Daniel Pipes: The Hamas electoral victory ... Democracy's bitter fruit

Roundup: Historians' Take

Now that Hamas has apparently won the Palestinian elections, the West is hoist with its own petard.

On the one hand, Hamas is a terrorist group that unabashedly targets Israeli civilians and calls for the elimination of the Jewish state. On the other hand, it just won what observers deem to have been a reasonably fair election, and so enjoys the legitimacy that comes from the ballot box. Every foreign ministry now confronts a dilemma: Nudge it to moderation or give up on it as irredeemably extremist? Meet with Hamas members or avoid them? Continue to donate to the Palestinian Authority or starve it of funds?

This double bind is of our own making because, with Washington in the lead, virtually every Western government adopted a two-prong approach to solving the problems of the Middle East.

The negative prong consists of fighting terrorism. A "war on terror" is underway, involving military forces in the field, toughened financial laws, and an array of espionage tools.

The positive prong involves promoting democracy. The historical record shows that democratic countries almost never make war on each other, and tend to be prosperous. Therefore, elections appear to be what the doctor ordered for the maladies of the Middle East.

But that combination has failed this troubled region. The first functional election in the Palestinian Authority has thrown up Hamas. In December, 2005, the Egyptian electorate came out strongly for the Muslim Brotherhood, a radical Islamic party, and not for liberal elements. In Iraq, the post-Saddam electorate voted in a pro-Iranian Islamist as prime minister. In Lebanon, the voters celebrated the withdrawal of Syrian troops by voting Hezbollah into the government. Likewise, radical Islamic elements have prospered in elections in Saudi Arabia and Afghanistan.

In brief, elections are bringing to power the most deadly enemies of the West. What went wrong? Why has a democratic prescription that's proven successful in Germany, Japan and other formerly bellicose nations not worked in the Middle East?

It's not Islam or some cultural factor that accounts for this difference; rather, it is the fact that ideological enemies in the Middle East have not yet been defeated. Democratization took place in Germany, Japan, and the Soviet Union after their populations had endured the totalitarian crucible. By 1945 and 1991, they recognized what disasters fascism and communism had brought them, and were primed to try a different path.

That's not the case in the Middle East, where a totalitarian temptation remains powerfully in place. Muslims across the region – with the singular and important exception of Iran – are drawn to the Islamist program with its slogan that "Islam is the solution." That was the case from Iran in 1979 to Algeria in 1992 to Turkey in 2002 to the Palestinian Authority this week.

This pattern has several implications for Western governments:

Slow down: Take heed that an impatience to move the Middle East to democracy is consistently backfiring by bringing our most deadly enemies to power.

Settle in for the long run: However worthy the democratic goal, it will take decades to accomplish.

Defeat radical Islam: Only when Muslims see that this is a route doomed to failure will they be open to alternatives.

Appreciate stability: Stability must not be an end in itself, but its absence likely leads to anarchy and radicalization.

Returning to the dilemma posed by the Hamas victory, Western capitals need to show Palestinians that – like Germans electing Hitler in 1933 – they have made a decision gravely unacceptable to civilized opinion. The Hamas-led Palestinian Authority must be isolated and rejected at every turn, thereby encouraging Palestinians to see the error of their ways.

Read entire article at National Post

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Al Mubeen - 1/31/2006

Elections are bringing to power "the most deadly enemies of the West"
Who .......?Muslims???

Defeat radical Islam: Only when Muslims see that this is "a route doomed to failure" will they be open to alternatives.
Which route do you mean .......Islam
Dear Sir/Mam
What you perceive to be true is not the truth . Whenever you attack
sb/sth it will be more appropriate to look at the underlying philosophy ,I mean Islam not to take some followers as examples.
And what makes you know What Islam is?

Frederik Treue - 1/30/2006

Correct post, wrong page.... sorry :-)

Frederik Treue - 1/30/2006

While I agree that hamas' victory is a bad thing, I think you overlook an important point:

From the viewpoint of the palestinians, choosing hamas makes sense: The fatah movement has had 12 years of absolute majority in the parliament and has got very little to show for it - they have negociated with Israel, but every single plan involving a sustainable palestinian state has failed, mostly due to lack of will on the part of the israelies (or, at least, this is how the typical palestinian voter sees things).

Hamas, on the other hand, has through the use of sucide bombings, been able to force Israel out of the gaza strip - even the israeli right wing admits that, without the bombings, Israel probably would not have withdrawn. We have to remember that allthough WE see these bombing as acts of terror (as they indeed are), the palestinians are under occupation and therefore primed to accept such things in what they see as a war of liberation.

Add to this that many palestinians sees the west in general, and the US in particular, as allies of Israel, and the fact that we made it clear that we would be very angry with them, should they elect hamas to the government, and hamas' victory was almost given - This problem is of our making indeed!

As for what to do now there is only one sensible course of action: eat our pride and talk with the hamas, however evil we may see them as. If we don't (and, as you suggest, isolate the palestinians) we'll show ourselves as hypocrites in the eyes of the arab public, and therefore wipe out liberal political groups (i.e. forces supportive of western ideas) throughout the arab world (e.g. Iraq) even more than they allready are. Hamas has kept up a cease fire for one and a half year now - we must hope that they continue to do so and that they become more responsible (i.e. give up the armed fight, at least for an indefinate period) now that they have political power.

If they do, all's well - Arafat (and many others, such as Nelson Mandela) was once "terrorists", and we learned to talk to them - let's not give up hamas without trying. However, there is a very real risk that they don't, and that the radical, militant wing of hamas will win through: if THAT happens, we must, _and_can_, isolate the palestineans - the message to the arab public will then be "suicide bombings (terror) will not be tolerated", rather than "no, wrong government, try again", and we'll be making things harder for the islamists, rather than easier.