This is one of the more depressing spectacles of the wave of revolutions now sweeping the Middle East (I mean, besides civilians getting tortured and strafed by their own governments). The U.S., which still likes to believe in its adolescent superhero daydream of itself as the City on the Hill, Arsenal of Democracy, etc., is anxiously dithering and hedging our bets while the ruthless venal tyrants we've propped up for the last few decades finally get run out of town by the real thing, authentic democracy in action. We used to be the rebels. Now we are the Man.
The Obama administration's tepid and prevaricating response to the Egyptian uprising was the last time I intend to give them anything but a backward glance of contempt. I suppose I'll be driven to vote for them in 2012 by horror at whatever imbecile, wackjob or outright fascist the Republican Party finds to run against them. But this isn't exactly the same as having a choice.
In my ruling on Hosni Mubarak for the Supreme Court of Assholism last week I rated Hilary Clinton just two points below Mubarak himself, and this only in reluctant recognition of the fact that she herself is not personally having people tortured and shot. In fact I think it is morally more reprehensible to be an allegedly decent, civilized person who sucks up to a monster for pragmatic reasons than it is to just plain be a monster. It is certainly disappointing that Hillary Clinton has not claimed Colonel Qaddafi as a close personal friend of her family like Hosni Mubarak. How does she suppose this makes Col. Qaddafi feel? Some "friend" she turns out to be. I bet she hasn't even invited Hosni to crash on the Clintons' living room couch for a week or two while this whole Egypt thing gets sorted out. No more Christmas cards for Hosni.
A couple of my friends have been fondly forwarding me photos and quotes of Colonel Muammar al-Qaddafi. Jim sent me an astonishing slideshow from Vanity Fair showcasing highlights of The Colonel's fashions through the years. "I want to smash his face in with my fist and steal his wardrobe," Jim writes. "I was thinking, I bet someone could make him fall for the Emperor's New Clothes deal." The subject heading of Mike's email was: "I will miss his speeches." The line he quoted was: "It's impossible for the youth to follow anyone else. If not Qaddafi, who else would they follow? Somebody with a beard?" You can see from that slideshow why Qaddafi would be disdainful of the ill-kempt look favored by most Islamic theocracts. Note also that Qaddafi conforms to the use-of-one's-own-name-in-third-person rule that is a red flag of descent into complete assholism. (Exceptions: Bob Dole and The Hulk.) I tried to send the Colonel a quick email yesterday, just to tell him he sucks, and saw that his official website has been suspended. That has got to be really annoying.
It does sort of look, in retrospect, like maybe we would've been better off suporting democracy in the Middle East by actually supporting democracy instead of arming dictators and invading countries. But it seems like weapons are the only way we know of expressing ourselves anymore, like a little boy who earnestly gives out turds for Valentine's Day. It's sad. It mat be that, in the twenty-first century, an arsenal isn't what democracy needs anymore.
I'm certain I will be made to regret saying all of the following but here goes:
I've discreetly asked several friends whom I suspect of knowing more about it than I do, So what exactly's the deal with our adamant and unconditional--you could even call it blind--support of Israel, anyway? How does this alliance benefit us? I'm trying to remember the last time Israel did anything other than defy U.S. wishes, complicate U.S. foreign policy, or make everyone else in that whole region of the world chant angrily for our deaths. It's a measure of how weirdly taboo this issue is that I felt sort of sheepish even asking anyone about it. Understand, I'm not even sure I'm against our policy on Israel--I just don't get it. It's one of those things we're all supposed to have agreed on already and is now closed to debate, except I don't remember it ever being discussed. Is this something that got decided back before I was born? Could we briefly recap? Is it a leftover from the Cold War, when it was really strategically important to have an anti-Soviet bulwark in the region? Is it just that their religious state is based on a religion most Americans know about from Sunday school so it's okay with us, whereas the idea of an Islamic theocracy freaks us out? Is this about dingbat fundamentalists trying to hasten the Second Coming? Or is it just that they're an enclave of white people who go to discos in the otherwise swarthy and teetotaling Middle East?
The best explanation I've gotten is that it's pretty much all about AIPAC, the powerful pro-Israel lobby. It's not unlike our Coelacanthian embargo of Cuba, maintained exclusively to appease furious and demented old people in Florida. Come to think of it both our Cuba and Israel policies are dictated by furious demented old people from Florida. Fuckin' Florida, man. So it seems that we may have to wait for this issue to resolve itself the same way gay marriage inevitably will: when all the old folks die.
I glumly await the demands for an apology and comparisons to Hitler.