Friday, September 30, 2011

Citizenship Revoked: The Assassination of Anwar al-Awlaki

This morning it was reported that the United States government had killed two al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) members, Anwar al-Awlaki and Samir Khan, editor of the English-language jihadi magazine Inspire.  The two men were apparently killed by a U.S. airstrike in the volatile mountain region of Yemen, where they had been living for years.  However, this wasn't just another successful targeted killing of al Qaeda terrorists whom plot death and destruction against the West, this was the planned and targeted assassination of two U.S. citizens by their own government.

There is little doubt about the devious intentions and actions of these two individuals.  While both held U.S. citizenship, they railed against the U.S. government and called on Muslims around the world to kill innocent Americans with the same viciousness as the late Osama bin Laden, Awlaki through his sermons and Khan through his magazine.  But it's still unclear whether the two men ever actually took part in the direct operational planning of any terrorist attack.  This, combined with the fact of their U.S. citizenship, has already begun to spark debate in the U.S. and other civilized countries about the legality of these assassinations, if not their necessity.  Keep in mind there should be, and has been, a clear line between inspiring violent action and carrying out violent action.

The outright condemnation of these assassinations is difficult given that media reports have indirectly linked Awlaki to at least two terrorist operations; the Christmas-day underwear bomber and the attempted mailing of explosives to the U.S. through freight  airlines - however there's less evidence for Khan.  Additionally, without access to classified materials on the two men the case for reproach is made even more challenging.  All of that being said, Awlaki nor Khan were ever charged with a crime by any U.S. court prior to their assassinations.  So make no mistake, this was indeed an extrajudicial killing of two American citizens presumably by the U.S. government.

However, terror, murder, assassinations, and extrajudicial killings have been a part of war for some time and will likely continue.  Therefore the question arises, as a nation that values the rule of law and the order that comes with it, where will the U.S. draw the line for future operations, if at all?

Monday, July 25, 2011

Breivik and al Qaeda: Experts in Mass Killings and Xenophobia

The following blog post is my response to an article I read on  You can read the article here: Breivik and al Qaeda

You are correct in suggesting al Qaeda as an inspiration for Breivik, but to say he "deeply admires" them is an overstatement and misleading.  He is inspired by them because, like him, they are on the extreme right-wing of the political spectrum – they just fight for different cultural causes that are indeed at odds with each other.  They are not communists, marxists, or secular-socialists, whom would be on the left; they are fascists, extreme-nationalists, or cultural- supremacists.  Their goals are the same – cultural/ethnic dominance of a region – albeit for divergent groups of people, whom would eventually need to rectify with each other (most likely violently) if either group was to achieve its goals.

Therefore it should come as no surprise that Breivik noted the utility of al Qaeda’s ideology, the success of their tactics, or a potential willingness to work with them to achieve his European goals.  There are plenty of examples throughout history of fascist/extreme-nationalist organizations teaming up with groups they would otherwise find undesirable in order to achieve a tactical advantage.  This does not mean that one right-wing group ever accepted, pretended to accept, or “deeply admired” the ideology of the other group they were working with.  Breivik, like the Nazis in WWII-era Germany, and less like the fanaticism of many Islamic terror outfits, seems to be a pragmatist – willing to do whatever is necessary to achieve his goals.  This is the scariest part.  In his writings he does not appear to be clinically insane, but instead a quite sane and pragmatic idealist.  The perfect killer.

Yes, Breivik seems to have found inspiration in al Qaeda, but that’s only because they are the contemporary example of “best-in-class” right-wing terrorism.  Why wouldn’t he want to get some help in his uphill battle from the guys who are doing it right?  I think they've advertised enough to garner the respect of any terrorist worth his salt, "Al Qaeda: Experts in mass killings and xenophobia."  And don’t willingly overlook that he also mentioned his empathy for “Christian” Serbia’s plight, “All they (the Serbs) wanted was to drive out Islam by deporting the Albanian Muslims back to Albania.”

The point is that Breivik, al Qaeda, the Nazis, the Taliban – are all examples of what is wrong with right-wing extremism particularly and political extremism of any kind generally.  Let’s just hope us pragmatists in the middle can continue to keep our heads on a swivel.  And while it’s likely the scenario would play out the other way around, you better believe that if Breivik came to al Qaeda bearing gifts – nuclear or biologically weapons for example – they would gladly accept his offer of partnership.


