web analytics
April 16, 2014 / 16 Nisan, 5774
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘Civil War’

Failing in Order to Succeed

Monday, August 19th, 2013

The rabbis teach that we can only truly understand Torah when we allow ourselves to fail at it (Gittin 43a). Unless we push ourselves to reach for deeper understanding, where we inevitably get it wrong before we can get it right, we will not grasp the very essence of the Jewish enterprise. Rashi here seems to think that it’s the public shame of getting it wrong (and the concomitant rebuke) that strengthens one’s intellectual rigor. It is not hard to think about giving constructive feedback (“rebuke”) when it comes to moral matters, but do we care enough about ideas that we (respectfully) challenge others when ideas are misinterpreted or misapplied? How much do we really value the marketplace of ideas and the assurance that we as individuals and as a society get it right?

History is full of examples of leaders who acknowledged that persistence in the face of failure was more important than individual failures. President Abraham Lincoln, whose army suffered many crushing defeats in the early years of the Civil War, said: “I am not concerned that you have fallen — I am concerned that you arise.” A century later, Robert F. Kennedy echoed the optimistic spirit of youth when he said, “Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly.” Besides for being tragically assassinated, what these presidents have in common in that their causes lasted, their legacies carried on, and they are remembered as being among the greatest and most successful men to occupy the Oval Office.

Very often, one can be lured by the traps of conformism (just follow others’ ideas or practices) or isolationism (just follow one’s own marginal ideas and practices). Our job as Jews is to break free from these ploys for mediocrity. We must challenge ourselves and the status quo to reach higher by engaging with societal ideas but without blindly accepting them.

Rebbe Nachman of Breslov, the great-grandson of the Baal Shem Tov (the founder of the Chassidic movement) and founder and intellectual-spiritual leader in his own right, was anything but a conformist. He not only told his followers to be happy, but he also encouraged them to do silly things, highly unusual for a religious leader. Rebbe Nachman stated that each person had to fall in order to rise, and stressed the universality of this concept:

[E]ach person who fell … thinks that these words weren’t spoken for him, for he imagines that these ideas are only for great people who are always climbing from one level to the next. But truthfully, you should know and believe, that all these words were also said concerning the smallest of the small and the worst of the worst, for Hashem is forever good to all.

However, Rebbe Nachman went further, stating that it is “a great thing for a person to still have an evil inclination.” Even the tendency to evil could serve G-d, as people worked through these passions and eventually overcame them. To Rebbe Nachman, it seems, spiritual stasis is the only unacceptable path.

We must be willing to learn and debate with others. Ideas matter. Inevitably that will lead to some level of shame when we get it wrong, but the promise land afterwards is much greater. It offers a culture of more honest, informed, connected individuals who are willing to be vulnerable for the sake of truth and who are willing to be wrong in order to get it right. Our great rabbinic and presidential leaders wouldn’t have it any other way.

NY Times Blaming Israel for Egyptian Havoc

Monday, August 19th, 2013

The first outright finger pointing at Israel was published in the Sunday NY Times (Pressure by U.S. Failed to Sway Egyptian Military Leaders from Crackdown):

The Israelis, whose military had close ties to General Sisi from his former post as head of military intelligence, were supporting the takeover as well. Western diplomats say that General Sisi and his circle appeared to be in heavy communication with Israeli colleagues, and the diplomats believed the Israelis were also undercutting the Western message by reassuring the Egyptians not to worry about American threats to cut off aid.

Israeli officials deny having reassured Egypt about the aid, but acknowledge having lobbied Washington to protect it.

When Senator Rand Paul, Republican of Kentucky, proposed an amendment halting military aid to Egypt, the influential American Israel Public Affairs Committee sent a letter to senators on July 31 opposing it, saying it “could increase instability in Egypt and undermine important U.S. interests and negatively impact our Israeli ally.” Statements from influential lawmakers echoed the letter, and the Senate defeated the measure, 86 to 13, later that day.

