Tunisian Trepidation

With great apologies to this caller who says:

"One caller said foreigners, especially the French and Americans, should keep their advice to themselves."

Interesting how quickly we get to hear a Tunisian say that, when it is Americans who are constantly being bombarded with criticism - not even well-meaning advice - from foreigners, and I can't think of Americans telling foreigners they should not have the right to an opinion.

Anyway, I won't be judging all of Tunisia by one Tunisian. I have no idea what to make of them, as we have very little knowledge of Tunisia. This is one of the great dangers of dictatorship - we can't analyze the underlying threat level. Given that at any time a dictator can come to power and start using state resources to do nefarious activities (unleashing biological viruses etc), to ensure the security of our own children (even independent of the benefit to the target population itself), what we need is:

1. A de/non-Nazified population (vast majority) that we can actually live in peace with.

2. A democratically-elected government from those people.

3. Enormous internal checks and balances to ensure that the military etc cannot topple that democracy.

4. External check and balance to ensure that if the internal controls fail, the new dictator can be quickly put down before he engages in some nefarious activity.

Also, if there are any slip-ups in this process, the weapons that the democracy has in the first place should be fairly minimal. E.g. if Denmark decides to start bioweapons research, it'd be nice to know why.

That's the sort of thing I expect for a safe world.

We are far away from that, and instead the vast majority of people see no problem with allowing sovereign dictators to do pretty much whatever they want. Last time Hitler was given a free reign it ended badly, but we've basically run out of dangerous western countries. Theoretically China might become one. And no-one seems to have raised sufficient eyebrows when Pakistan got "the Islamic bomb".

The situation in Tunisia is far from being anything that is required for the benefit of either the Tunisian people or Western security. Fortunately thanks to Iraq, we now have a MODEL!!! No more bullshit about having to make a tough choice between democratically-elected Islamic radicals or a secular dictator. We can have both. And no need for the third option to be inevitably instigated some time after the first option is chosen - a war of extermination.

The only "information" we have from Tunisia is that the previous president was "elected" with 89.4% of the vote, and I notice the journalist has the audacity to use the word "legitimate" - as if someone who rules by force of arms can be considered any more legitimate than a street rapist "legitimately" having sex with a victim.

We have no way of even knowing if that figure was true, and the rioters in the street are a mere 10.6% of the population. We know from Iraq that these people likely have 300+ political parties lurking beneath the surface if they are given a free hand. Currently there's next to nothing to fill the political vacuum. But mostly there is no confidence that the military will do the right thing and ensure democratic elections. With Iraq there was no doubt whatsoever that a genuine democratic vote would take place. There was no-one who could prevent it from happening. With Tunisia it comes down to the whim of some general. It'd be nice if they could at least get a committee of generals going, who realise that they don't speak with one voice themselves, and thus don't want to take responsibility for the country's direction, and thus throw it open to the people to choose their own destiny.

We also know from Iraq that the political timeline can be fasttracked. I liked the way the Iraqis had the transitional governments and referendums to create a clean slate. ie in Iraq, there is not a single word created by America. Every law, ever letter of the constitution, was done by Iraqis and approved by Iraqis. The Americans just ensured that it happened. The Tunisian military could easily take the place of the Americans and ensure that it happens. The Tunisian military is completely undefeatably by any internal power. I have no basis on which to trust the Tunisian military though. I'd MUCH prefer to see someone, e.g. Iraq or Japan (or a coalition of them plus the Germans) ensuring this has a happy ending.

By the way - will all the deaths arising from the current mayhem be blamed on:

1. The revolutionaries, who took no poll whatsoever to find out if they represented the majority (admittedly, like the Americans in Iraq, it wasn't possible to get a poll anyway - and even if it was, minorities have rights too).

2. The Tunisian army who didn't magically prevent every single lawbreaker from breaking the law.

3. The criminals who break standard Golden-rule-based laws.

If Iraq is anything to go by, it'll be number 2. But that would require consistency from the left-wing media, and it'll be a cold day in Hell before we see that.

Anyway, in principle, this is a fantastic thing. If we do in fact get a democracy in North Africa out of it, perhaps along with southern Sudan, it will have been done without requiring the massive expenditure of the US military, and without the responsibility and (the bulk of the - it won't be long before the CIA starts getting blamed for anything bad in Tunisia) accusations either.

I'm not sure that there's anything we can actually do though. Ideally we could bribe the head of the Tunisian military to hold the democratic elections. Give him $10 million and a lifetime Disneyland pass if he does what would otherwise have to be done by a massive US military commitment. But if he was bribed by America, that would somewhat diminish the resultant democracy. Ideally this should be done totally indigenously. There is something we can - and should - do if the generals decline democracy - external military intervention. But Tunisia is not the best country to be expending scarce liberation opportunities. Best to get a country that is also a security threat.

Well - normally it wouldn't be. But this is an opportunity to leverage off the indigenous forces. Similar to what was done in Afghanistan. And similar to Haiti in fact! If the generals don't make their intentions very clear that they will be installing a democracy, and implement checks and balances to ensure that they follow through with that commitment, then we should try to get a UN intervention. The UN intervention would be the alternative to the $10 million bribe mentioned previously. It doesn't have to be a large force - just big enough to ensure that the head of the military realises its not worth his while to go back on what he's already promised.

Basically at some level, there are friends of mine in Tunisia. They have names like Sarmad, Alaa and Ali. I don't know whether they are in a majority, or at least, have "preferred associates" who are in a majority that will give them a large chunk of what they want. At some level I have a desire to speak to them and ask "what can I do to help you obtain/secure your freedom?". I doubt that they will have any actionable answer to that question any more than the Iraqi bloggers did, or that I have myself. I know how to technically accomplish things via the military, and I understand the huge finessing that was done in Afghanistan to rope in pricks like Rabbani and Khan and probably Fahim.

But in the absence of tools, with which to formulate a strategy around, I don't see a lot of options but to "hope" that the generals do the "right thing". And it's pretty sad to have to sit back and just hope about whim. Quite frustrating in fact. Most of the world liberation program has been full of such frustration. There was very little that an individual could do at any step of the way. How do you advocate freedom or capitalism during the Cold War when you already such thing? The activism was always from the communists who were trying to take that away. The most you could do was argue with the activitists at an individual level, but I wonder if that had any effect anyway - they never had the numbers required to come anywhere near overthrowing our capitalist systems.

Same as Kyrgystan in fact. Not much you can do to ensure a good political outcome other than hope. It'd be nice to have more tools in the toolchest other than the blunt military. I'll see if I can redo some of the research to see if there's any avenue I have overlooked. I'm keen to meet the Tunisian Sarmad anyway.

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