The current wave of violence spreading across the Middle East is disturbing, of course, especially since in includes the murder of our Ambassador in Libya. But what is going on?
I am always grateful to be able to read the thoughts of David Ignatius on these issues. He seems to me to be someone with real connections to our intelligence community and the forces in the region as well. His approach is always filled with understanding and insight.
It looks to me like this is about the violent fights for power amongst the various factions in the Middle Eastern countries, i.e. their internal wars for power. As usual, demonstrations in the streets are very anti-American, but underneath it are struggles for power over the countries themselves.
In other words, this is between them, and the U.S. is just being caught in the crossfire.
In Egypt and in Libya, the less violent and less Islamist extremist parties won political power through the political processes. The more violent Islamist extremists are not happy and seem to be looking to seize power in the more traditional Middle Eastern ways - by revolution and force.
Ignatius says that in Egypt it is
"...a challenge by the Salafists to their rivals in the Muslim Brotherhood government of President Mohamed Morsi."
And in Libya it is a
"...challenge to Prime Minister Abdurrahim el-Keib and the secularist parties that are the backbone of the new Libyan government."
How extreme are some of the elements? According to Ignatius:
"Also worrisome is the link between Salafists (whose posters disturbingly appear in Cairo neighborhoods near Heliopolis populated by members of the military) and the more violently "takfiri" wing, which believes it's permissible to kill apostate Muslims, and has links with al-Qaeda. The takfiris hate the ruling Muslim Brotherhoood, if that's any consolation."
That being said, it seems to me that Romney's inserting himself into a very difficult diplomatic situation upon the death of our ambassador seems remarkably foolish to me. For a man whose reputation is to be one who gathers all the facts and makes thoughtful choices, his remarks seem impulsive and inflammatory. I guess the facts that he gathered are about his losing the campaign, and his choice is to inflame his party's base. Unfortunately it also inflames the Islamist extremists.
It seems to me that a person who will say anything in order to get elected is demonstrating his untrustworthiness. If he will say anything, who knows what he will do?
This election is supposed to be about the economy according to the Republicans, and about the cultural issues according to the Democrats. But how the two men, and two parties, react to the world may end up being the most revealing of all, and could decide the election.
To me, Romney, the Republicans, and especially the hard right wing have lost this one.
A good summary is given by Ignatius in his article:
"Let's return to the main trigger for these events: It's the success of the tolerably non-extremist (I won't say "moderate") governments in Egypt and Libya in consolidating power, and the anger of the more radical Salafists at this success. "
Let's stay out of the civil wars in the Middle East. No more American blood should be spilled in those lands, as far as I am concerned.