The fact is, Israel—and the Saudis—are trying desperately to save America from its own delusions about a democratic Arab world springing forth with equality and freedom for all. Egypt’s neighbors are anxious about the possibility of a civil war in Egypt and understand that a firm government is the essential first step towards recovery from the events of the past three months and the past two years in Egypt.

But now, according to the way the NY Times sees the world on Monday morning, Israel is “Escalating Efforts to Shape Allies’ Strategy.”

The original headline, according to NewsSniffer, was “Israel Puts More Urgency on Shaping Allies’ Actions” and was modified twice since the earlier posting.

An unnamed Israeli government official told the Times that Israel is going to spend this week twisting European and American arms in an attempt to prevent them from pulling their support from the Sisi regime, even though his soldiers have been brutal in their treatment of the Muslim Brother demonstrators.

The official explained the Middle east realities in blunt terms: “We’re trying to talk to key actors, key countries, and share our view that you may not like what you see, but what’s the alternative? If you insist on big principles, then you will miss the essential — the essential being putting Egypt back on track at whatever cost. First, save what you can, and then deal with democracy and freedom and so on.”

And he added, even more bluntly:

“At this point,” the official added, “it’s army or anarchy.”

Speaking of anarchy, no one is certain that even with full Western support the Sisi regime would be able to withstand the onslaught of highly motivated, unafraid Muslim Brothers. While the army is bound by some modicum of restraint, the Muslim Brothers recognize no such boundaries. While about a thousand of their number have been killed, they have been joyfully burning down Coptic churches and murdering Egyptian Christians in the streets. Over the long haul, if the Brothers are not stopped effectively, they could wear down the regime and demoralize the army. That could throw Egypt into a full blown, Syrian style civil war.

In addition to it being a public relations disaster for the Obama Administration, as caring individuals like senators Paul and McCain rip the president mercilessly on his policy and call for cutting off $1.3 billion in annual military aid to Egypt, there’s President Barack Obama’s injured ego. A project he began right after his election has collapsed right before his eyes, and despite all of his efforts to communicate his strong views on the matter (Sec. Hagel called Sisi 17 times), the Muslim Brothers revolution is no more.

“The violent crackdown has left Mr. Obama in a no-win position: risk a partnership that has been the bedrock of Middle East peace for 35 years, or stand by while longtime allies try to hold on to power by mowing down opponents,” the Times wrote on Sunday.

So now, it appears, the largely quiet efforts on the part of Netanyahu to communicate to Obama (the two are yet to speak directly since the start of the crisis) how crucial it is that American support—and the Egyptian-Israeli peace deal—remain intact, will be used to portray Israel as some kind of puppet master, goading the generals to shoot into the crowd.

Egypt: This Is Big

Sunday, August 18th, 2013

One way to gauge the import of the conflict erupting in Egypt is by looking at the character of media coverage in America.  Both sides of the political spectrum have been slow to advance narratives of blame.  What’s going on in Egypt doesn’t fit into any pat, off-the-shelf narratives.

There has been a curious absence of “themage” on the left: no unified narrative about this all being the fault of Bush-era failures of good fellowship, or of the plight of the Palestinians, or (my personal favorite) of warmongering arms dealers, oil mavens, or ([insert ROTFLOL here]) international banks.

Meanwhile, blame-fixing criticisms of President Obama are getting little traction on the right.  (I even saw Sean Hannity shouted down by other conservatives the other day, when he was advancing an Obama’s-to-blame theory.)  I have the sense that most on the right see – accurately – that what’s going on is bigger than either Obama’s shortcomings or America’s predicament under his leadership.  While the Arab Spring might well have never happened if the United States had had a different president in January 2011, it is more than overstating the case to say that it happened because of Obama.

It happened because of deep rifts and discontents in the Arab world.  Its progress since the initial trigger event has been shaped to some degree by the defensively triangulating inaction (mainly) of Obama’s America.  But there’s real there there, in terms of political divisions and conflict in the nations of the Middle East.