Friday, May 6, 2011

Bin Laden: He didn't realize what he was getting into

Two things occured to me yesterday while reading an article on about Osama's killing at the hands of U.S. forces in Pakistan. The first is that bin Laden didn't truly believe the hateful doctrine he was spewing to his followers - at least he didn't believe it to the extent his suicide operatives did. The second is that when bin Laden first decided to confront and declare war against the U.S., he really didn't understand how powerful his new enemy was. He didn't understand the global reach of the U.S. national security apparatus, or envision it being more powerful than his old Soviet enemy (whom he honestly believed he defeated with his Afghan mujahideen holy warriors).

In the article, dated May 5, 2011, it is revealed that the Navy SEALs were trained to expect bin Laden to possibly have a suicide vest on and ready to detonate. This is not a surprise given that bin Laden has sent numerous members of his organization, and others, to their deaths in this "holier than thou" manner. But he didn't have a suicide vest on. He wasn't ready to blow himself and his pursuers to pieces in the name of Allah. It appears he was ready to do the exact opposite. It's been widely reported that bin Laden had 500 euros and two phone numbers sewn into his robe when he was killed. Osama bin Laden was ready to run.

Why was this so? Simply put, he was a coward who didn't truly believe in his own vitriolic preachings. If he had, there is no doubt he would have made sure to take as many American agents with him on his way to the after-life. Imagine the benefit to al Qaeda's movement had bin Laden decided to make his final moment a symbolic suicide attack against U.S. forces? He would have been praised by his followers for decades or centuries as a martyr to the likes of Jesus Christ. This would have been devastating for anti-jihadist terrorism operations. Suicide attacks against U.S. and allied forces would most likely increase exponentially for years to come. However, he didn't plan to, nor did he, sacrifice himself for the sake of his unholy cause. He planned to survive. He planned to run and hide like a coward, while he continued sending young Muslim men and women to their deaths on his behalf. We should all be thankful that bin Laden himself exposed his al Qaeda movement for the baseless fraud it really is.

Regarding the second point...bin Laden's public disdain for the U.S. began in 1990, when the Saudi Arabian monarchy allowed U.S. troops on their soil to defend against a potential Iraqi assault. Bin Laden was insulted by the fact that the Saudi monarchy denied his request to allow him and his mujahideen holy warriors to defend against Saddam Hussein's Iraq, but then allowed an "infidel" U.S. military - with women among their ranks - to have the job. After defeating the Soviet Union in Afghanistan - the greatest military force in the world in his view - why shouldn't he have been tasked with defending the holiest country in all of Islam? This was not to be, and bin Laden turned his ire toward the United States, a foe he believed much less powerful than his old communist enemy. Over twenty years later, after fleeing and witnessing the horror he'd brought down upon his colleagues in Tora Bora, while holed-up in a compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, how wrong he'd turned out to be.
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Sunday, May 1, 2011

Osama bin Laden is Dead

Tonight, U.S. President Barack Obama addressed the nation to announce that the U.S. has killed and recovered the body of Osama bin Laden in Pakistan. This is historic news as it may bring closure to the families who lost loved ones in the attacks on September 11, 2001. But it may also help bring closure to those families who have lost loved ones in the battle against jihadist terrorism since 9/11, and to the families who were effected by al Qaeda before 9/11. Bin Laden first declared a "holy" war against the U.S. in 1996. He told his followers that it was their duty to kill any American anywhere in the world. He then cemented his existence in the American psyche by bombing the U.S. embassies in Tanzania and Kenya in 1998, killing hundreds of people, and again declaring war on the U.S. In 2000, the U.S.S. Cole was bombed by al Qaeda while at port in Yemen and tens of servicemen and women were killed. And then came his greatest single act of terror, in fact the most devastating terrorist attack in history, September 11, 2001. Indeed, this news of May 1, 2011, is historic.

While the battle against terrorist extremism will most likely go on for years to come, it is time to reflect on the intelligence community (IC) personnel, the soldiers, and the political leaders who have pursued this mission for the last ten years. It is time for gratitude. I want to personally thank all who have contributed to this effort around the world, those who have stood for freedom and tolerance, and put their lives on the line in defense of those ideals. I want to especially thank my family and friends who have served and continue to serve.

