Thursday, January 26, 2006
Ramifications of Hamas victory
Two tests as to whether the eastern European experience can be replicated in the Middle East.
The first is the "radicals moderate when asked to govern" thesis, proven when ex-Communists in eastern Europe who opposed market reforms in opposition tended to see those reforms through once in power. But one can argue that the overall lure of joining the EU helped to sweeten the deal, and that there is no such incentive here.
The second is the "boycott" approach to democratic results we don't like. Done with varying degrees of success against Austria and Slovakia--but shunning governments in both countries was feasible to the extent that other major issues were not affected. The very future of the peace process is up for grabs here.
In the Winter 2005/06 issue of The National Interest. Dan Pipes hadn't been very sanguine about the "pothole theory of democracy", that the challenges of governing would lead Hamas to moderation.
Ray Takeyh and I argued in The Receding Shadow of the Prophet that Islamist movements generally have to adopt more moderate versions of their ideology to stay in power (AKP in Turkey, IAF in Jordan), but the Monitor piece notes concerns in more cosmopolitan areas like Ramallah about what exactly a Hamas government might do to promote Islamic values.
Hamas Wins - Now What?
As has been obvious in other parts of the world, the “upset” win of Hamas in the Palestinian elections again demonstrates the lack of negative correlation between democracy and terrorism. Of course some might say that Hamas will moderate itself after coming to power. Maybe it might. But the point is that given the choice, a people elected a fundamentalist group that has been declared a terrorist group by much of the outside world.
Yet another data point that suggests that the heavy weightage given to democracy as a weapon against terrorism needs to be reconsidered.
Next thing you know, they become the Taliban or the Mullahs and start stringing folks up for flying kites, being gay, or for playing pop music.
the key for democracy to work is that the voters have another opportunity to vote for change. Hamas has been known for their charities as well as their rhetoric. Now they will find out running a state is not like running a soup line. The PA has wasted hundreds of millions of dollars due to incompetance and corruption. Hamas will be less corrupt but more incompetent as they start to lay out cultural laws in alignment with their vision.
I guess this means I'm predicting a "soft landing" with Hamas going moderate (and hence movement towards peace), or a political and economic collapse, or maybe even a civil war. (If I have missed any possibilities, please let me know, as I want to be able to say I forecast this one correctly.)
They now control the Palestinian government. This is an oustanding victory for them. Hamas is legitimized like it or not. This is the utopian democracy the Bush government warmongers and profiteers promised, and now we all have to live with the fiery consequences.
Hamas did not achieve this victory by moderating anything, and certainly not it's positions on Israel, or by changing any of the stated objectives of Hamas.
Anyone attempting to prettify this situation is ignoring - yet again factbasedreality, - and blindly holding to the hollow empty meaningless and moot promises of visionary hopes of spreading democracy in ME by attacking, occupying, plundering, and profiteering in Iraq.
The NYT mentions today that in Palestine, Iran, Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, and Iraq - Islamists, and in most situations armed and well practiced militia's backing those islamist won elections in all these countries.
Is this what the Bush government promised? Is this Hamas victory worth the 2300 dead, and more that 17,000 injured US soliders, and billions unaccounted for US tax payers dollars wasted in Iraq?
Hardline Islamists are on the march and winning the day in the ME, and the visionary hopes and hollow promises of freedom democracy dead; drowned in the oceans of blood and treasure wasted on the Bush government war of choice in the land of the two rivers.
The world is wildly divided. What unified group will work to solve this crisis? Israel,
America, the EU, Russia, China, the emerging socialist governments in South and Central America? Upon what logic and based on what factbasedreality could anyone imagine any improvement in resolving the Palestinain situation?
All the old alliances are realigning and disintegrating. New alliance are forming and entrenching and Hamas has just entered the big leagues.
The Bush government and by proxy America is loathed on almost every street in every nation on the planet, and with good - very well documented and justified reasons. America has no credibilty and absolutely zero legitmacy or capability to resolve negotiated peaceful settlements with any nation.
The possibilities of what could have been possible after Arafats demise, and without the Bush governments unnecessary slaughter, ruthless plunder, and wanton profiteering in Iraq will never be known. But the situation could certainly not be worse.
