Friday, January 28, 2011

Sparks around a creaking empire

"Leave, leave Mubarak!"

This is the sort of story that tends to disappear down the memory hole, so before it goes, here's what the paper of record tells us:

LAHORE, Pakistan — An American official appeared in court here on Friday on murder charges in the shooting deaths of two Pakistanis during an apparent roadside robbery attempt here. ...

Mr. Davis, who was attached to the American Consulate in Lahore, was shown on Pakistani television, dressed in a checkered shirt and jeans, being escorted by a phalanx of officers to a court in central Lahore. Mr. Sanaullah said that Mr. Davis spoke Urdu, the dominant language in Pakistan, which relatively few American officials speak.

Mr. Davis was driving a white rental car on the congested Jail Road in Lahore on Thursday afternoon when two men on a motorcycle tried to rob him, according to Pakistani police accounts. Mr. Davis shot the two men, police officials said. Police accounts initially differed on whether the two assailants were armed, but according to the official police report released Friday, the police found weapons on the dead men. Mr. Davis did not have a license to carry a weapon, the law minister said.

Mr. Davis called the consulate for help during the episode, and a four-wheel-drive vehicle that tried to come to his rescue hit and killed a third man, said a senior police official, Faisal Rana, on Thursday.

The American Embassy in Islamabad acknowledged in a statement that Mr. Davis was employed by the consulate but did not describe his position. Pakistani police officials described him in various statements as a “security official” or a “technical adviser.”

A possible explication of this rather sketchy account: a U.S. spook was driving in Lahore, a city of over 6 million people that is one of Pakistan's economic hubs, and acted like a cowboy when confronted with robbers. Though I imagine we'll buy our guy out, impunity for U.S. agents is badly eroded these days.

Meanwhile, here's Harvard international relations professor Stephen Walt looking at exploding developments in the countries of the southern and eastern Mediterranean:

... it begins to look like the U.S. position in the Middle East, which seemed so dominant after the fall of the USSR and the first Gulf War, is now crumbling. Hezbollah just formed a government in Lebanon, ... Iraq is now governed by a Shiite government with extensive links to Iran, and is denying the U.S. any future military role there. A democratic government in Turkey, while not anti-American, is charting an independent course. The Mubarak government in Egypt, long a close U.S. client, has been shaken, and even if it survives the current turmoil, its long-term status is up for grabs.

The problem is this: the United States has no idea how to deal with a Middle East where the voice of the people might actually be heard, rather than being subject to the writ of various aging potentates. ...

Aroused people -- maybe they want to run their own countries? -- keep taking to the streets. The empire creaks and complains, but may no longer have the power to impose its will.

We live in a time when people in the United States are going to have to notice that the era of U.S. world domination is over. Our rulers over-reached and their house of cards is falling. Most of us didn't want to dictate to the world anyway, though we didn't mind being loudly "NUMBER ONE!" either. Can we adjust gracefully? Can we help our rulers adjust as well?

UPDATE: The Egyptian government may have succeeded in taking the internet down within that country, but the live feed from Al Jazeera English has terrific pictures and some on the scene interviews.


tina said...

in lebanon things are not going the way the empire wants them to go. jeffery feltman and hilary clinton are rather in disarray :)

janinsanfran said...

I think Lebanon is benefiting from the US inability to attend to two places at once. :-)

Also most of Latin America ... same inability to put out all the fires at once.

tina said...

not exactly. we defeated the feltmans and clintons several days before the egyptians went to the streets. we are a small country that scares them if they don't control us completely. whoknowswhy! no no i know why: because they are just stupid and silly and narrow minded and racists and untrustworthy. we are after all ayrabs and we should be put on a leash.

Darlene said...

Sometimes I'm glad I am old and will not be here to see the debacle to come.

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