Two Thursday Links-Michael Totten On Western Sahara & A Possible Kurdistan?

Full piece here.

Totten visits Western Sahara, ‘administered’ by Morocco, parts of it run by the renegade communist Polisario. The region’s become a sort-of proxy for tension between Morocco and the deeply repressive, authoritarian regime in Algeria and various conflicting interests:

“The Polisario wanted to impose a communist structure on nomadic populations,” she said. “I don’t believe that has changed. The same people are the leaders today as when I was young. There are still Sahrawi children in Cuba right now.”

Imagine going to Cuba for ‘education’…

.The entire Sahara-Sahel region is unstable. Egypt is ruled again by a military dictatorship. Libya is on the verge of total disintegration a la Somalia. Algeria is mired in a Soviet time warp. Northern Mali was recently taken over by Taliban-style terrorists so vicious they prompted the French to invade. At the time of this writing, US troops are hunting Nigeria’s Al Qaeda-linked Boko Haram across the border in Chad.

This blog thinks Totten’s at his best while travel-writing, weaving observation, journalism, politics and his experiences together.

Has the spread of Western liberal democracy involved socialist, communist, ‘social democratic,’ and even broadly humanist influences within a larger Western spectrum? You bet, and some of these influences have produced repressive and totalitarian hybrids still hanging-on.

On This Site See: A Few Thoughts On Isaiah Berlin’s “Two Concepts Of Liberty” …The End Of History?: Update And Repost- From YouTube: Leo Strauss On The Meno-More On The Fact/Value Distinction?’

Michael Totten At World Affairs: ‘The Once Great Havana’

In other news…

If you’re the Kurds, you defend your turf, play it cool, gain valuable territory and bide your time:

From The Daily Beast: ‘Iraqi Kurds Declare Plans For Breakaway State:’

‘But it isn’t clear that Washington can rely on either the Turkish or Israeli governments to rebuff the Kurds. Officials from both countries argue that events are fast overtaking the Obama administration.’

Vice is embedding a reporter with the Kurds, because that’s probably the only semi-safe option amidst such instability:


Independent Kurdistan-A Good Outcome For American Interests?

In his book Where The West Ends, Totten describes visiting Northern Iraq briefly as a tourist with a friend, and the general feeling of pro-Americanism in Kurdish Northern Iraq that generally one can only feel in Poland, parts of the former Yugoslavia etc.

Related On This Site: Longer odds, lots of risk: Adam Garfinkle At The American Interest’s Via Media: “The Rise Of Independent Kurdistan?”From Reuters: ‘Analysis: Syrian Kurds Sense Freedom, Power Struggle Awaits’

Adam Garfinkle At The American Interest: ‘Flogging Mali Again (and the Attack in Algeria too)’

Full piece here.

Want to read the best roundup of Mali so far?:

‘In short, from a strictly military point of view, what’s going on in Mali is going to keep going on in one form or another for a while. This will not end soon. It is also fairly likely to spread to Niger, possibly to Mauritania, Burkino Faso, Chad, Algeria and back into Libya, too, where the Tuareg live. And, as I have already suggested, a serious French-led intervention in Mali may help to spread it faster. There’s nothing like an “imperialist challenge” to stimulate resistance and high morale. On the other hand, an expansion of Tuareg activism might dilute the Islamist element within it, and might make the Arabic-speaking guest fighters unpopular and unwelcome, much as occurred in Iraq.’

Garfinkle isn’t sure if these are Al-Qaida directly affiliated groups or not.

Addition:  Please see Garfinkle’s follow-up piece on Algeria and the backstory. He suggests the USS Cole, Benghazi, and the Algerian gas plant may best be defined as insurgency.


I suspect it’s true that people in the Muslim world have their own interests, schisms, tribal affiliations and local politics.  Al Qaida is more like a franchise, even a myth, spoken of darkly, but also with some sympathy by some Muslims on the street.  It can be incidental to their lives, but most know Al Qaida involvement is more likely to provoke an American response.  There are a few converts and copycats ‘corrupted’ by the West consistently looking back for a more pure Islam from America and Europe, but Al Qaida’s strength is often grafted from the root of local struggles, and specifically where enough of a power vacuum develops on the ground.

There is broader appeal in uniting around a central vision of Islam, and that sentiment is deeper and stronger at the moment, and usually much less violent and radical, than what Al Qaida offers.  Submission of the will in Islam is certainly not just an option at the buffet of religions that multiculturalism serves up.  I’d remind multiculturalists they are looking out from a few centuries of post-reformation and post-Enlightenment separation of church and state when they address the Muslim world (most of them wanting to project ideals of humanism, secular humanism and also direct their own governments and people toward those ideals).  We will always have to make deals with the devil in pursuit of our interests, and we should recognize most Arab leaders strong enough to do so simply stamp Al Qaida out, much as they rather oppressively stamp out most political opposition to stay in power.