What we do know, and what all realists - and even pedestrians clearly understand now, - is that in Palestine, Iran, Eqypt, Syria, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, and quite obviously in Iraq - Islamists have the support of the respective populations, and America is universally loathed and powerless and impotent in advancing freedom or real democracy.
And what we see emerging in the ME, and the dynamics and realities our children will inheret are not likely to evolve into something positive for America and certainly not for Israel.
Painting lipstick on this pig, and pretending there will be "a soft landing", or "moderation", or that all these "terrorist groups, jihadist militia's, wahabi imams and islamist theocrats will somehow miraculously conform to the visionary delusions of the Pax American pipedreams, or that there will somehow, someway, someday be other opportunities to vote in new leadership after some future collapse - is both absurd in light of past and present factbasedreality, - and dangerous in the total lack of comprehension or appreciation of the combustable dynamics of the ME.
The Muslim world has not had a victory in 1000 years, and now in the last three years - the extremist elements of islam, - jihadists, wahabists, and shi'a militias and theocrats can legtimately claim for their disempowered followers four or five monumental successes, and shattering victories largely thanks to the Bush governments brutish hubris, predatory imperialism, wanton profiteering, and grotesque mismanagement.
The Palestinian solution is far more complex than the simpletons and complicit parrots in the MSM reveal or bother reporting.
Negotiating solutions and agreements to regional water rights, Jerusalem, and the ancient tribal and religious animosities ripping at the soul of the entire region is tricky work and will require brave, wise, humane, and tolerant leadership - which history past and present has repeatedly PROVEN precludes any involvement with or from Hamas, Hesbollah, or the Shia' militia's or Ayatollahs, or Wahabi Imams', or the warmongers and profiteers in the Bush government.
The heat and enertia in the ME is building furiously, not dissapating, - and all the vectors are moving in the wrong directions.
The ME is massive powder keg ready blow, - and it is only a question of who lites the fuse, when and how, - not if.
1. By virtue of winning a majority, Hamas now holds responsibility for conditions among Palestinians and faces expectations for improvements. the harder the line taken by Hamas, the less likely the prosepcts for this.
2. The PA is dependent on the rest of the world for funding (including Israel, which collects taxes for the PA).
3. Moderation would also reduce the chances of a civil war among the Palestinians themselves, a war that is not in Hamas' interest if they hope to keep their grip on power.
In sum, it's one thing to take a radical hardline position when you are out of power, and another to take it when you're in. Obviously there are also pressures in the opposite direction, but hard-nosed realism suggests that the situation is uncertain. You are only looking at one side of the coin, so to speak...and the coin still hasn't landed.
Obviously, Hamas must achieve some standing and legitmacy in the real world beyond that of a terrorist organization to negotiate any terms.
The election victory proves their legitimacy with Palestinians, but what they, do and how they act in from this point forward is the core question, and I personally do not see them moderating their core positions.
Rather, Hamas is likely to seek and entrench alliances with other nations and organizations more aligned with the goals and objectives dear to Hamas and other Islamist or jihadists than with goals important to America or certainly Israel.
And we are all basically powerless now because of America's woeful lack of credibility to counter this trend.
Either we appease Hamas by throwing money in their direction (and painting the bribery in some acceptable way to our populations), or more likely Hamas is going to follow the vectors perfected by Iran, Syria, Saudi Arabia, and NK, - talk, manipulate the political situation, work side deals, sabber rattle, talk, manipulate the political situation, work side deals, sabber rattle....
In the end, this is a victory for Islamists and a resounding defeat for socalled democratists.
The main contention I make is that since we do not have a functioning democracy in America, and the Bush government has perverted and re-engineered the very idea of democracy - and since the Bush government operates as a totalitarian dictatorship above and beyond the law, accountable to no one, and because the Bush government breaks our own laws repeatedly and insistantlly - America has no standing, legitimacy, or credibility in dictating to or influencing socalled 'democratic' principles in any nation on this wild and violent planet.
In a world where the laws do not apply to leaders, where the leaders are corrupt, predatory, deceptive, and fascist - there are in effect - no laws and no rules.
This is the way of the gun.
The entire ME has proven that the way of the gun succeeds for the disempowered, the oppressed, and the disadvantaged.
What will change their thinking or why would they adopt any other line.