Washington News Forum

*****We stand for freedom. That is our conviction for ourselves; that is our only commitment to others. John F. Kennedy***** ****** Email: newsfromwashington@yahoo.com

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Democracy in the Middle East! by Brett Dillahunt

Democracy in the Middle East!

(a.k.a. Getting Exactly What We Wished For)

by Brett Dillahunt

The Raging Liberal

Like it or not, President Bush's dream of democracy in the Middle East
is starting to bear fruit. Several times now, we have seen the photos
on the evening news of women in Iraq sporting the purple finger of
voting power. People upset with the corruption of the Fatah Party in
the Palestinian territories and throngs of people in Egypt recently
went to the polls to also make themselves heard.

Now when I said like it or not, I wasn't speaking of whether or not
liberals like myself have to grudgingly admit that Bush was right when
he went into Iraq to plant the seeds of democracy that would then
overthrow the old autocratic order of Middle Eastern monarchs and
dictators. I was speaking of those who work for the White House and
admire the President's foreign policy as I think they may well have
gotten exactly what they asked for.

Democracy is defined by two principles: universal suffrage and
majority rule. Iraq has held preliminary votes, a Constitutional
referendum and now a full-fledged Parliamentary election successfully,
and with little in the way of violence. Suffrage was mostly universal,
even for Saddam's old buddies (though turnout in the strife-ridden
Anbar Province was abysmal) and, well, the majority ruled. Shia were
elected by the score, including those with a decidedly zealous and
religious worldview, and came just short of winning an absolute majority.

Now, one might say that this is progress that seemingly all segments
of Iraqi society bought into the idea of elections, and showed up to
vote. OK, that's fine. Call it progress if you will and do a little
dance to celebrate. But the other idea they have bought into in Iraq,
at least among the majority Shia, is that now since they have won the
elections, there is little or no need to collaborate and compromise
with the other groups, particularly the hated Sunni minority. It was
as if, after this last election, Shia meant to say "Thanks for getting
rid of Saddam, thanks for introducing democracy, now get the hell out
of my country and let us finish this blood feud." To add insult to
injury, prominent Shia political leaders have now said earlier
statements they made about the Constitution later being open to
amendment and renegotiation, were only made in jest, and the issues of
federalism and the Constitution are not closed. You can stop dancing now.

In recent Palestinian elections, where turnout was also high and
campaigning fierce, the political wing of Hamas won a surprising and
convincing majority of the vote, shocking much of the West, who
apparently thought they had a perfect window into the Arab soul and
knew exactly how they would vote. Democracy wins again, right? Here's
where the Administration starts to awaken from its pipe dream of
American-style democracy in the Middle East.

They elected someone you don't like, who Israel doesn't like, and who
you both have labeled terrorists. Oops. Now what? Well, first I have
to chide the President a little bit… what did you expect?? That
Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza, after decades of oppression by
America and Israel, would elect a conservative Republican? They
elected a group that they believe speaks for them, that has not backed
down in the face of aggression and one that was not hopelessly corrupt
like the Fatah Party.

Now I'm not defending Hamas, endorsing the tactics of suicide bombers
or saying that this election is a great development in hopes of an
eventual Palestinian State. I am simply saying the results should not
be a surprise.

And what has been our reaction to democracy breaking out across the
Middle East? In Iraq we seem to be merely scratching our heads, out of
ideas for the moment as that country drifts slowly but surely towards
civil war and our allies abandon us. In the case of the Palestinians,
both Israel and the U.S. have, in a shrewd tactic to nurture the very
democracy we have sought to create, cut off all financial aid. Yeah,
cut `em off. I'm sure that will work. Because if history in the Middle
East has proven anything, it's that extreme Islam can hardly survive
in the midst of crushing poverty.

Many of us in America and Europe have been unable to comprehend the
outrage in the Muslim world over recent derogatory cartoons of the
Prophet Mohammed, viewing it as an overreaction or an example of the
inferiority of their culture. I think we should view it as yet another
example of how poorly we understand them, and as a symptom that
reveals the undercurrents of rage against the West that have been
fueled by policies of interventionism, and now in the case of
Palestine, economic isolation.

I made this case to a good conservative friend of mine last week. He
is a well-educated, thoughtful person who often brings me back down to
Earth when I'm off on a leftist rant. He more or less agreed that
Bush's policies in the Middle East have been dismal failures, but his
frustration with constant criticism against the President showed
through. "At least he tried to improve the situation there, instead of
ignoring it." That's something, I suppose. But then again if the best
defense of a foreign policy starts with the words "at least", maybe
it's time to hang it up.


Post a Comment

<< Home