Thursday, October 20, 2011

Assad's Predicament

As everyone knows by now Moammar Qaddafi has been killed by Libyan rebels. It is always good for murderous tyrants who have caused so much grief and death to get their earthly recompense, but, as I argued back when Mr. Obama first got us into this conflict, it seems to me that killing Mr. Qaddafi at the outset would have been far preferable to first killing several thousand Libyans, spending a billion or so dollars, and then killing Qaddafi.

Anyway, another Middle Eastern tyrant has died by the sword by which he had lived, and the world, at least for now, until we see what replaces him, is a better place.

The next murderous thug to face the wrath of his people appears to be Bashar Assad of Syria. Debkafile has some interesting news on developments in that country. After reporting the mysterious disappearance of three high ranking generals, one of which turned up dead in a Syrian hospital, debkafile says this:
The Syrian conflict is now dominated by four features:

1. The dwindling of the mass demonstrations plaguing the Assad regime for seven months since March 15 in the face of the army's ruthless onslaught by tanks and guns. This does not mean that the contest is over or that the Syrian ruler has come out of it with the upper hand.

2. Anti-Assad forces are instead marshaling in the northwestern triangle between Hama, Homs and Idlib in bands of well-armed guerilla fighters, often led by defecting soldiers or officers, for attacking individual army officers and small units.

3. Two of Syria's most important minorities, the Alawites and the Druzes, fear that this form of warfare will lead inexorably to widespread civil war. They are preparing themselves for the worst by barricading their villages and towns against interlopers and organizing armed militias to keep them out.

4. The Assad regime is going broke, ruined by the seven-month uprising. It can barely find the money to buy food and other essential commodities for keeping the economy and the military going or even pay salaries to government personnel. According to a recent report, the economic damage suffered by six "Arab spring" nations totals $56 billion. Syria is described as incurring the worst losses of them all to its GDP and public finances, totaling $27.3 billion.

Our Iranian sources disclose that since Syrian banks were frozen out of European banks by European Union sanctions, the Assad regime has been forced to start borrowing from Iranian banks, but it is hard to tell for how long the banks in Tehran will be willing to risk extending credit to bail out Bashar Assad.
Assad appears to be in serious trouble and is no doubt looking at those videos of Qaddafi being pulled bloody and dazed from his hiding place, soon to be shot in the head, and thinking that that's the fate that could well await him if he doesn't suppress the current insurrection.

Warning: This is disturbing and violent footage not for the squeamish:
It really is remarkable to reflect on the changes in the Arab world in the last seven years or so. In that time Saddam Hussein, Osama bin Laden (along with dozens of lesser luminaries in the al Qaeda firmament), and Moammar Qaddafi have all departed earth for their celestial reward, and Mullah Omar (Taliban), Zine ben Ali (Tunisia) and Hosni Mubarak have been deposed.

With luck Syria will soon rid itself of Assad and Iran will unburden itself of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as well as the ayatollahs who keep their heels on the throats of the Iranian people. The world is changing so fast, but it's very hard to say whether in the long term the change will make the world a safer, more civilized place. It all depends on who manages to fill the power vacuums in these countries, and history has shown that usually it is the most ruthless who prevail in the struggle for control. That should concern us all.


The good news for those who think that part of the answer to our employment and energy problems is to drill for oil in the Gulf of Mexico is that drilling will soon begin. The bad news is that it's the Cubans who'll be doing the drilling:
The government is doing what it can to ensure that the first full-scale oil exploration in Cuba's part of the Gulf of Mexico will not endanger Florida's pristine beaches that lie only miles away, the top drilling regulator told lawmakers on Tuesday.
The Obama administration frets that domestic oil companies might have another accident and damage the Gulf's ecosystem so they've delayed drilling permits causing oil companies to send many of their rigs elsewhere and eliminating job opportunities for thousands of Americans.

That leaves the Gulf open to other countries who wish to profit from it's abundant oil resources. Of course, they can have accidents, too, and, being run by communists, probably will, so we'll have all of the potential liabilities of oil drilling and none of the real benefits. Moreover, we'll still be buying a lot of our oil from the Middle East.

During the campaign we were repeatedly reminded that an Obama White House would be one characterized by "smart" policies, but it's hard to see anything smart about this.