great. Isreali-Arab friendship. Fun being made of Libya’s dictator. And most importantly, the rising influence of the new media.

There’s just one thing wrong with this picture.

Notice how, in the comments section of the video, everything is in English. At the moment this post was being written, this individual scrolled through eleven pages before seeing one comment in Arabic.

If this Youtube video is so popular with Arab fans (as the article’s title implies), how come there are no comments in, you know, Arabic?

Perhaps the number of viewers from the English world swamped the Arab world after the Times published the article. But the earliest comments, made article was published, are largely English. Of the first 100 comments, only 15 were written in Arabic.

It doesn’t take much searching to find a video with a mainly Arabic-speaking audience. Here is one example, of an apparently popular musician. About 90% of the comments are written in Arabic. Contrast that with the Zenga Zenga video, in which the amount of Arabic in the most recent commentary approaches zero percent.

One wonders how the Times journalist came upon this video and concluded that it was a hit amongst Arabs. Perhaps the author saw the video and thought it was cool. Maybe the author had an urgent deadline and needed to bullshit an article.

But whatever the truth, it is almost certain that the Zenga Zenga video is far more popular in America than it is in the Middle East.

--Inoljt, http://mypolitikal.com/

 

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