National Commentary

Leadership Troubles Middle East

The strongmen leaders in the Middle East and North Africa are finished – one way or another. Some of them fight on, while others have fallen by the wayside.

The strongmen leaders in the Middle East and North Africa are finished – one way or another. Some of them fight on, while others have fallen by the wayside.

The wide-spread popular revolt against them is real and warrants the support of the democracies throughout the world – not necessarily military help, but all kinds of other support.

There is no doubt the dictators have heard their death knell. But some cling to power, despite the inevitable personal costs and the slaughter of hundreds of their countrymen.

The worst of the lot at the moment is Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Like father, like son, Hafez al-Assad slaughtered 10,000 Syrians several years ago in the city of Homs. The 45-year-old Assad has killed hundreds of the opposition, apparently with little remorse. He now claims 120 of his defenders have been killed in the fighting. The rebels doubt this number.

Assad’s offers of amnesty and reforms have not been taken up by the resistance, who are demanding that he step down.

The Middle East dictators, who are now targeted, have ruled as many as 40 years and dictated that they be succeeded by their eldest sons when they decided to cede power. But that is apparently not going to happen.

The dictators in Syria, Libya, Yemen and Bahrain have assumed long dictatorial power. How dated can they be? Egyptian, Tunisian and Yemeni leaders all abused their powers. Yemen President Ali Abdullah Saleh was wounded in an attack on his home, and exited for Saudi Arabia for medical care and exile. These departures, while heralded, have left vacuums of power, and worry the Western World as to who will replace them. Nevertheless, the people in these countries are celebrating.

On the other side of the coin, the protesters in the region who are shouting for democracy and freedom have the problem of no consolidated leadership or effective strategies for their future. Their grab of new power is spontaneous but chaotic, sometimes leaving the struggle to rival groups who retain primitive tribal views. They need great leaders with the same goals.

Still to be toppled is the well-armed Muammar Gaddafi, as well as Assad, and their henchmen. Gaddafi still controls Tripoli, but the resistance has set up a new government in Benghazi. Like a hunted man, Gaddafi is hanging on to power.

It’s interesting enough that the internal revolutions have started with one human tragedy. There was the fruit and vegetable vendor in Tunisia, who was so proud of his wares, and was publicly slapped in the face by a woman officer who demanded to see his license to sell. He immolated himself after trying to report the incident to higher authorities. The Tunisians were outraged and exposed their long sufferings from authoritative rule. They had had it, and ousted their leader.

In the case of Syria, a 13-year-old boy who joined the rebels was tortured and murdered by the Syrian police. And so aroused the Syrians that the tragedy gave them a new impetus to seek to overthrow Assad’s rule. They have not achieved their goal yet, but Assad is on borrowed time.

Syria’s brutal reprisals against its own people are so shameful that it is clear Assad has to go. Although much was expected of him as a young successor of his brutal father, and the fact that he was Western-educated, has been a great disappointment.

There is no question that if the revolutionaries prevail throughout the Middle East and North Africa, it will be a much better and more peaceful world. So it behooves the current democracies to help the rebels to overthrow their tyrants, but not with more troops. We are thankfully gradually withdrawing from Afghanistan and Iraq. But the resistance in Syria and other places in the Middle East needs support in armaments and strategic planning. They also need to organize for their future governments to truly achieve freedom and democracy.

Too many uprisings in the Middle East have failed by being taken over by little colonels who use and abuse their military power. Such has been the case in the region after the creation of the State of Israel, putting fear in the populace and calling for the need of military security to block the continued expansion of the much stronger, and U.S. aided and abetted, Israel.

Let’s hope real leadership is developed in the region to put them on the right track.