However, let us all remember that violence is not the only tool in our arsenal against terrorism, nor is it even the most important or always even necessary. Yes, Osama bin Laden is dead at the hands of U.S. forces...vengeance has been delivered. But the most devastating retaliatory action taken against Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda was on September 12, 2001, and will continue on May 2, 2011. That action was resilience...the resilience shown by the American people when they went back to work, back on an airplane, back on vacation, back to a Yankee, Red Sox, or Nationals game, back to church, to temple, and back to the mosque.
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Wednesday, April 6, 2011

9/11 and Amy Zegart’s Spying Blind: An Analysis

In Amy Zegart's 2007 book, Spying Blind, she posits that the successful terrorist attacks by al Qaeda against the United States on September 11, 2001, were a result of decades-old, and inherent, organizational weaknesses in the U.S. intelligence agencies that were tasked with preventing them, and enduring impediments which made fixing those weaknesses difficult. Specifically, she puts forth that these weaknesses include the nature of organizations, which makes internal reform exceedingly difficult; the rational self-interest of presidents, legislators, and government bureaucrats, which works against executive branch reform; and finally, the fragmented structure of the federal government, which erects high barriers to legislative reform. Zegart goes on to contend that too much blame has been placed on the shoulders of individuals such as former presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton, and that the real culprit deserving blame is the overall organizational orientation of the American national security system prior to 9/11. Adaptation is her key word – a failure at adaptation to be specific: "It was the stunning inability of the U.S. intelligence agencies to adapt to the end of the Cold War" (Zegart, p.3).

While I do not disagree with Zegart's thesis outright, and believe her assumptions and conclusions about organizations to be sound, she seems to have a conflicted viewpoint on the subject. On the one hand she is highly critical of the U.S. for not adapting quickly enough to the new jihadist terrorist threat after the end of the Cold War in 1991. But on the other, she makes the point that inherent organizational weaknesses are to blame for the apparently slow adaptation. If these weaknesses are inherent, then is it correct to be so critical when their presence creates less than desirable results? I think not. "U.S. intelligence agencies…did not, however, adjust to this emerging threat as fast or as fully as they could have before the September 11, 2001, attacks" (Zegart, p.41). Additionally, it will be interesting to see how future historians categorize the ten-year time period between 1991 and 9/11: will they view it as plenty of time for adaptation to take place, not enough, or just the right amount? I imagine it will be one of the latter. Zegart's own definition of adaptation implies that it is a process that requires some time, "When basic organizational boundaries shift, when organizations assume major, new, nonroutine tasks, or when they go about their old tasks with substantially different structures, processes, or beliefs, adaptation has occurred" (Zegart, p.16).     

In my opinion, U.S. intelligence agencies adapted as quickly as could have been expected given the circumstances and constraints placed upon them by the system in which they operated. This viewpoint is actually Zegart's own antithesis to her argument, and she dutifully points it out on page fifteen of her work. While obviously not perfect, Zegart does not make a conclusive case that U.S. intelligence agencies were not operating at an optimal level throughout the 1990s, which were a time when the world was witnessing dramatic and significant change from an international security perspective. Being optimal does not mean being perfect, but she seems to confuse the two when quoting - then critiquing - the following statement by Richard Betts in Foreign Affairs magazine shortly after 9/11, "The awful truth is that even the best intelligence systems will have big failures" (Zegart, p.5). Zegart winces at the idea that the U.S. system might have been considered a best intelligence system prior to 9/11, but who is to say it was not? As Paul Pillar points out in his critique of her book, Zegart uses instances of tactical intelligence failure as proof that the system was broken from an overall strategic intelligence standpoint (Foreign Affairs, April 2008, para.16). "She attributes…the CIA's failure to place terrorist suspects on a watch list before 9/11 to the agency's not being 'in the habit' of doing so. In fact, this lapse represented a failure to apply well-established and frequently used watch-listing procedures" (Pillar, para.13).

