Libya After Gaddafi

Since it has been two years and a week since Gaddafi’s death, and since I have recently accidentally come upon a good amount of information regarding how Libya changed in the past two years, I have decided to post links to this information here.

Map of al-Qaeda’s operations in Cyrenaica and Fezzan. Al-Qaeda did not operate in Libya before 2011.

Support for sharia as a source of legislation among the public is in the 70s percent. As a side note, unsurprisingly, the only Arab country in which proponents of sharia as a source of legislation are a minority (49% for both men and women) is also the only Arab country that isn’t Sudan in which there is no state religion.

U.S. State Department human rights reports show human rights violations in Libya to be more frequent in 2012 than in 2010, though they also show increased press and Internet freedom since the fall of Gaddafi.

Religious freedom, restricted only by the government in 2010, has become less restricted by the government and more restricted by individuals independent of the government.

Libya has transitioned to an electoral democracy.

Last, but not least: most Libyans in 2012 supported the roles of the U.S. and E.U. in toppling Gaddafi. Three-quarters of Libyans in 2012 supported the NATO intervention in Libya. Over three quarters of Libyans support Western-sent equipment for the Libyan military. Most Libyans view former Gaddafi regime members and al-Qaeda as the biggest threats to the future of Libya.

Edit about an hour after posting: The vast majority of Libyans support immediate disarmament of militias.

Conclusion: Libya has become more anarchic since the fall of Gaddafi. Most Libyans in 2012 thought the Gaddafi regime was worth deposing. The Libyan government’s control of the country is less stable this year than it was last year.


New York Times Article Alters My View of Reasons for Obama’s Syria Policy

I originally thought I had the Obama administration’s Syria policy and the reasons for it basically figured out (see here). From a recent New York Times article, I have concluded that my assessment of the Obama administration’s Syria policy was essentially correct. I have also concluded that I had vastly overestimated the coherence of Obama’s reasons for his Syria policy. I have concluded that Obama’s Syria policy was much less a result of cold-hearted reasoning (as I had originally thought) than a result of reluctance to have a coherent policy. From the New York Times article, emotions that I simply did not consider in my analysis of Obama’s Syria policy: apathy, indecision, reluctance to act, and fear of taking responsibility, came to the forefront of the Times‘s presentation of the reasons for Obama’s Syria policy. Apparently, Obama’s reluctance to engage in decisive action in Syria in 2011-2012 was a result of certitude of a rebel victory until early 2013, a reluctance of mission creep, and a deep desire to avoid embarrassment for the inevitable clusterfucks that would result from taking decisive action. The 2013 turn-around came due to Samantha Power (and other Obama administration War Hawks)’s strong desire to salvage the remaining chance of a rebel victory. The main Obama administration proponent of the realist strategy for Syria followed by the Obama administration appears to be Denis McDonough.

In conclusion, Obama’s opposition to U.S.-sponsored regime change in Syria may stem from the words “U.S-sponsored” as much as from the words “regime change”. Contrary to my previous strong belief, Obama’s decision not to attack Syria may, in fact, have been influenced by the British House of Commons vote on August 29. I’m still left wondering whether Obama’s Underpants Gnome-style reasoning and refusal to present evidence for Syrian regime culpability for the August 21 attack (which did exist) was a deliberate strategy meant to convince the Saudis and Turks that America was trying to do something while convincing the American and British people that the strike proposal was a very stupid idea proposed by very dangerous people.

Israel Finkelstein Paper Suggests LB Collapse In Canaan Fueled by Drought

That’s apparently what the paper says. In any case, since the population of Canaan grew during the Late Bronze collapse [citation not needed], and olives could certainly be grown on the slopes of the hills of Samaria during the Late Bronze Age [citation not needed], in the case of Canaan, it seems that it was the end of Egyptian rule over Canaan and the corresponding sudden shift in social structure that led to the Late Bronze collapse and the revival of olive cultivation there. Things were probably different in the cases of Cyprus and the Alawite coast, and, possibly, the cases of Anatolia and Greece. I still hope to see the results from the Sea of Galilee core-they might be interesting.

A Book I’d Love to Read (or Write)

Fake book cover made by me based on this real one. Assad quote from here. Assad picture from here.

U.S. aiding al-Qaeda in Syria.

The YouTube claim.

Points against the “sectarian civil war” interpretation and in favor of the “class conflict” interpretation: most urban Sunnis in Damascus continue to oppose the rebellion, the first organized rebel massacres of Alawite civilians only occurred in August of this year (and even these massacres were done by groups with at least a large minority of foreigners), most fighters in Aleppo are of rural origin. I do, of course, understand that there is a sectarian element to this war (e.g., most Alawites and Druze are pro-regime, most rebels are Sunni), but to characterize the war as sectarian is to miss a pretty big point. The sectarian violence done so far is nothing compared to what would have happened had the regime collapsed in 2011. The war did not begin because Sunnis hated Alawites, and it is not continuing because Sunnis hate Alawites.

On survival of the Syrian regime still being important to U.S. interests and Obama understanding this-see this DailyKos article. The continued survival of the Syrian regime is the only thing keeping thousands of fighters outside the countries from where they came from. If the regime falls, rebel fighters causing trouble outside Syria are guaranteed.

More pro-regime combatants than civilians have died.