This is a genuine fight, not a series of mass protests out of which nothing will really change.  If we understand anything, it must be that.  The Western media have been reflexively – if perfunctorily – reporting the bloodshed in Egypt as a “military crack-down” on protesters.  But the truth is that, where military action is concerned, it is a strategy to get out ahead of civil war.  The Muslim Brotherhood has indicated that it intends to make a fight of this.  Its “protest camps” are not a stupid, time-on-their-hands Occupy Cairo escapade; they are bases from which to keep an armed fight going.

The Muslim Brotherhood does not care what happens to the people of Egypt: whether their streets become safe for daily life and commerce again.  It is willing to keep chaos and misery going for as long as necessary to topple the military’s interim government.  That is its present purpose.  The Muslim Brotherhood strategy is to make it impossible for the military to restore enough order and public confidence to move ahead with new democratic arrangements.  The strategy is pure Bolshevism, and we’ve seen it before, dozens of times over the last several centuries.

Reports from Friday’s fighting indicate that plenty of Egyptians are aware of this.  Citizens around the capital set up checkpoints to prevent the movement of Muslim Brotherhood formations:

Armed civilians manned impromptu checkpoints throughout the capital, banning Brotherhood marches from approaching and frisking anyone wanting to pass through. At one, residents barred ambulances and cars carrying wounded from Cairo’s main battleground, Ramses Square, from reaching a hospital.

And much of the fighting was between pro-Morsi supporters and other civilians:

Friday’s violence introduced a combustible new mix, with residents and police in civilian clothing battling those participating in the Brotherhood-led marches.

Few police in uniform were seen as neighborhood watchdogs and pro-Morsi protesters fired at one another for hours on a bridge that crosses over Cairo’s Zamalek district, an upscale island neighborhood where many foreigners and ambassadors reside.

In keeping with the astonishing mass scale of the national revulsion against Morsi’s rule in June and July, the current fight is developing as a popular one.  The anti-Morsi citizens have no intention of waiting around to see their government fall back into the hands of the Muslim Brotherhood.  They are taking to the streets themselves.

This will have to be remembered in the coming days, when poorly armed civilians inevitably begin dropping out of the fight.  The civil population does care, and care enough to fight with sticks, stones, and fists, if necessary, even though It will take the military to put down the Muslim Brotherhood decisively – if, indeed, the outcome ends up being defined in that manner.

It may not be.  A key organizing factor in the June and July civil protests against Morsi was the “Tamarod” movement, a pastiche of anti-Morsi forces with little to unify them other than their objection to Morsi’s rule.  Some throwing in with Tamarod are Salafists themselves (including a former leader of Egyptian Islamic Jihad); others bring some element of liberalization or secularism.  They made common cause with the military during the coup in July, but they are hardly a moderate, liberal, pro-Western force; in the days since, they have called for expulsion of the U.S. ambassador, and for Egypt to withdraw from the 1979 treaty with Israel.

Tamarod movements are busting out all over the Arab world (e.g., in Tunisia, Morocco, and Bahrain), portending many more months of instability and a long fight for the futures of these and other nations.  A movement with this much internal division to it will begin to splinter in Egypt: some of its members will want to take the lead in forging a new ruling consensus – specifically, in preempting the people to do so – and my bet for this is on the Salafists.

So there are more than two factions in the overall fight; this won’t come down to just the military and the Muslim Brotherhood.  Whoever plays the spoiler role could put together some kind of modus vivendi linking the opposing factions.  A little bit of gesturing toward civil protections for the people; a little bit of door left open to shari’a.  It wouldn’t last long, if history is any kind of guide.  But Western observers are likely to put stock in it (and even be hoodwinked by it).

Today’s fight may not go the full fifteen rounds, but if it doesn’t, it will have to be fought again down the road.  Because there is no coexistence for soft despotism – or democracy-lite – and Islamism; there is no coexistence for anything else and Islamism.  And Islamism won’t stop fighting until it is put down decisively.