Even with stronger states in the Muslim world it can be tough to find mutual interest, as they offer complex policy challenges (the Wahabi-funding Saudis, an incredibly shaky, terrorist filled Pakistan, a hostile and nuclear-ambitious Iran, a now Muslim-Brotherhood-led Egypt).


Michael Totten has an interesting piece on the relative stability of Morocco, which has a still-functioning monarchy.

Update: Over 80 dead in Algeria.

Related On This Site   Al Qaida is on the rise in Afghanistan, and our objective may not be met.  Just ask Lara LoganSome Tuesday Links-Two Foreign Fronts

I don’t believe that we can appease Islamic extremists, which seems to be the premise of this administration’s approach Via Youtube-Uncommon Knowledge With Fouad Ajami And Charles Hill

Is Bernhard Henri-Levy actually influencing U.S. policy decisions..neo-neo-colonialism? From New York Magazine: ‘European Superhero Quashes Libyan Dictator’Bernhard Henri-Levy At The Daily Beast: ‘A Moral Tipping Point’Charlie Rose Episode On Libya Featuring Bernhard Henri-Levy, Les Gelb And Others

Repost-From Beautiful Horizons: ‘Christopher Hitchens and Tariq Ramadan at the 92nd Street Y’

From USA Today: ‘Fate Of Scores Of Hostages In Algeria Unclear’

Live updates here.

It was an Islamist raid on a natural gas plant in Algeria which started on Wednesday, with many foreign workers being taken hostage, and possibly one American dead so far.  Information is still hard to come by:

‘Algeria’s state news service says about 60 foreign hostages remain unaccounted for in the standoff with Islamist militants now entering its third day.

The report also says special forces have resumed negotiations after an assault Thursday at the natural gas facility in the Sahara in eastern Algeria’

Some people hid, some have been killed.  Obviously, many foreign nationals were working there.  The militants have reportedly demanded release of the blind sheik, Omar Abdel-Rahman, the Egyptian leader of a militant Islamist group currently being held in prison in North Carolina for his involvement in the the 1993 World Trade Center bombing.  Truly a peace-loving man.

So far, our media is not specially focused on the rise and resurgence of such Islamist movements, and Islamism more generally, and how to deal with them as best we can.  It hasn’t focused on how such movements in Mali and Mauritania are related to Libya (Obama’s war), nor the dark days likely ahead of Egypt with a Brotherhood led government and what our policy challenges will be regarding Egypt and its neighbors.  This is where much of Islam is right now, and we need to respond.  It feels like we’re flying half-blind guided by realpolitik under a set of liberal internationalist principles and Obama’s leadership.

I suspect we’ll be hearing more talk about supporting the Algerian army, not jumping to conclusions, and supporting our allies.  There’ll be talk of still trying to criminally investigate Benghazi and “working towards peace through international channels” while mingling amongst a crowd of governments trying to figure out where its citizens and interests are.

As a friend asks?:  Is the end game really peace, or is it to bend U.S. interests and policy to a set of universalist, more human rights centered, Western Left ideals?  If so, how’s that working out?

Update:  Still unclear how many dead.   It appears to be over, with many casualties.\]

Another:  From the AP:

In a bloody finale, Algerian special forces stormed a natural gas complex in the Sahara desert on Saturday to end a standoff with Islamist extremists that left at least 19 hostages and 29 militants dead. Dozens of foreign workers remain unaccounted for, leading to fears the death toll could rise.


Kurdistan link:

Maybe the Kurds are going to rely on Turkey for some stability and are less likely to form independent Kurdistan-From Foreign Affairs: ‘Revenge Of The Kurds‘.

On this site, seeFrom Michael Totten At World Affairs Journal: ‘The World According To Syrian Kurdistan’

Longer odds, lots of risk: Adam Garfinkle At The American Interest’s Via Media: “The Rise Of Independent Kurdistan?”

Is Bernhard Henri-Levy actually influencing U.S. policy decisions..neo-neo-colonialism? From New York Magazine: ‘European Superhero Quashes Libyan Dictator’Bernhard Henri-Levy At The Daily Beast: ‘A Moral Tipping Point’Charlie Rose Episode On Libya Featuring Bernhard Henri-Levy, Les Gelb And Others