Friday, January 27, 2006
Hamas aftereffects, U.S./India and Iran
Steve Weisman in the New York Times looks at how the election results complicate Bush's goal of spreading democracy in the Middle East.
And on another subject we've been following here at the Washington Realist, the attempts by India to compartmentalize its relations with Washington and Tehran. In today's International Herald Tribune, a short piece on how ties between India and the United States are being being "tested over Iran".
From Marco's piece:
Athough Hamas' electoral victory stunned the international community, it was perhaps less shocking to ordinary Palestinians tired of a culture of corruption, principally institutional; the vicious cycle of violence, inefficiency and neglect it promotes; and the destructive political, social and economic consequences it engenders. The result was even more understandable in Gaza, where lawlessness has prevailed since Israel's withdrawal last August and immediately preceding the recent elections. Throughout the campaign, Hamas stuck firmly to its message, while Fatah tore itself asunder through factionalism and a split between the older and younger guard. Despite last-minute reconciliation, it was unable to recover. A vote for Hamas may not necessarily be considered a vote for its platform, but rather a vote for change and against the status quo.
In the first legislative elections since 1996, Hamas secured a comfortable majority of 76 seats in the 132-seat legislature, allowing it to form a government and avoid forging a coalition. With 43 seats, Fatah goes into opposition and has no other option but to redefine itself through a younger generation of leaders. A fundamental question is whether dogmatism or pragmatism will prevail in a new Hamas government. Many suspect that the sobering reality and often corrupting influence of power will distance a new Hamas government from the exuberant rhetoric of the campaign and the inebriating euphoria of victory.
The dominant question is how to deal with a government controlled by a movement labeled as terrorist by Israel, with whom the Palestinians must negotiate to secure a state; by the Europeans, who provide the majority of Palestinian aid; and by the United States, the ultimate guarantor and broker of any final settlement.
Despite scattered incidents of violence, the cease-fire declared by Hamas over a year ago has held for the most part. However, Hamas is unlikely to renounce its commitment to the destruction of Israel anytime soon or to sit with Israelis at a negotiating table to pursue peace talks, or vice-versa. Despite the terrorism branding, Hamas enjoys a reputation for clean government and as an efficient provider of social services among many ordinary Palestinians. However, much of Hamas' credibility also derives from its refusal to recognize Israel or its right to exist. For many on Israel's far right, the Hamas victory was a blessing to permanently terminate the current peace process. For the U.S., EU and Israel's center and left, the election outcome was the worst case scenario.
With a newfound popular mandate, Hamas will focus on desperately needed domestic reform to ensure political consolidation within its grass-roots, among ordinary Palestinians and any remaining skeptics. Hamas is thinking long-term, that is, life beyond the current peace process, whether successful or not, and replacing Fatah as the Palestinians' mainstream political party.
Barring targeted assassinations by Israel, Hamas is likely to continue its cease-fire for the time being and leave the public role of peace talks to Palestinian Authority President, Mahmoud Abbas, while exerting influence from behind. Ironically, the Hamas victory could eventually prove an asset to Abbas. As the only Palestinian official that Israel is likely to deal with publicly, Abbas may increase his leverage temporarily with reduced pressure from a demoralized Fatah, plagued by internal squabbles. In the short-term, the presence of Abbas as PA president is crucial in Hamas' quest for international legitimacy. In the long-term, Hamas may consider Abbas as an expendable figure whose final mission in political life is reaching a final settlement with Israel, an immensely difficult task that is unlikely to meet the expectations of the Palestinian public. From Hamas' perspective, the best and safest approach may be to distance and disassociate itself publicly from negotiations in order to avoid any negative consequences, risks or fallout from any final deal, or failure to achieve one. Should Abbas secure a positive outcome, let him bask in his moment of glory since his age will not present any long-term political threat to Hamas. If negotiations fail or a “bad deal” is reached, Abbas must bear the historical burden of having “sold out” the Palestinians.
As Chaulia writes in the article: The political balance sheet between India and Saudi Arabia is what makes the recent state visit befuddling. For decades the repressive House of Saud has been buying loyalty at home by diverting terrorism towards external targets and financing the spread of rabid Wahhabi ideology of holy war. Pick a place on the geographical map of modern jehad - Palestine, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Kashmir, Chechnya, Bosnia, Tajikistan, the Philippines, Kosovo, Algeria, Sudan, Thailand, Indonesia or Bangladesh - and a Saudi connection will automatically surface. Worldwide, Saudi-financed Islamic institutions and schools have come under the scanner for spreading religious hatred and destabilising multicultural states.
India has been at the receiving end of Saudi governmental and citizen initiatives to bankroll terrorist outfits active in Kashmir.