It is not actually unusual for the governments and media of the West to misread developments like these (or at least to have the “deer in the headlights” look on their faces as they witness them).  The last time there was comparative unity and accuracy of understanding about a Bolshevik moment was – well, the actual Bolshevik moment, in late 1917 and the few years following it, when Western governments sought briefly to support the White anti-Bolshevists.  Whatever the merits of that policy, the understanding on which it was based was perfectly accurate.  Bolshevism was an uncontainable threat.

Within a very few years after that, Western governments, and many in our media, had become invested in misreading or ignoring manifestations from the sanguinary arena of collectivist statism.  We were quite tolerant of Mussolini and Hitler until they declared war on Stalin, and to this day, tendentious narratives of popular support are adduced in our academies to explain the advance of Marxist totalitarianism across the map of the globe through the late 1970s.  There were major movements in the free world to define away the threat of communism incident not only to Stalin’s excesses but to Maoism in China, the conflicts in Korea and Vietnam, the encroachments of Marxism on Latin America and Africa, and the standoff between East and West in Europe.

Throughout the 20th century, the bloody adventures of collectivism forced Westerners, and Americans in particular, to inspect and crystallize our view of who and what we were.  Through the “progressive,” statist movements in our own nations, we ended up being transformed away from the character we had once sought to honor and cultivate.  Yet for a time, in the late 1970s (with the election of Margaret Thatcher in the UK) and 1980s, we achieved a meaningful consensus that our liberal values had not been extinguished yet.  Acting on that consensus turned out to be enough, in that time and place, to overwhelm the failed ideology of Marxist socialism, in its totalitarian-state manifestation.

State-Islamism is doomed to inflict self-destruction and despair on its victims.  But what will we in the still-not-Islamist West do while it is organizing itself and launching its career?  We can’t go out and try to run everyone else’s county for him, after all.  And that said, we need not actively support the infliction of despotic Islamism on foreign populations.

How will we define ourselves during this process?  Will it be Islamism that has the momentum, with us defining ourselves as what we are not, in relation to it?  Or will we retake the public dialogue with our own propositions and language about liberty and limited government?  Our success in that endeavor was intermittent and incomplete, to say the least, during the Cold War.  Will we learn from that era and do better today?

Will we retain the capacity – always under attack, always fighting for its life – to define a totalitarian ideology truthfully, and let that truth be a guide to our policies?  These are questions to which we simply don’t know the answer.  There were days during the Cold War when even the most optimistic political observers would have answered them for us in the negative.

One thing we can be sure of, however – a thing we may see more clearly, I think, because we have the president we have today, and not a president who will act in a more traditional manner, according to the conventions of American statecraft.  The developments in Egypt have importance for the entire world.  They are about an ideological, Bolshevik-style assault on conventional, non-radicalized government.  That is the dynamic in play.  And, as much as they are about Egypt, the Egyptian people, and the fact that they do not want ideological “shari’a” rule, they are also, in an existential way, about us.  They are about who we are, and who we intend to be.  None of us will be the same when this is all over.

Egyptian Army, Trying to Win Civil War in One Day, Kills Hundreds

Wednesday, August 14th, 2013

Civil war broke out in at a least dozen cities in Egypt on Wednesday as Egyptian soldiers and police, backed by bulldozers and helicopters, carried out an offensive on pro-Mohammed Morsi protesters in an effort to put a brutal and quick end to the Muslim Brotherhood opposition’s sit-in protests.

As reported earlier, there are reports of up to 250 people dead and thousands of others wounded or arrested. The Muslim Brotherhood movement now claims the death toll is in the thousands

Whereas Syrian President Bassar al-Assad figured that ignoring the protest movement would break down the opposition, only to use uncivil force after protesters were able to organize, Egyptian authorities decided to use the same tactic as Hosni Mubarak three years ago and shoot at will to break down the opposition.

Mubarak ended up ousted and in jail. Morsi, his successor who was elected in democratic elections championed by President Barack Obama, is in virtual jail, “detained” by the army and held in a secret location.

