Saturday, January 29, 2011

Mid East Meltdown- The end or merely the end of the beginning?

 Now that I've got your attention with my dramatic title, no, I am not necessarily talking about the end of the world, (though perhaps such concerns are appropriate) as much as an end of an "era" in the Middle East of "business as usual."   From claims that the Bush Administration's actions supporting the creation of Democracy in Iraq have heralded in a new era of freedom in the region to warnings current events are harbingers of fulfilled prophecy straight out of the books of 'Daniel' and 'Revelation' in the Holy Bible, the tumultuous events that have erupted in Egypt this past week have gotten everyone's attention for a myriad of reasons. (In the least the tempest in this mineral-rich part of the world seemed to have once again remindeed us of the volatility of this ancient region some say was the cradle of civilization).  Indeed, the events in Egypt have everyone, from neighboring autocratic governments to the Obama Administration to Israel, the region's longest and only stable democracy, worried about what could happen next.  

  On everyone's minds is the 64,000 dollar question, are the widespread protests in Cairo which came after unrest in nearby Tunisia simply the means to a peaceful (relatively) revolution that will give way to a more responsive (and Democratic) government or will they usher in an even more oppressive government that will prove a safe-haven for terrorist activity of the like's of Al Quaeda, Hamas and Hezbollah? (whose terrorist agenda includes the destruction of Israel).  Indeed, with rogue states like Iran salivating at the thought of extending its support for terrorism to yet one more country in the world, one doesn't have to be imaginative to think of the potentially devastating consequences to freedom and Western interests such an outcome could pose.

 For its part, the Obama Administration has been semi-supportive of the protestors and constrained itself to calling for a 'peaceful' resolution and urging the Mubarak Administration to restore internet and phone service to its citizens.  However, such pronouncements to us seem a tad premature, and, unless based on intelligence unavailable to the general public, (which they very well may be), a bit naive to the potential dangers of a wider regional conflagration or how, regardless of the protestors good intentions, such events can be manipulated by jihadists intent on harming the West and imposing wide spread "Sharia" law instead of democratic reforms.  (Interestingly it also exposes the hipocrisy of the Obama Administration's recent revelation of its own desire for an internet "kill switch" in case of "national emergency," but that's another matter better to be addressed on another day in a separate post).

 As if the potential seizure and/or possible closure of the Suez Canal by rogue actors or the unrest generally isn't bad enough news, such unrest, if spread to neighboring countries, could easily completely disrupt the flow of commerce (and oil) that could prove devastating for the world's recovering economies, (especially the United States), which depend on a stable, inexpensive supply of oil to fuel it's own economic recovery and drive-- puns not intended!-- the interstate transport system which everything from grocery stores to international trade depends on.

 Some were already predicting five dollar a gallon gasoline before this crisis; one can only shudder to fathom the consequences of a wider conflagration on the fragile American economic recovery. 

 Regardless of whether such doomsday predictions will come true in this case, the events currently unfolding have provided new vigor to calls to develop America's own energy resources.  Indeed, some experts have estimated that with the oil reserves available offshore and in Alaska and America's vast natural gas reserves we have enough energy to meet our needs for 200 years, (plenty of time for new forms of energy to be developed), if only we have the will to develop them.

Let's hope it's not too late.   jp

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