Insight. Antics.

The Halal Belt.

In Global Politics on April 7, 2011 at 2:36 pm

Loyal readers, “mea culpa, mea culpa,” I say. My unannounced hiatus is over. Do not judge harshly: the Ides of March were particularly tough on me this year.

Also, it’s Brief Wit’s birthday!… so I get a free pass. That’s right people, we’re two years in, and the Times still hasn’t called to switch out one columnist named Ross for another. Maybe we can at least do A Parent Trap thing one day.

In case you weren’t here at the get-go, or wanted to remind yourself what got this all started, here’s a link to my first post: You’re Smarter Than The Experts.

Lest we waste any more time, let’s get back to the action. There’s plenty going on, perhaps too much: Japan is still in tragic limbo, federal budget negotiations are reaching a climax, and Charlie Sheen has taken his full-blown jackassedness on the road. Plus, Barack Obama is running for president again. But he needs you to do all the campaigning.

I’m going to leave it at that for now on those topics, and instead offer some thought nuggets on another subject.

You’ve heard of the Bible Belt. You’ve heard of the Borscht Belt. Welcome to 2011: Year of the Halal Belt.

That’s right, when it comes to the Middle East and North Africa these days, we’re way beyond street meat. (But, damn, those Halal Guys on 53rd Street are tasty.)

Demonstrations and protests across the region have continued since Tunisia and Egypt got sheikhing in January. And even though it is not plastered across the front pages or kicking off newscasts, there are still plenty of headlines about events in the region. A sampling from the last two days: Bahrain’s Rulers Tighten Their Grip on Battered Opposition, Syrian Rights Groups Raise Toll From Unrest, Oman Offers Some Lessons to a Region Embroiled in Protest, Qaddafi Writes to Obama, Urging End to Airstrikes.

This is a stupendous interactive map in Slate tracking the demonstrations by date and country, and it can be sped up or slowed down. Here’s another great map showing the establishment leaders and current situations across the region. Apologies that these graphics cannot be (for technical reasons or due to my ineptitude) displayed below.

Segueing more specifically into Libya and American activities there, I can say I wasn’t enthused about the idea of military intervention, but I acquiesced once the humanitarian slaughter threat was depicted. And we seem to not be overplaying our hand.

It’s a tough bind for Obama, and we’re still bearing a burden within NATO. You see, the thing about NATO airstrikes is that they’re like the mob: “Just when I thought I was out… they pull me back in!”

It was also odd hearing President Obama give an address with language that could have also come up through Dubya’s larynx. It was more peculiar that I agreed with the principled and reasoned arguments he made in doing so. I can make peace with the rest rationale-wise, but going to Libya after so long condoning the Sudanese government’s wrecking havoc in Darfur is the most glaring blemish on this justification.

The most irksome issue with Obama’s actions in Libya is cinematic. He committed the cardinal sin of presidential decisions: he went directly against a line from The American President. At 4:48 in the clip:

“Last thing I want to do is put the Libyans center stage.” It’s clear as day!

Another thing that has been lost in the Libya story is that for all his flirtatious presidential bluster, nobody called Donald Trump out for actually doing business with Gaddafi in 2009! At best, this was unwittingly, through unvetted associates of the dapper dictator. But, at worst, it was knowingly, in agreeing to allow Gaddafi use of land for a friggin’ campground, and then screwing him over for a buck when word got out and pressure built. That’s actually bad business practice, it just happened to be with a dictator.

While we’re on Gaddafi, can we just make it clear that I’m sure he could have found a place to stay near the UN then, since he was actually governor of New York at the time! Look at these pictures of Gaddafi and David Paterson and tell me they are not the same guy.

I mean, have you ever seen them in the same place?!

Finally, Al Qaeda’s lack of involvement or inspiration in the region’s events (fingers-crossed) is encouraging, though there remains an underbelly of uncertainty with a large number of questionable and dangerous people freed from jail in all the commotion. And then, there are the amorphous intentions of the Muslim Brotherhood to boot.

Ah, I can’t worry about that now. There’s too much celebrating to do!

So, here’s to you Halal Belt! By taking over oppressive regimes, you put the “heist” in monotheistic. It may have taken you a little longer than your Judeo-Christian friends, but you’ve got your own belt now. Just don’t tighten it too much. It probably won’t look good with that stuff you guys wear.

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