If the army thought that the Muslim Brotherhood opposition would fall without Morsi, it was wrong. Dead wrong.

After several days of massive sit-ins that have virtually shut down Cairo, the army moved in at dawn. It succeeded in clearing out demonstrators near the Cairo University campus, but protesters used their biggest weapon – massive human resistance – in eastern Cairo, where massive violence was reported.

Clashes also broke out in Alexandria in upper Egypt, Mansoura, Suez, Giza and Rabaa.

Al Arabiya reported that soldiers are besieging the neighborhood of Islamist preacher Mohamed El-Beltagi, who faces charges of incitement and attempted murder. One of his daughters was killed.

In Alexandria, demonstrators set fire to a government building, protesters attacked four police stations in Giza, and eight people were killed in an attack on a police station in Abu Kurkas. Hundreds of demonstrators clashed with security forces and set public buses on fire.

In Rabaa,  British reporter Alistair Beach said he saw 42 bodies and tweeted, “Pro-Morsi protesters have barricaded themselves inside upper floors of field clinic as live fire crackles outside.” Three deaths were reported in Aswan, and a pro-Morsi crowd threw a security forces vehicle, with five people inside, off a bridge.

Protesters are using whatever guns they have, along with Molotov cocktails and rocks, to attack security forces.

Islamist mobs set fire to dozens of churches throughout the country. Pro-Morsi supporters set fire to a Christina youth center next to a Muslim youth center in the upper Egypt city of Fayoum, according to Al-Arabiya.

Live gunfire was reported in several cities, but Morsi supporters do not have the arms to match the automatic weapons that soldiers and police are firing to disperse crowds,

Regardless of whether the army wins the war in one day or it goes on endlessly, the violence is further evidence that the Obama administration’s campaign to make the Middle East safe for democracy, and vice versa, is not working.

All the United States and the entire international community can do is wring their collective hands and cry over the violence. Typically, the European Union issued a statement Wednesday that the violence is “extremely worrying,” and it called for restraint from Egyptian authorities.

Turkey Warns Lebanon to Free Kidnapped Pilots

Wednesday, August 14th, 2013

Turkey has warned Lebanon, that if the two Turkish Airline pilots kidnapped last week aren’t released, it will damage the ties between the two countries, according to a report in the Lebanese Daily Star.

The Turkish pilot and copilot were kidnapped near the Rafik Hariri International Airport from the bus they were riding in from the airport. The group that kidnapped them are demanding the release of 9 Lebanese citizens kidnapped by the Syrian rebels. Turkey is a backer of the Syrian rebels.

The nine Lebanese citizens are Shiites who went through Syria on their way back from Iran. The Syrian kidnappers claim the nine are Hezbollah fighters.

Turkey has also asked for Iran’s assistance in getting the pilots released.

Lebanese authorities have one person is custody who they claim is involved in the kidnapping, and they say he has given up the names of his accomplices. The man is the son of one of the Lebanese men kidnapped in Syria.

The Syrian rebels kidnapped the nine men in an attempt to get Assad to release a woman he kidnapped.

Hezbollah has denied they are involved in the kidnapping, but say they are watching the situation very carefully.

El-Sisi Slams US for Abandoning the Egyptian People

Sunday, August 4th, 2013

Egypt’s armed forces chief General Abdel Fattah El-Sisi lashed out at the U.S., urging the Administration to pressure the Muslim Brothers to end their resistance to the new rule.

In an interview with the Washington Post, El Sisi—who led the military coup that ousted President Mohamed Morsi on july 3—is warning of police action that would put an end to the protests.

Despite the $1.3 billion in military aid the U.S. gives Egypt every year, El-Sisi accused President Barack Obama of abandoning Egypt.

“You left the Egyptians, you turned your back on the Egyptians and they won’t forget that. Now you want to continue turning your backs on Egyptians?” El-Sisi asked.