Zegart is correct when she states that there were, and are, inherent organizational weaknesses in the U.S. intelligence system that have led to deficiencies in performance. However, no system is perfect, and if one were to rely on her conclusions, then the U.S. intelligence agencies have no hope at being successful in the future. She believes that most of the intelligence reform process since 9/11 has failed to adapt to the terrorist threat, and that these same inherent organizational faults are still at work. In fact, as she pointed out in 2007, even though the U.S. has not been successfully attacked by jihadist terrorists since 9/11 "there is little evidence to suggest that effective intelligence is the reason" (Zegart, p.196). There is also little evidence to suggest that it is not the reason. It is now 2011 and the U.S. is still yet to be successfully attacked by jihadist terrorists. Therefore, it is hard for me not to disagree more with the following quote from Zegart's text, "Nevertheless, two things are already clear: 9/11 was not enough to jolt U.S. intelligence agencies out of their Cold War past, and future adaptation – to terrorism or any other threat – is unlikely…Adaptation is not impossible, but it is close" (Zegart, p.170). From passage of the National Security Act of 1947, to the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, the U.S. intelligence community was oriented toward a monolithic enemy which it soundly defeated. Ten years later it was apparent that a new enemy had emerged, and the mechanisms of the U.S. government went to work shifting its orientation to face that new enemy. Now, after another ten years, the U.S. has not witnessed another catastrophic terrorist attack. Zegart believes ten years is enough time to condemn the U.S. for its failure to adapt to the terrorist threat, but now, ten years later, is it maybe not time to praise it for an adaptation well done? "History suggests that transformative change rarely occurs during ordinary times. Instead, dramatic departures from the past often require a large external shock – a tragedy, catastrophic failure…or focusing event that…exposes the dangers of the status quo" (Zegart, p.169).

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Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Go for the Corona, stay for the Coroner

Yesterday a 2 and 6-year-old boy, and their 60-year-old grandmother, were shot to death by a drug cartel in Acapulco, Mexico. The cartel members were chasing a man who fled inside the family's home. Police collected over 200 bullet casings from outside the residence, indicating the level of firepower unleashed into the house by the cartel...and foreshadowing the gruesome discovery inside. Innocent bystanders to say the least. But gruesome violence is nothing new in Mexico.

On January 8th of this year, 28 murdered bodies were recovered by Acapulco police for that day alone. Fifteen of them had had their heads cut off and were scattered on a shopping mall sidewalk. Six of them were found stuffed in a taxi. Ever try getting six people to fit in a taxi? It's probably much easier when you don't have to worry about which limbs need to be attached to who.

I remember when my college roommates were planning their spring break trip to Acapulco like it was yesterday. I didn't go but made it to the much-anticipated MTV Spring Break Cancun the following year. All that can be said about that trip is "good morning peacock."

While those times are worth reminiscing about, Mexico is not the same as it was ten years ago when my college buddies and I were incoherently stumbling through it. Mexico is now a battleground besieged by drug violence. And this violence is all a direct result of the demand for illegal drugs in our own country. America's drug lifestyle is causing and financing the murders, tortures, and kidnappings occuring across our southern border. I'll speak directly; your purchase of cocaine, heroin, and marijuana in this country, contributed to the deaths of over 30,000 human-beings in Mexico last year...some of them criminals, some of them 2-year-olds.

The debate over legalizing drugs continues on in the United States, but today the aforementioned drugs remain largely illegal. And yes, their illegality may be to blame for the high profits which cause untold amounts of Mexicans to commit atrocities and risk their lives to reap them, but, nevertheless, they are illegal. Ignorance is bliss...grow a fucking set.
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Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Why are there so many pirates and why are they all Somali?!?

Today, while scrolling through my Facebook news feed, I came across the above status update by a curious young woman (who happens to be a Jedi Knight from what I understand). Since I have some knowledge in the area I decided to write about it and assuage (Google it) any other curious minds.

Okay, so Somalia is a war-torn eastern African nation sitting on the vital international waterway called the Gulf of Aden. This area of Africa is normally referred to as the Horn of Africa, and the Gulf of Aden is vital because it provides access to Egypt's Suez Canal. If international shipping was not able to access the canal, ships transporting goods (oil) to Europe and the United States from Arab gulf states and Asia, would have to go all the way around the bottom of the African continent. Each trip would be thousands more miles and cost thousands more dollars. So we generally want to avoid having to do that.

Somalia has a vast coastline and therefore its people have become expert mariners (I hope you don't have to Google that one) over the centuries. Over the last century these Somali mariners have concentrated their expertise in the industry of fishing, but something changed in the early 1990's and its repercussions continue to this day. The latest manifestation of which occured today when news media reported that four Americans were murdered by Somali pirates.

