Meanwhile, in a country with 13 times Libya’s population


Niall Ferguson, who has taken only three weeks to establish himself as Newsweek‘s star crackpot, says it’s all going into the crapper in North Africa:

“(W)e have absolutely no idea who is going to fill today’s vacuums of power. Only the hopelessly naive imagine that thirtysomething Google executives will emerge as the new leaders of the Arab world, aided by their social network of Facebook friends. The far more likely outcome—as in past revolutions—is that power will pass to the best organized, most radical, and most ruthless elements in the revolution, which in this case means Islamists like the Muslim Brotherhood.”

A fascinating New York Times story sees two possible futures, one optimistic, the other a lot less so. On the face of it, the revolutions in, especially, Egypt seem to be a significant setback for Al Qaeda:

“Knocking off Mubarak has been Zawahri’s goal for more than 20 years, and he was unable to achieve it,” said Brian Fishman, a terrorism expert at the New America Foundation. “Now a nonviolent, nonreligious, pro-democracy movement got rid of him in a matter of weeks. It’s a major problem for Al Qaeda.”

But the same story also points out that the peaceful ouster of Hosni Mubarak is only a bad-news story for the Islamists if Egypt doesn’t sink into chaos. And the Islamists expect it to sink into chaos.

Abu Khaled, a Jordanian jihadist who fought in Iraq with the insurgent leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, suggested that Al Qaeda would benefit in the long run from dashed hopes.

“At the end of the day, how much change will there really be in Egypt and other countries?” he asked. “There will be many disappointed demonstrators, and that’s when they will realize what the only alternative is. We are certain that this will all play into our hands.”

A crossroads leads in two directions. As I tried to argue in my latest column, I believe North Africa, and especially Egypt, are at a crossroads. It could go very well or very badly; we have a vital security interest in its going well; and we are not without constructive options.





Meanwhile, in a country with 13 times Libya’s population

  1. Depends if you're playing Risk or Dominoes.

  2. "A crossroads leads in two directions."

    A road has two directions.
    A fork in the road has three.
    A crossroads has at least four.

  3. PS: I think Niall Ferguson started going all woogy with his Chimerica thing.

  4. A good start would be for Harper to form an advisory council. There are many prominent Canadians with Egyptian ties. (The President of York for example)

  5. Is it just me, or is it true that for every pundit who thinks that the Muslim Brotherhood is well-organized and a driving force behind the revolution, there's another pundit who thinks they're a disorganized mess who had almost no role whatsoever?

    I think perhaps our biggest problem is that no one seem to know anything about Egypt!

  6. Maybe, I am hopelessly naive. Maybe I have a misplaced faith in the reasonable goodness of humanity. Lord knows, time and time again, manipulative sociopaths rise to the top. But, no one really foresaw the spontaneous social network uprisings springing from citizens sense of neglect and entitlement to basic human rights. Old forms of economic power fall to their knees broken by the unforeseen disintermediation the internet has brought. Taliban and Al Queda revolutionaries baffle easy tracking by using mobile phones. Third world nations leapfrog our fixed wired infrastructure – too expensive to implement – with wireless solutions. All critics look backwards and say that is how it must be again.

  7. Lots of people know stuff about North Africa and the Mid-East. But almost none of
    them write from west of Gibralter. I'd recommend these folks …


    but there are a lot of other options

  8. Yeah, what he said.

    In all these locations it depends on if the army continues to refrain from shooting on the crowds.

  9. Personally, I was skeptical that the army wouldn't turn in Egypt against the protestors, from a history of generals and armies usually being on the side of established, or their own selfish, power. Egypt was different. The Army was principled and not compromised.

  10. Ferguson, Gladwell, etc… it seems contrarian pundits have become too wedded to being contrarians at the expense of facts and, you know, credibility. Being provocative can actually get boring pretty quick!

    EDIT: that should say "reading provocateurs can get boring pretty quick."

  11. " … and we are not without constructive options."

    So what could Canada do that would be effective and would help without sticking our nose in where it doesn't belong ?

    Why would pro-democracy forces trust Canada to help when we supported Mubarak and his ilk for all these years ?

  12. The problem is that, unlike the secular-democrats, the Muslim Brotherhood and their allies are willing to use violence and its threat to attain power. And, once a theocracy emerges, it's very difficult to remove it from power. The unpleasant reality is that Islamists are going to be in control of Egypt, Libya and other majority-Muslim countries in the region. And Turkey's Gulenist 'revolution' has largely destroyed, demoralised and imprisoned the Kemalist military and secular institutions in that country, with more headscarves in evidence than at any time since the fall of the Ottoman empire, and escalating persecution against Christians and Jews. Ferguson is right to be wary of revolutionary euphoria–we should prepare for the reality of hard-Islamic governments, from Mauritania to Kyrgyzstan.

  13. A crossroads means a T junction. You do not go backwards, or else why would you have been going down the road at all. So you have two options, left or right. It's the same as a fork except the intersection is at a 45 degree angle (T shaped instead of Y shaped).

  14. That is not what a crossroads means. A crossroads is where roads cross, not where one road terminates.

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