At the same time, in the real world though:
The latter is India's biggest supplier of crude, accounting for almost a quarter of its fuel imports, and host to 1.5 million Indian migrant workers who send back remittances worth an estimated $4 billion per annum. Indian petrochemical, pharmaceutical, IT and telecom companies are licensed operators in the desert kingdom, generating annual business worth $360 million
Chaulia also postulates that A behind-the-scenes American role in propelling the Saudi-Indian Strategic Energy Pact cannot be ruled out because of the Iran connection
Now that would be a really weird twist: India getting nudged away from a sponsor of terrorism, Iran, into the arms of a nation that has been a behind the scenes source of ideology and funds that have driven much of the terrorism in India, as well as in other nations.
And much as I try, I just don't see where democracy fits into any part of this.
The Hamas victory is a perfect illustration of the foolishness of promoting democracy as a good thing in itself. Democracy makes sense only when embedded in a liberal institutional framework of respect for individual rights and limited government.
The dynamics of this worlds are driven by economic interests and those economic interests are pathologically dependent on oil to fuel the machinery of the worlds political powers.
The Bush government duplicitous and oleaginous machinations and intermingling with Saudi Arabia has already and will to continue to undermine America's long-term security and prosperity.
That said, democracy is only a word.
The ideas, concepts, and constructs central to structure of government termed a democracy amount to nothing more than air unless girded and supported by the practical application of principles, laws, and the mechanics of government that define democracy in and by nations proclaiming to promote democracy.
In a previous thread, a suggestion was offered that the world (and particularly America) must take the time and energy to actually define what exactly constitutes democracy, for there to be any progress in the promotion or understanding of democracy anywhere.
Since the basic idea of democracy has been so mangled and shapeshifted over time, and is no longer applicable in the real world, it is now necessary for intelligent leaders to formulate guidlines and stated criteria describing and defining this thing called democracy.
The world (and particularly America) will then be stunned by the grim reality that there are very few funtioning democracy's on this planet.
Most shattering is the sad factbasedreality that America, - the former shining example and beacon of hope for democracy - no longer a functioning democracy.
America's once more perfect union is being ruthlessly perverted, dismembered, deconstructed and re-engineered into a totalitarian dictatorship commandeered by fascist cabals in the Bush government operating in secret, without the peoples consent or right to petition the government for redress of grievances, and above, beyond, outside, and in total disdain of the rule of law and core principles that formally defined America's unique experiment in democracy.
Ergo, there is no such thing as democracy in the old traditional sense of the word.
That "word" is tussled about and parroted flippantly and frequently, - but the actual practical application of democracy - a government deriving it's powers from the consent of the people is exceptionally uncommon anywhere, and totally absent in America.
There is no such thing as a perfect democracy, and the various imperfections in most democracies all add to the deviations from the theory that democracy is some kind of magic bullet. Mark Helprin points that out in a recent article:
It isn't that democracies are too old or too young or too fat or too thin, but that none is perfect and that, therefore, all are subject to forces that may override the theoretical peacefulness of representative governments.
The far graver danger however is the purposefull and malicious maniupation, obfuscation, distortion, dismembering, and destruction of language and terms (democracy in the case) with the specific intent of deciet.
The Bush government is expert in the blackart of doublespeek. "Clear Sky's Act", No Child Left Behind Act", The Patriot Act, and particularly the use of the term democracy. In each instance the Bush government intentionally and maliciously uses terms and language that mean one thing to the people in theory or principle, - but that in actual practical application and prosecution by the Bush government are something entire different.
Attacking and occupying a soveriegn nation that posed no threat and did not provoke such extreme action, - slaughtering thousands of innocent that nations people, plundering that nations resources, attempting to erect a puppet government on the people of that nation picked by and beholden to occupying force, profiteering wantonly from the war, occupation, and socalled reconstruction of that nation based on a festering litany of exaggerated, manipulated, and/or patently FALSE justifications is tyranny - not liberation, and predatory imperialism not democracy.
I accept your point about the "imperfections" of the concept of democracy, but ask that you recognize mine - that the Bush government has intentionally and maliciously perverted, dismembered, and destructed the concept of democracy in practical application and the prosecution of the bloody, costly, unnecessary, war of choice in Iraq while - pimping - I mean mass marketing democracy as an intentionally decietful, and deceptive justification.
My point is that the Bush government has so perverted, retarded, morphed, and mangled the term and concept of democracy, while advancing and prosecuting fascist and imperialist machinations - that the word democracy no longer has any meaning, or validity.
Mark Helprin ends his article with this haunting, but telling line - "In foreign policy, carelessness and confusion often lead to tragedy. Thus, a maxim chosen to guide the course of a nation should be weighed in light of history and common sense.
Or is that too much to ask?