After years of rebellion that began in the 1980's, in 1991 the Somalian government was effectively rendered obsolete by civil war. The country descended into anarchy, the navy was disbanded, and many naval officers found their skills useless. At the same time the Cold War, which lasted over 45 years and pitted the United States against the Soviet Union, also ended in 1991. This meant Somalia was now unable to patrol its coastal fishing territory at a time when the world's naval super powers were reducing the amount of vessels they each had patrolling the world's oceans, thus making much ocean-based commerce less secure. The combination of these two factors wreaked havoc on Somali fishermen.

Soon after the fall of Somalia's government, illegal fishing ships from all over the world began scooping up fish by the ton in what use to be internationally recognized as Somalia's exclusive economic zone. Somali fishermen were no match for the new intruders, but a new industry was to make way and thrive in the chaos - pirating. What began as an effort by experienced former Somali navy men and mariners to protect Somalia's fishing territory, and impose fines on the illegal intrusion that was devastating their economy, devolved into the violent, multi-million dollar tradecraft we see today. The Somali mariners soon realized the lucrative, however illegal, opportunity they had in front of them and they seized on it. Please keep in mind that most of the acts of piracy committed by Somalis have not ended in violence. In fact, marine insurance companies continually account for the risks of piracy when deciding their premiums, and have even opened backdoor channels in order to pay pirate ransoms. However, the trend is definitely moving in the direction of increased violence and death.

So this is where we are, and it will most likely continue until Somalia regains an effective government. That should be easy enough, hey it's Africa right? Alright folks, back to Carmelo.
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Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Middle Pieces

Wow, I can't say I saw this coming. Tunisia, Egypt, Jordan, Bahrain, Algeria, Yemen, Sudan...Libya. In country after country in the Middle East, protestors are taking to the streets in attempts to force their autocratic governments to step aside. The "Jasmine Revolution" as its been called.

A little more than a week after Egyptian democracy protestors forced their leader Hosni Mubarak from power, we see dynasties and monarchies much older than Mubarak's facing turmoil not seen since their creation. Jordan's King Abdullah II has pledged to institute democratic reforms in an effort to stave off upheaval. The Islamic monarchy in Bahrain has been battling demonstrators for weeks, but today said it would release all political prisoners in a move that may signal the end of its reign. Let's put this into perspective; right now an estimated 100,000 protestors are marching through the streets of the Bahrainian city of Manama...Bahrain is a country of less than one million citizens.

Sudan's president, Omar Hassan al-Bashir, today announced he will not seek re-election to the tumultuous presidency he has held since 1989, while Yemen's president remains defiant in a nation still clearly divided. But nothing is more intriguing than what's happening in Libya, a country at odds with the United States for decades.

Colonel Muammar el-Qaddafi has been the leader of Libya since he led a military coup there in 1969, but now refugees are fleeing the country as it decends into chaos. Refugees have reported hundreds of deaths at the hands of pro-government supporters, and claim that the capitol of Tripoli looks like a war zone. When hearing of Qaddafi's recent statements, I can't help but be reminded of Iraq's former information minister, "Baghdad Bob," who proclaimed confidence in the invincible Iraqi army as the buildings literally crumbled around him.

Pre-Qaddafi era Libyan flags have been reported sprouting up at Libyan embassies around the world, and Libyan government officials have resigned in protest at the bloody crackdown. Most notably, the ambassador to the U.S. Has resigned and the Libyan ambassador to the United Nations has called on Qaddafi to step aside immediately. There have also been reports that senior Libyan military officials have asked the armed forces to support the rebellion, however, it has also been reported that military helicopters and war planes are responsible for many of the deaths. Human Rights Watch has confirmed over 200 dead, while some estimates reach as high as 500.

One of the United States' oldest foes seems to be at the end of his tenure, and it doesn't appear that a U.S. Airstrike will be held responsible...oh and Carmelo Anthony just got traded to the Knicks. As my boy Martin Lawrence put it in the movie Bad Boys II, "Shit (definitely) just got real."
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Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Is it too late for civility in Egypt?

It has been over two weeks since reform-minded protestors took to the streets in Egypt. In that time, the Hosni Mubarak government has made verbal and concrete concessions aimed at restoring peace and normalization to the country. Mubarak has resigned from his post as the head of the National Democratic Party, the only legal political party in Egypt, and has vowed that he nor his son will run in this year's presidential election. However, he has stopped short of immediately resigning as president and dismantling the one-party political apparatus which has dominated Egypt for over thirty years.

