Friday, January 27, 2006

Shock? Naw.

As one who is admittedly ignorant of the nuances of Mideast history and politics, I nevertheless fail to see, based on what I know, why anyone is shocked by the Palestinian election results. On one side we had a famously corrupt, occasionally literally entrenched ruling party that has failed in its stated mission at nearly every agonizing step. (Corrupt yet clearly incompetent: what corrupt ruling party worth their salt would fail to rig an election in their favor?) As if that were not enough, Fatah also had our open support, which is usually unwelcome by Western European parties let alone those in the Mideast. On the other side, we had a well-organized, sufficiently popular movement that has provided social services to its “constituents” and appears at least to be less corrupt.

For the purposes of this discussion the horribly wrong reasons for Hamas’ popularity are beside the point, as is the question of how corrupt it may or may not be. The important thing is how Hamas and Fatah are viewed by the Palestinian electorate, which, it is sometimes forgotten, had the right to make the decision for themselves as they saw fit, not as we or the Israelis or anyone else see fit.

This is just one more attempt by history to get a word in edgewise and state, once more, that democratic elections are not the be-all and end-all of sociopolitical development as we seem to see it. Wherever did anyone get the idea that democratic elections always have good results (i.e., good for us or even the electorate in question)? Germany 1933 has been dragged out so many times its handles are starting to come off, and just look what it does to the floor. A more recent, though shoddily constructed, example is Serbia 1992. The framers of our Constitution saw the danger clearly and took what they thought to be the necessary steps (Electoral College, indirect Senate elections) to mitigate the effects of a tyranny of the majority.

I am not against democracy and elections per se but we have to take the blinders off and understand just what can happen. It is not guaranteed that everything will come up roses; it could come up like titan arum.

I really want to hear from people on this.

As a final note I want to make clear that I in no way endorse Hamas and its reprehensible message and tactics, and I must again emphasize my profound lack of knowledge about the region. On that note, I read A Peace to End All Peace years ago and found it an excellent introduction to the whole mess.


Anonymous said...

Glad to hear your not against democracy and elections per se. Really though it seems fine to let Hamas have to run the government with no European money or Israeli help. If they restart the war, hit em again. Plus there can be none of this "we don't control Hamas" stuff. These type of parties may be like a fever that needs to be burned through before the body politic can improve. If they turn to anarchy, well Jordan and Egypt ran them before and could run them again. Or they could move out of the West Bank and go to nova scotia or uganda where their always happy to say the Jews should go when not calling for their extinction. The Israelis have shown they can run a succesful democracy where they are. The Arabs haven't. Let em try for a while. Better their own nuts than dictators chosen by others as Arafat and Fatah were chosen by Egypt and Saudi Arabia.


Anonymous said...

I find myself in agreement with JJV on this one. Dig it.

Dave S. said...

Under any other circumstances I would be shocked by that, but not here.

Are you people just lurking out there waiting for me to post stuff? I'm flattered but it's a bit alarming to post something then have a comment show up almost instantly.

No, wait, don't go away!

Anonymous said...

I've always found the "to hell with them all" approach advocated here by jjv very seductive, but I rarely let myself give in to it.

The result in Palestine can only minimally described as a failure of democracy, as I see it. It's a bouillabaisse of failed government and bad policy decisions, seasoned with centuries of conflict, dropped into the cooking fires of endemic instability. Or something, I lost control of the metaphor there.

The new regime is going to be no more successful at democracy than the last, and not because of an inadequate system of checks and balances, or even because the new regime is a terrorist organization determined to punish a much mroe powerful neighbor. The problem with Palestine is that the elections promote factions to new responsibilities, but no actual new power. Other than launching their rhetoric from a new platform, is there anything of substance that Hamas can accomplish that they weren't already doing? And they would not have won the election if they had not been perceived as effective at government functions without actually being the government. If, in the future, they lose an election, it will probably be because they have already lost the power to act as a government. That's not democracy.