Friday, March 18, 2011

Bahrain, Foreign Troops, and - Maybe - the Last Stand of Kings

I'm getting to Libya in the next post.

The powers that be in Yemen and Bahrain are having a shot - literally - at trying the Libyan colonel's approach to leadership. They're having their enforcers kill people who say they don't like the way things are run.

Historically, America's leadership hasn't been quite that rough on folks who aren't on the same page whoever is running things in Washington. Even here, though, it seems hard to understand that "disagreement" isn't "treason;" and that someone can have a different opinion without being 'the enemy." I've posted about that before:
Still, I'd rather live in America:

Shia, Sunni, and Shooting the Opposition

Excerpts from today's news:
"Security forces and government supporters opened fire on demonstrators in the capital on Friday, killing at least 30 people. But the crackdown failed to disperse the protest, the largest seen so far in the center of the city, and President Ali Abdullah Saleh declared a state of emergency...."
(The New York Times)

"Hundreds of angry Iraqis demonstrated in the holy Shiite city of Karbala on Thursday, protesting the use of foreign troops in the crackdown against anti-government protests in Bahrain...."

"A senior Iranian cleric on Friday urged Bahrain's majority Shiites to keep up their protests—until death or victory—against the Sunni monarchy in the tiny island kingdom...."

"Bahrain's Shiites are burying their dead amid a continued government crackdown in this Sunni-ruled island nation in the Persian Gulf...."

Some folks in televised news's op-ed segments have been saying that what's happening in Bahrain is a sort of proxy war between Shia Iran and Sunni Saudi Arabia. I think they've got a point. Sunni and Shia, two flavors of Islam, aren't equally represented in Saudi Arabia, and Iran, or even in Bahrain, Iraq, and Yemen:

Saudi Arabia15%95%
1 PBS (see Background)
CIA (see Background)

Religion: Important, Yes; Everything, No

I think that religion is an often-misunderstood factor in society. I think that the politically correct notion that religion kills people is silly: but acknowledge that some have done bad things for what we call "religious" reasons. (October 31, 2007)(and A Catholic Citizen in America (April 12, 2010, July 24, 2009))

I am also fairly certain that the folks in Bahrain, at least, have fairly solid economic reasons for wanting change. Again, without accepting the notion that economics and class struggle, along with psychology and/or instinct, explains everything.

For all I know, the way the Persian and Arabic languages handle verb declensions may be a factor in today's conflicts. I think philology may prove to connect with neurology, psychology, and maybe genetics - and that's several other topics, as well as speculative.

Saudi Troops Killing Shia Civilians in Bahrain: So What?

Another excerpt from today's news:
"...This week, military forces from the Gulf Cooperation Council -- including Saudi Arabia -- arrived in Bahrain to help the kingdom control a wave of anti-government protests, prompting the Obama administration and U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to urge council members to act with restraint and to allow the citizens of Bahrain to demonstrate peacefully.

"Although Bahrain's protesters are making primarily economic and political demands, there is a sectarian dimension: Bahrain's population is 70% Shiite; the royal family is Sunni, as is the royal family of Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia recently has seen small demonstrations among its minority Shiites...."
I think that the Saudi royal family, and other traditionalists in the Arab world, are in an unenviable position. They seem to be dedicated to a way of life that's threatened. In a way, their troubles started in Europe and North America during the 18th century.

The 'good old days' of aristocratic privilege are gone. These days, even beating your wife, or your wife beating servants, is frowned upon in quite a few countries. (January 12, 2011, November 2, 2007) That, along with beer commercials and individual rights, must be hard to accept. For folks who grew up enjoying privileges, at least.

In the short run, the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques and like-minded folks may succeed in holding on to their old ways.

I think it depends in part on whether or not their enforcers run out of bullets, so to speak, before folks who want change run out of bodies and determination.

In the long run, I think their way of life is over. Monarchies may continue, along the lines of British royalty - and I'm not going to get started on the shenanigans there. I've written about the cultural angle of the war on terror before. (April 5, 2010, March 19, 2010, October 14, 2008, and elsewhere)

I also think that killing your subjects is a miserably ineffective way of instilling loyalty: whether practiced by an old-world monarch, or a self-styled revolutionary.

Which brings me to Libya: and that's another topic.

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Note! Although I believe that these websites and blogs are useful resources for understanding the War on Terror, I do not necessarily agree with their opinions. 1 1 Given a recent misunderstanding of the phrase "useful resources," a clarification: I do not limit my reading to resources which support my views, or even to those which appear to be accurate. Reading opinions contrary to what I believed has been very useful at times: sometimes verifying my previous assumptions, sometimes encouraging me to change them.

Even resources which, in my opinion, are simply inaccurate are sometimes useful: these can give valuable insights into why some people or groups believe what they do.

In short, It is my opinion that some of the resources in this blogroll are neither accurate, nor unbiased. I do, however, believe that they are useful in understanding the War on Terror, the many versions of Islam, terrorism, and related topics.