Former United Nations Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali is “heartbroken” by the New Year’s Eve Coptic Church terrorist bombing in Alexandria, Egypt. Boutros-Ghali—who was also Egypt’s foreign minister and a Copt—thinks Egypt has until now avoided “the scourge of sectarianism” that has plagued the rest of the Middle East. In order to stop any Christian-Muslim animosity in its tracks, he recommends strengthening “Egyptians’ sense of citizenship” and increasing diversity in the government while educating his countrymen on “Coptic culture and Christianity,” which, he thinks, “will spread tolerance.”
And while Tunisia remains in turmoil, bloggers are debating whether America had anything to do with the overthrow of President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali. Daniel Larison and Peter Beinart see it as a case of “benign neglect” that proves “democracy has legs” of its own, regardless of what Washington does. Lee Smith warns that “liberal democracy is not necessarily what follows once the despots have been driven out,” but wonders if Hillary Clinton’s remarks in Doha had anything to do with the Jasmine Revolution. But Abe Greenwald scoffs at the idea that the Obama administration actually cares about human rights.
Staying in Africa, New York Times intelligence-and-defense duo Mark Mazzetti and Eric Schmitt report at length about Blackwater (the infamous defense contractor, now called Xe) founder Eric Prince’s role “backing an effort by a controversial South African mercenary firm to insert itself into Somalia’s bloody civil war.” The South African mercanries, called Saracen International, has been helped by reportedly using Prince’s “international contacts to help broker” deals to protect United Arab Emirate business operations in Somalia. Saracen is run by Lafras Luitingh, a former member of “an apartheid-era internal security force notorious for killing opponents of the government.” And although Prince denies being tied to the venture financially, a January 12 African Union report said he “provided seed money for the Saracen contract.” Meanwhile, the “multimillionaire former Navy SEAL” has tried to reconfigure Blackwater into a piracy-fighting force, even going so far as to make a pitch (not well-received) that would have effectively “proposing to replace” the CIA’s “own in-house paramilitary force.”
Spencer Ackerman calls Prince’s return to the military-contractor game “a remarkable turn of events” after he had sold off Blackwater and moved to Abu Dhabi, claiming he was getting out of the business. Praire Weather thinks Saracen’s “very unsavory reputation” makes it a “perfect fit” for Prince and his crew. And if you like pirate stories, check out this news report about how South Korean commandos rescued a crew held captive by Somali buccaneers in the somewhat awkwardly named “Operation Dawn of Gulf of Aden.”
For another story making the blogosphere rounds, look at the before and after shots of this IED-laced Afghanistan town that the U.S. military leveled (and is now reportedly rebuilding). Joshua Foust finds it an “unforgivable horror” and Ackerman worries about the potential “backlash” provoked by similar operations. Lieutenant Colonel David Flynn responds to the criticism from Foust here, but Andrew Exum doesn’t think the LTC “actually” addressed Foust’s concerns. Foust and Exum also discuss the razing tactics at length in a “joint blog post.” And there’s more from Ackerman on the incident here.