Reverse Dominoes In Middle East
Wednesday - April 06, 2011
In a “Letter to the Editor” in the Wall Street Journal last Wednesday, “The Arab Dominos Fall Beneficially,” the writer posits that the chain of falling dictatorships across the Middle East is reminiscent of the Domino Theory so often cited during the Cold War - but, depending upon one’s perspective, in reverse. This theory, borne during the last few months of World War II, explains the origin of Communist Eastern Europe as the Russian army advanced through Poland (an early domino after the Balkan States), Hungary, Rumania, Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia, Albania and ending when the East German domino toppled over. As Communist puppet governments were installed by the Soviets in one country after another, it was inevitably consolidated through draconian dictatorships into the “Communist Eastern Block.”
We saw the beginnings of a similar “Communist East Asian Block” fomented more by infiltration and guerilla warfare originating from within Communist China. The first “domino” was North Vietnam (as a result of Ho Chi Minh’s radicalization, primarily in China), then Laos and Cambodia. Then, to keep South Vietnam from falling, the U.S. intervened, hence the Vietnam War. As I’ve written before, the next logical dominos - Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia and possibly the Philippines were never toppled because of our intervention.
The “chain of falling dictatorships” (cited by the WSJ letter writer, and which could still be a premature assessment) include Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Yemen and we could add possibly Oman, Qatar and maybe even Syria. All of these countries have been under the iron fist of their rulers for decades. Why this potentially cataclysmic upheaval now? What has changed? What has changed is now there are two new Middle Eastern models for hope, Iraq and Afghanistan; two reverse dominos.
We recall the fearful plight of the Iraqis under the iron fisted rule of Saddam Hussein. We know the abysmal circumstances of the Afghan people - especially the women - under the strict sharia law of the Taliban. But now, with the advantages of modern communications, the Internet and social networking, the oppressed masses of the Middle East - those so desperate to come into the 21st century - have seen in these two countries the sparks of possibility grow into the flames of enlightenment and freedom. And they want it too.
We are witnessing a watershed moment in history, a potentially cataclysmic event for good. Our president must articulate in the strongest terms and actions (where doable) our support for these noble aspirations. We have done and continue to do all that is doable militarily and politically in Iraq and Afghanistan. Once we determine the political bent of the Libyan resistance fighters, we are on firm ground by helping them. But we must clearly articulate our intent to see that Gadhafi is deposed, and then follow through to that end. If we don’t, now that we have marshaled Arab countries against him and led a NATO coalition to destroy him, he can be expected to constitute an even greater threat to our security.
In the realms of international leadership and national security, this must be our president’s defining moment.
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