Blogs > Cliopatria > The Hamas "Surprise"

Jan 30, 2006 3:19 pm


The Hamas "Surprise"



Secretary of State Rice has admitted that the administration was caught by surprise by the Hamas triumph. I really, really find this mind boggling.

Here we are, over four years past 9/11, and we are led by people who have chosen to try to create political change in the Middle East but who still apparently have no understanding whatsoever of the way Islamic groups have legitimized themselves to their fellow Muslims and Arabs. They have done so by providing what we would call a “social safety net” that is far superior to that supplied by the government. They have also done so by being honest. Our government apparently never knew this or never understood its import. That is frightening.

So, the Palestinians have chosen honest government. We and other countries are choosing to cut off aid unless Hamas changes its stance against Israel. That’s a big threat economically, but from the standpoint of the Palestinian on the street, it may not matter much. In the past, they did not see all that much of the aid before the old leaders sucked it up. They might actually be better off with much less aid so long as it is better distributed.

One hopeful sign. Bush’s first public reaction --that Palestinians had rejected a corrupt status quo--suggested the beginnings of a greater understanding. I hope that understanding expands.

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Col Steve J - 1/31/2006

Sometimes there is value at looking the stated policy position:

"The survival of liberty in our land increasingly depends on the success of liberty in other lands. The best hope for peace in our world is the expansion of freedom in all the world. "

Whether that grand strategy is correct or how this Administration is executing such a strategy is worthy of debate.

and

"Freedom, by its nature, must be chosen, and defended by citizens, and sustained by the rule of law and the protection of minorities. And when the soul of a nation finally speaks, the institutions that arise may reflect customs and traditions very different from our own. America will not impose our own style of government on the unwilling. Our goal instead is to help others find their own voice, attain their own freedom, and make their own way."

2d inauguration speech - if you haven't read it, you should.

As for the US (and Israel) being surprised, one would think the Dec 2004 local elections would have provided some indications at the possible outcome.

"According to preliminary results, Fatah won a majority of council seats in 14 towns, while Hamas, participating for the first time in Palestinian elections, took control in nine communities... This is an outstanding result for Hamas,” said Palestinian analyst, Ali Jerbawi, a former head of the Palestinian Election Commission.

“The 26 localities were selected from the beginning according to strongholds of Fatah. So the results should have been more for Fatah than Hamas.”

A Hamas spokesman in Gaza, Sami Abu Zuhri, said the result was a reflection of strong support for the group.

After all, Secretary Rice did call on Hamas to participate this time after Hamas boycotted the Jan 05 elections. Yes, perhaps the US didn't get the desired results. However, this election should be viewed as an opportunity. Now, instead of being a non-state transnational group, Hamas will have to deal with being a state actor. Even Kofi Annan is getting in on the action. The cost of holding positions such as Hamas' policy for the destruction of Israel becomes greater now that Hamas is in power. Fatah may have to deal with the long standing internal problems that lead to its repudiation by the people.

When the voice of the people is allowed to speak, perhaps a different way will emerge.


John H. Lederer - 1/31/2006

I don't think that the criteria for when a demcocracy would be subject to being overthrown is any different than for a non-democracy. Roughly stated i think the criteria would be "threat to others" and "severe internal repression". Whether the United States should do the overthrowing, or support those who would, depends on US interests.

What makes a democracy different is not a change in criteria, but rather a lowered propensity to meet the criteria.

My point is that the assumption of lowered propensity is in part dependent on the electorate being at least minimally accurately informed. If one assumes a real democracy, then a populace that has bought into a passel of lies is a very dangerous thing.

A democracy can also be a very dangerous thing internally, if not balanced by the concept of individual liberty and rights.


Ralph E. Luker - 1/31/2006

But it _isn't_ slavery that you object to in the Palestinian result, is it? Nor in Saddam Hussein's Iraq or pre-9/11 Afghanistan. Right? If it were slavery you and the Prez objected to, American forces would have invaded Chad or the Sudan. Right? What range of things beyond slavery justify overturning democratic results in other countries' voting? Oil? Women's rights?


John H. Lederer - 1/30/2006

Sure, that is exactly true. If democracy produced, for instance, slavery in a country I would find it unacceptable. So would you, I suspect. Democracy is not a solution to all things.

Nor do I view "democracy" as meaning a one time election. The real test is probably in the second election.

Democracy can produce tyranny -- ask the Greeks or the Germans. However, as Churchill put it, it works better than the alternatives.

Liberty is a different matter, and liberty and democracy together can be very powerful.


