Ukraine -- The interim president and Parliament have agreed to muster a Ukrainian National Guard which is to be put in place, as Chairman Oleksandr Turchynov said, "to protect the country and citizens." It is difficult to see an Ukrainian army, even when supplemented by a National Guard, that can stand up to the military might of Russia and its allies. But it may not have to.
One heroic stand may be all it takes to press the rest of the world to act in Ukraine's defense, and the National Guard is that martyr cohort. It may take great losses to the force before other nations decide to pull the trigger and help out, in fact, some would argue, the best thing the Ukrainian National Guard can do for the future of the nation is to fail heroically and publicly in a hail of bullets. We would mourn the losses, but national pride runs deep with those who remain on the side of Ukraine, and it is hard to believe that Ukrainian recruits have any illusions about the threat Russia poses not just to the individual solider but to Ukraine's national sovereignty.
This would be a little like the good folks of Wisconsin deciding to take up their deer rifles to fight the U.S. Military.
But do not count out the underdog, especially when there is so much at stake. On one side, Putin offers a future born from old-school KGB hard-line thought. On the other is the E.U. which offers the promise of greater autonomy in the region, and greater personal freedoms to the individual. If we reflect on our own revolution from the 'Great Red Bear of the East', it was farmers, writers and regular folks inspired by the hope of a better life for those who follow that defeated the overlord. Vegas would likely have laid odds against our Founding Brothers, and Vegas would likely lay odds against Ukraine today. But if this is Rocky IV, Ukraine is Balboa -- relevant in failure, diligent in training and ultimately, successful against tremendous odds.
Egypt -- The next stop on the roadmap to sociopolitical progress is presidential elections and Interim President Adly Mansour said this week that democratic elections would be held in two and a half months, and that at that point, he will gladly turn over the keys to Cairo. The last democratically elected leader -- who was also the first democratically elected citizen leader of Egypt -- was thrown out of office on July 3, 2013. The people of Egypt were unhappy with Morsi's fundamentalist associations, and Islamist leaning policies.
Egypt is desperate to become a bastion of peace in a North Africa which is increasingly peopled with Islamist extremists. To that end, following the ouster of Morsi, the citizens have taken to a military leader, Field Marshall Sisi, and he is expected to win a comfortable victory in the upcoming elections, although he has yet to formally announce his candidacy.
It is unknown right now if a military leader is what is best for Egypt. But violent protests and disputes between Islamic fundamentalists and freedom seekers spill onto the streets of Cairo with frequency. The people long for a break from the turmoil and to get about the business of building their nation as a free state. Ironically, the way forward for democracy and free market commerce may be best cleared by Sisi and his military leadership.
Libya -- A rebel militia that has taken over eastern crude export terminals loaded a crude cargo ship on Tuesday. The Libyan central government warned the rebels and all takers that vessels doing business with the rebels would be disabled. That is exactly what happened on Tuesday when Libyan Naval vessels with the help of Italian Navy ships detained the tanker.
This could be taken as a good sign as Libya desperately needs to reclaim massive lost oil revenues to begin the process of rebuilding that increasingly fragmented populace. But the action took place on the same day Libya's Parliament voted Prime Minister Ali Zeidan out of office. Zeidan was temporarily replaced by Defense Minister Abdullah al-Thinni.
Meanwhile, the people continue to coalesce around tribal and familial affiliations. Bands of armed youth and other dissidents are becoming commonplace in Libyan cities, towns and villages and the ouster of Prime Minister Zeidan gives the people no reason to have faith in the current national government. Note that the man called upon to replace PM Zeidan is a defense minister, suggesting martial law may not be far behind.
An armed citizenry that feels marginalized by what is seen as an ineffective government that cannot stop the financial bleeding may be scarier to Libyan leaders even than export terminals in the hands of what amount to oil pirates. The use of force against the oil tanker on Tuesday is a step in the right direction, and in North Africa, the best way to deal with pirates may be at the end of a gun.
Ukraine Dnieper Monument photo credit: Matt. Create. / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA
Egypt photo credit: omarroberthamilton / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA
Libya Photo credit: B.R.Q network/ Foter / CC
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