Sunday, February 27, 2011

Why The West Must Stay Out of Libya (And The Whole Middle East)

Face it. No matter what the US and "The West" does when it comes to Libya, it will get criticized harshly. Libya is in a difficult region where people are already pretty pissed off with "The West" for support of Israel and, of course, colonialism. Anti-Western sentiment runs very high, justifiably or not. The US/West getting further involved in the region would be, frankly, quite stupid. And there is no reason to.

What is happening right now in Libya is bloody, horrific and brutal. But, it is what Libya needs. It is a true, grassroots uprising. It is change from within. Many lives have been lost, and many more will be lost. But, with defections happening amongst Gaddafi's regime, more and more areas of the country falling out of his control, and a more determined than ever population, it is fair to say that those who want freedom and democracy are winning. This is good. If outside forces get involved militarily, even more lives or going to get lost and there will be a distraction from the real cause. Those who oppose Gaddafi but are equally defiant against The West will be stuck in the middle, those who are sitting on the fence not sure who to support could be emboldened to jump in with the pro-Gaddafi side to try and oust the "occupiers" and pro-Gaddafi fighters could get a new lease on life with a new reason to fight. It will, once again, be perceived in the same way as colonialism, an invasion of sovereignty, a spit in the eye of proud Arab people, and as an expansion of the great American empire (as it is seen). All around, it doesn't sound like a good scenario. There have been talk of sanctions already, and the concern is that the people being affected by them are going to be the population of Libya, not Gaddafi and his friends. So, even this attempt at action has the potential to backfire tremendously.

US President Obama has been hammered for not coming out quick enough with condemnation of Gaddafi or the violence. I think that Obama has made a number of very wise moves with this approach. Throughout the change in the Middle East, he and his government have not been quick to jump in. Good! That's exactly the way it should be. Revolution is happening. The people are taking to the streets and demanding change, and it is coming, slowly but surely, from within. This is the way it should have been in Iraq, and the way it would be optimal to have happened in Afghanistan. There is no doubt that those two wars have been pretty disastrous. The US became further hated around the world, hundreds of thousands of lives have been lost, and trillions of dollars have been spent. Already, there is so much anger because the regimes that are falling are seen as being "US backed" (a point that Al Jazeera LOVES to point out over and over again, but I digress). So, any new regimes will be dealt with pretty suspiciously if the US endorses them, or shows too much of a preference. The US will be seen as interfering if, on the surface, it appears to have too much of an opinion on how these revolutions should transpire.

So, like I said off the top, no matter WHAT the US, and it's Western friends do, it's going to get blasted from someone, somewhere. So stay out, let the revolutions unfold and hope for a much better future for the citizens of those countries and a better, more trusting and solid relationships with "The West" in the years to come.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

TV is a Powerful Tool!

COME ON Al Jazeera Arabic! What the heck kind of "reporting" was THAT! What am I speaking of? I was just at the barber's, got a haircut from a nice Turkish gentleman. The whole time I waited and the whole time I had my haircut, about 45 minutes in total, the SAME loop of images kept rolling over and over and over on the TV they had hanging in the shop. It was like A Clockwork Orange! Police beating on protesters, protesters beating on other protesters, police torturing subjects, a dead and mutilated body, simulated torture scenes, a police truck running over protesters. Over and over and over the same images kept going and going. And, in the background, an "interviewee" screaming at the top of his lungs (there may have been a couple over the span of time, but it was hard to tell because it was just plain screaming!) The only break was when three promos for Al Jazeera ran which were all filled with MORE images of unrest in Egypt. This wasn't reporting! This was sheer incitement and provocation! I wanted to go break stuff after watching 45 minutes solid of these brutal images played over and over...and over...and OVER. Man, that was brutally horrible and terribly irresponsible. Thank goodness Al Jazeera English is not quite like that, although I have had my complaints about them, and my list is growing. I will probably write about that tomorrow.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Back Off, Al Jazeera.

I am growing increasingly frustrated with Al Jazeera's coverage of what is going on in Egypt. They have gained a lot of viewers and attention over the last 11 days and have a new found power. I generally like Al Jazeera, and am pleased to see that they have done well, BUT, I am also disappointed with a number of issues, particularly when it comes to how it reports on US/Israeli involvement. Face it, Al Jazeera is hardly unbiased when it comes to these countries. It continually rails against them. That isn't saying there aren't legitimate grievances. There are. But, when watching Al Jazeera, I can't help but get the sense that the US and Israel are the most evil, horrible countries on the planet. They wait with bated breath on what the US and Israel are going to say about what is going on, and then slam them when they do make a comment. They seem obsessed with the US and Israel, while getting angry because American media is not reporting the situation from the same vantage point as Al Jazeera. Bizarre, really.

I have been watching CNN quite a bit during this crisis and am finding them to be a bit better in their coverage. They have been looking at the crisis from a broader perspective, I find. They have been accused of looking at the crisis from and American perspective, which I have not found to be completely true. They are an American based channel, so of COURSE they will often look at the situation from an American perspective to a good degree.  However, they have also looked at the greater reality of what is going on in Egypt and how it is being seen in the rest of the world and what the impact of this revolution will be, something Al Jazeera is less concerned with. Egypt is a very important country in the region. The uprising there has MASSIVE consequences for the rest of the Middle East and the world. But, for trying to report this, Al Jazeera slams them. Why? I don't live in Egypt. Most of us watching do not. We see what is happening and wonder how it will affect us all. It is an uprising among Egyptians, and that is being acknowledged and reported on. BUT, there is uncertainty and plenty of it. There doesn't seem to be a clear leader ready to step in if Mubarak steps down now. That is concerning for both Egypt and the world. Al Jazeera doesn't seem to get that point. The Muslim Brotherhood? A lot of people have a lot of questions about them. CNN is giving a range of opinions on that group. And, although those in Tahrir Square is made up of people from all walks of Egyptian life, the Muslim Brotherhood is the largest opposition group involved in politics. Of COURSE people want to know about them. I don't think they should be feared, but I understand people's desire to know about them, and to get to understand them.

This isn't to say that Al Jazeera is not doing a good job. In many ways, they are. They are providing a great service. So, I am not anti-Al Jazeera. I suppose I became far more frustrated after I saw this report, which I felt was particularly low:

After watching this, I wanted to stick up for American networks, which is not something I usually rush to do. But, in this case, I think the US is getting a bad rap. Their main target, of course, is Fox News, which is a given. I can't say they are a reliable voice for much, so they deserve their fair share of criticism. However, other networks are doing their very best, as far as I am concerned, just as Al Jazeera is. By taking a Fox News approach to reporting on American media, they have stooped to a Fox News level, which is pretty low. I expect more from Al Jazeera, and hope they focus on the news and stories, and focus less on beating up their peers, and lay off a bit more on the US and Israel (again, something I never imagined myself saying).