Still Pissed Off About the Hawley-Smoot Tariff

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Another Unnoticed Triumph

I wrote a couple of posts on the recent peaceful coup in Mauritania, which even the Bush administration now apparently tentatively supports. I was stunned how little reaction to the story I saw in the blogosphere. When we think War on Terror, we generally think of Iraq, Afghanistan, and their immediate neighbors (e.g. Syria and Iran). But as Richard Miniter convincingly argued in his book Shadow War, North Africa has a tremendously important role to play in how that war turns out, at the very least because the sub-Saharan region is a great place for Islamic militants to hide out. (Miniter goes further, and argues that Osama bin Laden is hiding there now).

While the Mauritania story clearly has yet to be played out, and there's no way to decide how it will end, so far we have some indications that things might be looking up (e.g., favorable reports from AU envoys, the U.S. softening its condemnation of the coup, the installation of a prime minister who before was posted in a Western nation, and most importantly, a promise that no one involved in the coup will run for election).

Meanwhile, right next door we have a positive development among Morocco, Algeria and Western Sahara. The Polisario Front, a guerilla group that (I'm going by memory here, so pardon me if I miss some details) helped in the civil was that split Morocco and Western Sahara, has held over four hundred Moroccans as prisoners in souther Algeria for the past 30 years. Last Thursday, the released all of them. Why?

"Their release follows mediation by the United States and removed one of the obstacles to peace for the Western Sahara region."

Score a political/diplomatic victory for the U.S. Ah, that explains why I haven't heard more about it, I suppose.

Of course, that's no excuse for conservative bloggers who like to point out positive developments in the War on Terror. Diplomatic resolution of conflicts, in a region that sees very little by way of diplomacy or resolution of conflicts, is a nice riposte to liberal arguments against establishing democracy in certain nations. It's really a shame this isn't getting more press.

Also: this guy has more background on the conflict between Western Sahara and Morocco. And an interesting observation about Arab objections to occupation.