Ralph E. Luker - 1/30/2006

It "works" when it produces results that are acceptable to you; it doesn't "work" when it produces results unacceptable to you. Right? Although that seems to be what the Bush administration had in mind, that's an unusual understanding of what democracy is.


John H. Lederer - 1/30/2006

Democracy will work, I suspect, in many of the countries of the Middle East, It will not work in some (Palestine would be a good example).

Curiously it seems that it may work best at the two extremes -- a relatively liberal society (Lebanon?) or one that has gone through the experience of being profoundly repressed (Iraq? Iran?)


Ralph E. Luker - 1/30/2006

Er, Mr. Lederer, did you just ignore the fact that I was referring to the naivete or the cynicism of the Bush administration -- not the Palestinian leadership -- or is there _no_ excuse for the Bush administration's case for war on behalf of democracy -- except that democratic choices have to be acceptable to the Bush administration.


Louis Nelson Proyect - 1/30/2006

John Lederer: Do you think it might also have something to do with a pervasive propaganda machine whose lies to the people, taught from elementary school right on up?

It would appear that Israelis are no sticklers when it comes to lying to the people:

http://peacepalestine.blogspot.com/2006/01/racist-attacks-by-rabbis.html


John H. Lederer - 1/30/2006

In the case of several countries, likely stupidity.

There does seem to be a point at which people, lied to long enough, become cynical and almost eager to accept new truths. I think of Eastern Europe. I suspect that an analysis of the local humor might give a surprisingly good indication of where they are on a continuum.

The compounding factor in the Mideast, of course, is religion.


John H. Lederer - 1/30/2006

And I did not mean to imply that there was not popular attraction to a fiscally honest government -- though I guess I have no reason to believe Hamas any more honest than the present government, other than the extreme difficulty in being as corrupt.


Now that I think of it that would be an honest platform for Democrats "Currently less corrupt than Republicans!" ( They could back it up by pointing out that they discontinued their formal bi-weekly meetings with lobbyists last month....)


Oscar Chamberlain - 1/30/2006

John

You do have a good point. When i said honesty, I probably should have said something like "honest dealing with the everyday Palestinian."

In retrosepct I realized that some people might have thought that I was idealizing Hamas by ignoring their "foreign policy," which indeed still centers on the destruction of Israel. That was not my intent. Instead it was to show that part of the reason they won was that they're the folks you can go to if you are poor and your child is sick, and to wonder why our peerless leaders did not seem to know that.


Barry DeCicco - 1/30/2006

"...They have done so by providing what we would call a “social safety net” that is far superior to that supplied by the government. They have also done so by being honest. "

Noi wonder this administration didn't understand things there.


Ralph E. Luker - 1/30/2006

For the purpose of discussion, Mr. Lederer, let's assume that the distortions and lies that you list have been inculcated in Palestinian children for a generation or more. Why, then, has this administration so relentlessly told us that democratic elections in Muslim countries would lead to peaceful settlements in the Middle East? Unbelievably naive, isn't it? Or, if you conduct war in the name of democracy, is it unbelievably cynical?


John H. Lederer - 1/30/2006

"...who still apparently have no understanding whatsoever of the way Islamic groups have legitimized themselves to their fellow Muslims and Arabs. They have done so by providing what we would call a “social safety net” that is far superior to that supplied by the government. They have also done so by being honest. Our government apparently never knew this or never understood its import. That is frightening.

So, the Palestinians have chosen honest government...."


Do you think it might also have something to do with a pervasive propaganda machine whose lies to the people, taught from elementary school right on up?


I know that, for instance, had I been brought up singing in school: “Do not fall asleep, jihad warrior, because justice never sleeps. Take your bullets with you and bring death .”

or had been taught as historical truth the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, and was told by my religious leaders that the souls of Jews transmigrated to pigs and mokeys, I might be more inclined to support a militant political party.

Hitler, as an example of a democratically supported tyrant, certainly benefitted from a massive New Deal type of economic program that worked, but a necessary part of his support was also the inculcation of falsehoods in the populace, particulalry the young.

I think one of the failures of our foreign policy for the last several decades has been the failure to recognize the importance of propaganda. Teaching a generation a pervasive set of lies is a way to defeat democracy and to initiate war.


David T. Beito - 1/30/2006

Very good point about the aid. Much of it was probably wasted or diverted anyway. Besides, Hamas could be in a better position to weather the storm because it has a long history of running its own is own social welfare organizations. I don't know, however, how many of these receive outside subsidies though I suspect Fatah got almost all of those.

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