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Dunsmore: A Safer Future?

12/30/11 7:55AM By Barrie Dunsmore
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(Host) The year 2011 will be remembered as not a very good one for dictators and terrorists. Yet, as commentator and retired ABC News diplomatic correspondent Barrie Dunsmore tells us this morning, the jury is still out on whether the overthrow of these villains will make our world appreciably safer.

(Dunsmore) If the attempt to assassinate Adolf Hitler in July 1944 had been successful, World War II would likely have ended soon thereafter. There would then have been no further mass destruction of British and European cities - with perhaps millions of lives saved. Europe might still have ended up divided between the West and the Soviet Union, but the dividing line would have been considerably closer to Russia – affecting the nature of the Cold War. In short, Hitler’s death in the summer of ‘44 would have significantly changed the course of history.

In 2011, the dictators Mubarak of Egypt, Gaddafi of Libya and Ben Ali of Tunisia, who collectively ruled for more that a hundred years, were forced from the scene by popular revolts. North Korean dictator Kim Jong Il died suddenly of a heart attack. And arch terrorist Osama Bin Laden was killed by U.S. Navy SEALS in Pakistan.

Some of these men may have equaled Hitler’s malevolence, though none had his capacity to inflict so much universal pain. Yet it is still quite remarkable that as we begin 2012 it can not be stated with certainty that the world will be a better place without this wicked quintet.

Bin Laden may have imagined himself as the principal strategic thinker of al Qaeda. But while in hiding for nearly a decade in fear for his life, he had ceased to be much more than the figurehead of his infamous terror network. His death settled scores for many Americans – but al Qaeda remains an ideological force for a relatively small group of Islamic extremists.

In North Korea - now a nuclear power - the Kim dynasty continues. With no military background, number three son Kim Jong-un was made a four star general by his father, shortly before his death. But so far the succession is proceeding smoothly. As China is North Korea’s main benefactor, and China wants stability on the Korean peninsula, no imminent changes are expected.

Tunisia has had parliamentary elections, and a moderate Islamic party won the most of the votes. In Libya, thousands of Gaddafi’s dangerous weapons remain unaccounted for. Libya has no history of democratic institutions and is beset by tribalism. It does, however, have oil which may help it find some equilibrium.

Then there is Egypt – the most important Arab country. The young, secular liberals who led last spring’s revolution have not done well in early rounds of parliamentary elections. The Muslim Brotherhood and the ultra-conservative Salafists have taken about two thirds of the vote, raising fears among moderates. Yet thousands of women and conservative Islamists joined together in demonstrations against the army for recently stripping and beating women protesters.

Meanwhile, the ruling Supreme Military Council continues to send out conflicting signals about its willingness to cede power to any elected civilian body. A presidential election is scheduled for next July; but that, too, like everything else in Egypt right now, remains uncertain.

Happy New Year!
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