Points in favor of the claim that the civil war benefits U.S. interests: it has broken any Iranian dreams of becoming a major regional power, it decreases the militant Islamist threat in Iraq, it has distracted Syrian, Iranian, and Lebanese attention from Israel.

There are no viable non-military solutions to the conflict: this is self-explanatory. If the only provincial capital in which regime forces have been fully defeated is controlled by al-Qaeda, what more needs to be said?

The CSM Article on Qeiyafa

The article first describes excavation life at Qeiyafa. Hat tip to Luke Chandler. For some reason, the article accidentally leads us ask whether a coin “from the era of Alexander the Great” is from the “Mid-1st century BC.”. Not a good sign. The article uncritically reports that “David felled Goliath with a sling”. Again, not a good sign. Relevant excerpts of Israel Finkelstein’s words are artfully placed. The author of the article also bizarrely considers the author of Psalm 119 to be referring to the Bible when he speaks of God’s word. The article plays on names: Israel Finkelstein’s life story is described as paralleling that of the State of Israel, while Finkelstein speaks of David Ben-Gurion as being influenced by King David. The author gets the wild idea that Shiloh was “the ancient capital of Israel for more than 300 years before the Hebrew people built a temple in Jerusalem and enshrined it as the heart of their nation and religion”. Shiloh, of course, was neither “the” capital of Israel (it was a capital of a chiefdom; see Miller’s Chieftains of the Highland Clans, a book I am perpetually reading, but am never getting around to reviewing), nor Israelite for over 300 years before Solomon’s temple was supposedly built. Also, the “Hebrew people” simply did not have a “nation and religion” in the pre-Exilic era. Shiloh was founded in the 12th century BC (search the blog archives using the Google Custom Search feature on the sidebar). The article avoids error in regards to the history of United Monarchy-related 1990s academia. The article, as is to be expected, flops on the exact dating the Merenptah stele (“about 1205 BC” gives them partial credit). I did not know Amihai Mazar is retired before I read this article; I should have known on the day I started this blog. The reason I didn’t know is because Mazar is still writing articles. The article calls Bill Dever a “biblical archaeologist”, even though he famously rejected this title. The article mentions Indiana Jones, thus, automatically degrading its quality. The article further adds evidence to my conclusion that Garfinkel’s main objective in sensationalizing the Qeiyafa finds is achieving publicity. The author of the article neglects the fact the southern gate is a reconstruction. The article also uncritically reports Garfinkel’s claim that “Shaaraim” translates to “two gates” (it is merely the plural of “gates”). The article also uncritically claims that the Qeiyafa inscription is an “inscription containing Hebrew words such as judge and king” (which is possible, but uncertain). The article also claims, without evidence, that one of the Qeiyafa shrines reflects “a new type of architecture”.

The article quotes Amihai Mazar as stating “one cannot avoid asking whether scholars who are trying to deconstruct the traditional ‘conservative bias’ are not biased themselves by their own historical concepts”. However, over the years I have seen Israel Finkelstein to be perhaps the most objective person in all Jordano-Palestinian archaeology, anticipating trends that have or are surely bound to spread throughout the scholarly community well before they do spread throughout the scholarly community. For some reason, the article ends with the words “It’s adding substance to the biblical story.”. It would have been better to have a more objective ending.

Overall, I grade the article three stars for lacking a consistent and engaging theme, conclusion, and thesis. The article fails to extrapolate trends or anticipate new developments. Its persistent focus on Qeiyafa prevents it from being a terrible article and prevents it from being a comprehensive article with a wide scope.

My Qeiyafa video from last year (now with closed captions, which one can get by clicking on CC!).

Things Converge

It seems that Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi, one of the better commentators on the Middle East, whose site I first visited only several days ago, has linked to my transcript of Reza Aslan on the Daily Show (though he appears not to have read it or watched the relevant appearance; he refers to John Oliver as Jon Stewart). In his recent piece, al-Tamimi castigates Aslan for Alsan’s naivete regarding the threat of moderate/political Islamism. This piece is partially a product of pointless personal bickering, but it makes some good points.

Coincidentally, after I read some of Al-Tamimi’s pieces on his website, I read the first hundred pages of Andrew McCarthy’s Grand Jihad. Why a quarter of this book is available on Google Books (the missing intro is available on Amazon Look Inside), I know not. Though this book is illuminating, it suffers from repetitiveness and bizzarely nasty (and untrue) anti-Obama rhetoric. I give the first hundred pages three stars. The most useful resource the first hundred pages of this book have pointed me to is this real-life Islamist version of the Disco’ ‘Tute‘s Wedge Document.

U.S. Federal Government Shut Down, WordPress and This Blog Not So Much

As I am writing this, the U.S. federal government is in the first day of its state of shutdown. Numerous important U.S. government websites have been shut down. Thus, a lesson has been learned by me: confidence in the U.S. government’s ability to keep important webpages publicly accessible 24 hours a day, seven days a week, every day of the year, can be destroyed in a blink of an eye by sufficient political polarization. I have always preferred the state of political polarization that has existed since 2009 over the state of affairs that existed in FDR’s days (which I am not old enough to have witnessed) or the state of affairs that prevailed when Ayn Rand villain Paul Ryan gave a stirring monologue in support of the TARP. Any sound reform banning fractional-reserve banking would have been worth a few years of far more intense economic pain than we have witnessed. Though this blog has not been updated with a full-length post in over a week, at least this blog is still active. I am perpetually planning to write quality posts.