This immediate action is what many of the protestors are calling for; the end of the Mubarak era, a new constitution, a democratic multi-party political system...freedom, this is what they want. However, in the West we have come to expect that transitions of governmental power contain two elements; they occur within the boundaries of law and are peaceful in nature. So far law and order have been hard to come by in Egypt, but there is little reason for the impending transition to need to continue down the path of a bloody revolution versus an inevitable evolution. Do the Egyptian people really want the founding of their new democracy to begin with brutality and anarchy?

While Mubarak's repressive tactics have been the overwhelming source of the bloodshed, the protestor's demand for an immediate overthrow of the whole regime also have to factor into the blame. Essentially, if the protestors are willing to accept that the transition will, and should, take time, they may end up with a better product once their new government is formed. Time...time to create effective political parties...time to communicate each party's message to the Egyptian electorate...time to draft a new and citizen-empowering constitution.

Given Mubarak's excessive tenure as president, it is no wonder his insistence on serving out the remainder of his term has fallen on deaf ears. While a timely, orderly transition is what's needed, Mubarak lacks the legitimacy to call for it. To Egyptians he is a dictator, he is the enemy, he is the problem, so how can he be trusted to usher-in reform? He cannot.

Mubarak's best option is to immediately cede presidential power to a successor whom will serve out the remainder of his term. Utilizing the input of international organizations and opposition leaders such as Mohamed ElBaradei, this successor should then begin work on drafting a new constitution which will go into effect prior to the fall presidential elections and will be published for all Egyptians to see. The emergency powers which have justified Mubarak's one-party rule should be nullified and political parties legalized. Additionally, certain elements of Mubarak's former regime should be excluded from running in the election, including even the successor chosen to help craft the constitutional document.

The worst thing Mubarak can do is continue testing the will of his people by staying in office. The longer he stays, the more radicalized the populace is likely to become, and there can be no doubt that should chaos and anarchy prevail, the Egyptian situation will be exploited by the hardline Islamist elements of society.

By taking the tangible, irrevocable step of resigning, Mubarak will communicate to the Egyptian people that the change is in fact real. One can only hope that Egyptians take this to heart and steer their ship toward calmer waters. Let history make note, when given the choice of violence and anarchy or law and order, Egyptians choose the latter.
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Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Egypt in transition: Isn't it about time?

Today, Egyptian president, Hosni Mubarak, announced that he would not seek re-election this fall in what would amount to the end of his decades-old non-democratic presidency. The announcement comes after days of popular protests throughout Egypt calling for his resignation. However, it is unclear to me as to whether his announcement is genuine.

According to a recent New York Times article, Egyptian reactions to his announcement were not positive but quite the opposite. Protestors have called for his immediate resignation, but Mubarak's announcement seems to be an unacceptable compromise; one that could in fact result in him retaining power beyond the fall elections. Most likely, the negative reactions to his announcement signify that Egyptians are well aware of this possibility.

Egyptian presidential elections are months and months away, giving the Mubarak government plenty of time to allow popular resentment to subside. In that time, Mubarak can reassess his position, reestablish control, squash dissent, and build foreign support for the continuance of his regime. While Nobel laureate and former head of the United Nation's International Atomic Energy Agency , Mohamed ElBaradei, is seen widely as one of the opposition leaders who could assume power, it isn't at all clear who will actually fill the vacuum should Mubarak step down. In fact, the Muslim Brotherhood, a longtime Islamist political group, has been singled out by some Western-backed leaders as an undesirable potential replacement to the current government. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel is one leader who's recently raised concern that a Western-friendly government may not rise from the ashes of Mubarak's downfall, suggesting that there is a market in which the appeal of sticking with the current regime can be shopped and sold. Of course, Netanyahu's comments may be more reflective of his concern that a new Egypt will be less Israeli-friendly than that it would be less Western-friendly. I don't believe most international leaders would view the West and Israel as one-in-the-same.

While, at present, Mubarak may not truly intend to give up power in eight months, his announcement should give his government, as well as others, some breathing room and additional time to analyze what this uprising is all about. Governments around the world may find that this is a grassroots, peaceful, and popular movement toward real democracy, led by an educated and cosmopolitan demographic. Egypt is not Iraq, it is not Iran, and it is definitely not the sharia-law based Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Egypt has been a leader in the Middle East for decades, and has had a Western-influenced populace for years. In the wake of Iraq and Afghanistan, a peaceful domestic-led movement toward democracy in one of the Middle East's most stable countries doesn't sound so bad...actually, I thought that's what we've been waiting for?

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