Libya heads toward civil war (again), and we’re getting it wrong (again)

The West was so proud when it helped oust Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi. It was a key part of Arab Spring. Now it’s winter in Libya, literally and figuratively. This article in Foreign Policy predicts a bloody showdown between Islamist-led militias that have taken control of the capital, Tripoli, and forces loyal to the elected parliament, who are holed up in Tobruk at the eastern edge of the country, next to Egypt.

Libya--Tripoli and Misrata in the west, Tobruk in the east

Libya–Tripoli and Misrata in the west, Tobruk in the east

And then what? Then the victorious forces, whichever side they represent, will break up into their tribal factions and fight each other. On and on.

If we needed any more proof, here’s another sign that Arab Spring was not a matter of overthrowing this or that dictator, and then democracy would magically bloom. Arab Spring set off a years-long process of turmoil and conflict that may one day produce stable governments — or not. Democracy isn’t in the equation for the most part.

Now the question I’d like to answer in my lecture tour across North America next month — why don’t we hear about this? Why do we hear obsessively, instead, about Israel and the Palestinians?

Livni: Abbas sabotaged Obama’s Israel-Palestinian peace talks

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas did it again — sabotaging Israeli-Palestinian peace talks. This time it was President Obama’s effort earlier this year. Israel’s chief negotiator, Tzipi Livni, details how Abbas pocket-vetoed the proposed US framework for peace.

The last paragraph of this report gives the context–Abbas turned down Israel’s offer of a viable state in 2008. That’s the peace offer I discovered in early 2009, but AP banned me from writing about it. Abbas pocket-vetoed that, too, not formally rejecting it — just refusing to sign the map of the state he was offered and leaving the room, never to meet Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert again. The fact that he did not stand on top of the Al-Aqsa Mosque and publicly reject it — though his chief negotiator, Saeb Erekat, did that very thing on Al-Jazeera TV — gave AP the excuse to say it wasn’t a real proposal, it wasn’t rejected…all total bullshit, of course. That peace offer was not reported with any detail for years because of the AP ban. I believe if it had been, it might have guided the perception of Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts away from demanding that only Israel make “concessions,” and toward the concept that there are two sides to the conflict.

Now Abbas is getting away with it again. Livni talked to the New York Times, which, as usual, couched its article in terms of “both sides are to blame,” and starting with several paragraphs of well-known and boring election campaigning about how Livni is more moderate than Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu — but if they read all the way down, even New York Times subscribers will see the real story, brought up to the top, where it belongs, in the first story I linked for you above.

There are many lessons here: Palestinian attitudes, Israeli attitudes, media attitudes. I will bring all these elements together next month when I do a lecture tour across North America.

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1,000 US troops heading for Iraq…again

The troops are from the 82nd Airborne, a unit that is not known for “advising.” In this article from Stars and Stripes, a publication aimed at US soldiers, veterans and defense personnel, you’ll see that their mission is to “train, advise and assist” the Iraqi army in its war against ISIS.

I’m sure that the US government really believes that its troops won’t be involved in combat. But at some point, unless the local forces prove more effective than they have up to now despite their superior numbers and firepower, they’re going to take losses, and then a US President–this one or the next one–will have to decide whether to pull the “advisers” out or send them into combat. This comes just after the US proudly ended its military engagement in Iraq, a misguided war that critically damaged US standing in the Mideast in the short, medium and possibly long term.

If you’re old enough to remember, this is going to sound a lot like Vietnam, which started with “advisers” and escalated to 500,000 US troops. That war ended with 55,000 American soldiers and hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese civilians dead, and the outcome was totally predictable–a win by the local side with the strongest ideology and foreign backing–North

War in Vietnam

War in Vietnam

Vietnam. That’s a better analogy than the US missions in Iraq and Afghanistan, though there, too, there was an effort to “train” local forces to fight militants, failing for the most part in both places.

I don’t want to get all extreme here, but you know the definition of a person who keeps making the same mistake over and over again while expecting different results. It’s time to learn the lessons instead of repeating the failures. ISIS is a threat to the Mideast, and Mideast nations must either repel it or surrender. Additional outside intervention, especially from the US, works in the favor if the “resistance.”

An illustration is the Kurdish military, which has fought ISIS effectively, driving it out of some parts of its territory. Part of the mission of the US “advisers” is to help the Kurds. That needs to be done very quietly, to avoid “tainting them with the stench of the oppressive American imperialists.”

To the extent that ISIS is a threat to the US or Europe, it’s terrorism, not conquest–so it needs to be controlled though military intelligence and old-fashioned intelligence–just as al-Qaida has been controlled for the past decade-plus.

The more direct threat is to Israel, and there are reports that Israel is beefing up its forces a bit along its northern borders. A cold assessment of the forces involved shows that ISIS is no match for Israel militarily, so Israel, too, will have to fight it with intelligence. Israel has decades of experience in dealing with Muslim radicals that way. Watch and learn.

“I didn’t leave journalism–it left me”

That’s the headline on this long and sympathetic story about the new media critic, me. It details why I have shed the role of reporter-editor-broadcaster and have assumed the role of calling out the Western media –and by implication, Western society — about their failure to even try to understand what is going on in this region.

I have begun a campaign to expose the shortcomings of my former profession. Actually, that campaign started with the publishing of my book, which concentrates on how the West misunderstands what has happened in this region, consistently and constantly. For a while I tried to wear both hats–journalist and critic–but now I find that my head isn’t big enough for that.

My youngest reader

My youngest reader

Here on my website you’ll still find me writing articles analyzing current events and trends. My articles might appear in publications from time to time. But I no longer define myself as a journalist. The reasons are all in Lori Lowenthal Marcus’s article here

I knew for sure it was over when I realized that for the first time since 1968, there’s going to be a general election (Israel’s in March), and I won’t be covering it. That realization brought a broad smile to my face.

US war against ISIS — nobody knows what’s really happening, or why

The US is doing everything wrong in its war against ISIS. First of all, it’s not a war for the US to fight. Second, if it needs to be fought at all, it needs to be fought with intelligence (both definitions), not airstrikes and “advisers.”

This report by my friend Nancy Youssef of McClatchy in Washington tells us that the US is not telling anyone what’s really going on it its war against ISIS. Not journalists, not even Congress. It’s an air war, plus, of course, “advisers” in Iraq, and the Pentagon is not eager for us to know what they’re all accomplishing.

Nancy doesn’t write this…this is me: It’s clear that this is another misguided effort by the US to influence Mideast developments by using the wrong tools. There is, however, a hint of that in this paragraph from her report:

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My friend Nancy

Pentagon officials privately concede that they could release more, and more timely, information. But the problem, they say, ultimately is a lack of a strategy. President Barack Obama said in a White House address Sept. 10 that the goal was to “defeat and destroy” the Islamic State, but the military approach so far is more of a containment policy. Releasing more details about the strikes would expose that divide, critics said privately.

Little wonder. American military involvement in this part of the world has been disastrous, both for the US and for the region. ISIS poses a terrorist threat to the West, no more — despite the prominence given to horrific publicity stunts like beheadings and overblown media (especially social media) attention to little demonstrations and occasional banners and signs. Therefore, the West needs to handle ISIS by infiltrating it and stopping its attacks before we even know about them — as it’s been doing for a decade and a half with al-Qaida.

There is no 100 percent guarantee here — there might well be a successful terror attack or two, because that’s the world we live in — but the total effect of American airstrikes and military action will be a substantial expansion of ISIS popularity and strength through increased hatred of the US and the West, and that means more terror attacks, not fewer. By now you’d think the West had learned this lesson.