Another object of much democracy happy talk is Libya, where NATO is bogged down in a stalemate with a tin-pot dictator and his mercenaries. The identity of the side we have rushed to back in this civil war is still uncertain, but we do know that the rebellion’s epicenter, Benghazi, has supplied proportionately more fighters for Iraq and Afghanistan than any other country. A few days ago the top rebel military leader was assassinated in murky circumstances. Most likely tribal rivalries were at work within the rebel forces, calling into question their pretext of fighting for “freedom and democracy” rather than tribal supremacy. Meanwhile, arms depots have been looted and weapons stolen, including several hundred SA-7s, a shoulder-fired missile that can take down an airliner. No one knows where these weapons are, but it’s a safe bet that many are heading for black markets where they can be sold to terrorist outfits. And let’s not forget the damage to the prestige of Western military deterrence that comes from being stymied by the ragtag militia of a psychotic despot. Given that failure, we shouldn’t be surprised that in Syria Bashar al-Assad continues to slaughter his own citizens with impunity as we bluster and impose sanctions. How incoherent is Obama’s foreign policy, which abandoned Egypt’s Mubarak, who served our interests, but hesitates and stumbles over how to deal with Assad, who for years has aligned Syria with Iran and supported the Hezbollah terrorists, even as he was being wooed by Obama? Is there any evidence that Assad will be replaced by a liberal regime rather than descending into the sort of sectarian and tribal chaos that typically nurtures jihadists?
In the midst of this Arab ferment, Turkey, the Muslim nation that has been trying for nearly a century to rule itself with a Western-style consensual government, is steadily reverting back to Islamist ideology. Prime Minister Recip Tayyip Erdogan has waged a steady war against the military, traditionally the guardian of Turkish secularism. Forty generals remain in jail on trumped-up conspiracy charges, and after 22 more warrants were issued, the top military commanders resigned en masse. Journalists and academics have also been jailed. Emboldened by his June electoral victory that gave his Islamist Justice and Development Party 60% of Parliamentary seats, Erdogan is set to accelerate the stealth Islamization of Turkey. As Barry Rubin writes, “The Turkey of secularism and Western orientation is finished. The Turkey that belongs to an alliance of radical Islamists abroad and of Islamism at home has been launched.” One manifestation of this shift is Turkey’s increasingly closer ties to Iran, which of course continues to pursue nuclear weapons with impunity, and to arm and train the jihadists murdering our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Finally, there is the increasingly perilous position of Israel, our one reliable, truly democratic and liberal ally in the Middle East. An Egypt run by Islamists threatens the cold peace that has avoided war for nearly 40 years, and by relaxing its border controls opens a conduit for weapons and fighters to attack Israel from Gaza and the Sinai, where a natural gas pipeline has already been bombed 4 times. An increasingly desperate Assad in Syria may be tempted again to deflect discontent onto Israel, as he did not long ago when he encouraged Palestinians to storm the Israeli border in the Golan. Jordan, half of whose population is Palestinian, is simmering with a Salafist protest movement demanding Sharia law as well as political reform, the usual Islamist stalking horse. The Palestinian Arabs, exploiting “Arab Spring” rhetoric and Obama’s pressure on Israel to make even more unreciprocated concessions, are planning a U.N. vote to legitimize a unilateral declaration of statehood that will give Israel’s enemies more cover for assaulting and marginalizing our closest ally in a strategically critical region. And no one should forget the dangerous, chaotic consequences of an Islamist regime like Iran acquiring nuclear weapons.
All these developments point to further chaos and disorder favorable to the jihadist enemy, as well as the possibility of another Islamist state in Egypt hostile to American interests and security. Getting control of government spending is of course critical, and protecting the defense budget is necessary for ensuring our national security and defending our interests. But let’s not forget that a committed, intelligent, patient enemy still wants to destroy us.
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