“The U.S. administration has a lot (of) leverage and influence with the Muslim Brotherhood and I’d really like the US administration to use this leverage with them to resolve the conflict,” he said, echoing accessions from the right in America, that Obama is still committed to the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, despite their loss of popularity.

According to El-Sisi, the task of “removing” the Brotherhood protesters would not be assigned to the army.

“Whoever will clean these squares or resolve these sit-ins will not be the military,” he said, alluding to recorded massacres of unarmed Muslim Brothers by military units shooting into civilian crowds. “There is a civil police and they are assigned to these duties,” he clarified, shutting the doors a tad after the horses have all left the barn.

“On the 26th of [July], more than 30 million people went out onto the streets to give me support. These people are waiting for me to do something.”

According to Al Ahram, more than 250 Egyptian civilians have been killed since Morsi’s overthrow.

When asked whether he would seek the presidency, El-Sisi was vague:

“I want to say that the most important achievement in my life is to overcome this circumstance, [to ensure] that we live peacefully, to go on with our road map and to be able to conduct the coming elections without shedding one drop of Egyptian blood,” he said.

When he was pressed on his presidential ambitions, he responded that he is not the type who “aspire for authority.”

If ever there was a man with self-awareness issues… How does someone without aspirations for authority depose a legally elected president and impose a military junta in his place? Somebody hand that man a mirror…

In response to the obvious authority aspirations thing, El-Sisi defended his decision to overthrow Morsi, saying: “I expected if we didn’t intervene, it would have turned into a civil war. Four months before he left, I told Morsi the same thing.”

Except that now he has a real civil war on his hands – and it’s all the fault of the Muslim Brothers-loving Obama Administration.

“What I want you to know and I want the American reader also to know is that this is a free people who rebelled against an unjust political rule, and this free people needs your support,” urged the junta leader who shuns authority.

If you have access to Woody Allen’s last truly funny movie, “Bananas,” now would be a good time to watch it again…

Gigantic Explosion at Syrian Ammo Depot Kills Dozens (Video)

Friday, August 2nd, 2013

Syrian rebels carried out a massive rocket attack on a Syrian army ammunition depot in Homs Thursday, killing more than 40 people and wounding more than 100.

The blast stopped, for the time being, slowed down a relentless Syrian army offensive to take back control of Homs, a key commercial center and a stronghold of rebel forces in the civil war.

The ammunition depot is located in a pro-government area of the city, and the casualty count is expected to rise.

The Syrian official news agency SANA denied there was a blast and said that “terrorists” struck at the entrance of Homs, wounding dozens of civilians, four of whom “were later martyred.”

“Those reports broadcast by channels, which are partners in the Syrian bloodshed, are categorically untrue and aim at raising the morale of the armed terrorist groups after the big losses they inflicted in many regions of Homs, particularly in al-Khaldiye,” it reported from “a source.”

“The source added that this coward [sic] act will not affect the army courageous soldiers, but it will increase their determination to rescue Syria from the dirtiness of terrorists,” the news agency stated.

Meanwhile, the United Nations continues to talk and set up teams to investigate the use of chemical weapons in the war, which officially has killed 100,000 people while unofficial estimates warn of twice as many deaths.

Millions of people have fled their homes, many of them to neighboring countries.

Putin Declares Egypt on Brink of Civil War

Monday, July 8th, 2013

“Syria is already in the grips of the civil war … and Egypt is moving in the same direction,” Russian President Vladimir Putin told Russian state news agency RIA Novosti on Sunday.

Hours after he spoke,  the  Egyptian daily Al Ahram reported that a new compromise choice has been picked as Egypt’s next prime minister after the Muslim Brotherhood and Salafists rejected the idea that Mohammed ElBaradei be named for the post.

Ziad Bahaa El-Din, a lawyer and member of Egyptian Social Democratic Party,  would be accepted by the Salafist Nour party, Al Ahram said.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/putin-declares-egypt-on-brink-of-civil-war/2013/07/08/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: