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The Future of Freedom: Illiberal Democracy at Home and Abroad by Fareed Zakaria
Polyarchy by Robert Dahl
The Nazi Seizure of Power by William Sheridan Allen
Terror and Liberalism by Paul Berman
The Moon Is Down by John Steinbeck
Al-Qaeda's New Targets
Blogger just ate my post. Argh.
My question was this though:
With the Morocco bombing under its belt, has Al-Qaeda changed its focus to now include Sunni Muslim nations? And if this is a new strategy for the terrorist organization, then are countries like Turkey next? If this is actually a planned string of attacks, starting with the Riyadh bombings last week, then isn't Morocco now a safer destination for my study abroad than Turkey?
While the Iraq war put my Turkish plans on hold, I was looking at a program in Morocco. It seems that the unknown possibility of an attack in Turkey is now more dangerous than a repeat in Morocco, which will now be a nation of unprecedented security. If Al-Qaeda has truly changed its tune to include all Muslim nations, both Shi'ite and Sunni, shouldn't Turkey worry?
So we're leaving Saudi Arabia. We're moving our Air Force out of the kingdom and into Qatar and other friendly, regional neighbors. Are we doing this on our own terms, or because we're caving to Bin Laden's demands? It's hard to tell. In all likelihood, its a complex combination of both.
We know Bin Laden and his Islam-twisting cohorts demand that "infidels" get out of the land of Muhammed. Since the Gulf War we have stationed troops in Saudi Arabia and, even though they rarely leave the base and interact with Saudi society, their presence as guests of the House of Saud irks much of the Saudi population. While many Saudi citizens would love to see the Americans leave their country, almost none of them agree with the tactics of Al-Qaeda. Saudi society is a very religious and socially conservative society. Saudi citizens don't want Americans involved in their lives, but most see it as an aggravation with little chance of change as long as the ruling family allows it. So they put up with it, but don't like it.
For Bin Laden, this attitude is not enough. He believes in a pro-active response to the grievances of the Saudi people. Therefore, he clings to the religious identity that unites the people, and uses it to justify his horrific attacks. Bin Laden's tactics have been based on the history of American cowardness. Imagine for a moment what he sees:
- After the Islamic Jihad bombed the Marine barracks in Beirut in 1983, the U.S. quickly left the country.
- After seeing several Marines dragged through the streets of Mogadishu, the U.S. gave up its humanitarian mission and pulled out.
Bin Laden sees American cowardness in these acts of withdrawl. He sees that all it takes to get a America to leave is to bomb or ambush a few of its soldiers. When compared to the never-ending battles against the Soviets in Afghanistan in the 1980's, which resulted in a Soviet withdrawl, the minimal requirement of opposition against the U.S. must seem to Bin Laden like a cake walk.
So, are we leaving Saudi Arabia because of Bin Laden? I don't think so. Our goal all along was to leave Saudi Arabia once we had liberated Iraq. After all, we no longer need the Saudi presence now that there are no no-fly zones to maintain. We are leaving on our own terms, and if it pleases Bin Laden, so be it. To the international community, our withdrawl is not because of his demand, but because of the altered nature of Middle East political dynamics.
Bin Laden may have recognized that he no longer was the reason for American withdrawl, and thus decided to juxtapose another Al-Qaeda attack with the American exit. By bombing the compounds of American workers in Riyadh, Al-Qaeda has tried to make it appear that its bombing will be the impetus for American withdrawl from Saudi Arabia. That way, it can claim victory in pushing the infidels out of the Holy Land and can retain a sense of purpose to its acts of terror.
We are not leaving because of Bin Laden's demands, but because the dynamics of our success have made a Saudi presence unnecessary. No doubt the bombing last week will embolden Al-Qaeda's followers and allow them to see their actions as the reason the great American power is changing its actions. Al-Qaeda seeks to have this "control" over the U.S., and even though the bombing came two weeks late, the followers of Bin Laden can claim personal supremacy over America.
The rest of the world sees the motivation of our withdrawl from Saudi Arabia. Al-Qaeda can have its delusional beliefs in cause-and-effect, but as long as the world sees the reality of our actions, we will have succeeded in getting out and still having saved face.
The Democrats of the Texas legislature deserve our admiration. Instead of caving to the gerrymandering ambitions of the Republican-controlled state house, the Democrats refused to show up to complete a quorum that would allow the redistricting of Texas' U.S. Congressional districts to a Republican dominated map. Not only did they not show up, they left the state!
The 53 Democrats are now in a standoff, from their motel rooms in Oklahoma, with the Texas state troopers who have been sent by the GOP to arrest them and bring them back to Austin. Unfortunately for Republicans, Texas troopers, obviously have no jurisdiction in Oklahoma and therefore have no ability to bring home the "outlaw" legislators.
This all would seem to be an immature ploy by the Democrats, except for the fact that the Congressional districts require no changes at this time, and what has been proposed would alter the makeup of the Texas Congressional delegation dramatically, and disenfranchise the people of Texas. This really is all pretty stupid, but as SKB noted, "The only thing dumber than the Democrat's stunt is the GOP trying to organize a posse."
A lot of this mess can be blamed on Tom Delay, the Republican U.S. House Majority Leader, who is trying to use the first Republican-controlled Texas House in years as an opportunity to finagle the districts that make up the Congressional delegation from Texas to the Republican's advantage. When Democrats are forced to do something like this, Republicans really must have some tricks going on.
I'm not one to support AWOL legislators who are technically neglecting their duty to represent their constituents, but in the long run, they are likely saving the people of Texas from having the effectiveness of their vote disregarded in favor of partisan redistricting.