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Arab democracy carries dangers
President Bush’s desire to democratize the Middle East has run into a land mine. But this time the explosion is more of his own making. Democratizing the entire Middle East is fine in theory, but there are some very serious problems in promoting a Western-style democracy at this time in history. The recent landslide victory of Hamas has left people in our State Department shaking their
Monday, January 30,2006 00:00
by Dr. Michael Samuel, Tri-City Jewish Center, Rock Island.

President Bush’s desire to democratize the Middle East has run into a land mine. But this time the explosion is more of his own making.

Democratizing the entire Middle East is fine in theory, but there are some very serious problems in promoting a Western-style democracy at this time in history. The recent landslide victory of Hamas has left people in our State Department shaking their heads in utter disbelief.


The rise of “Hamastan” has now changed the political climate of the entire Middle East, and given its close ideological relation to Iran, we may soon be looking at the specter of new Middle Eastern War — especially if Hamas signs an Islamic NATO defense accord.

Abbas and his cabinet warned our President not to rush the elections, but President Bush forged ahead and in doing so, made a huge tactical blunder that will not serve the cause of peace.

If I were working in the U.S. State Department, I would really want to rethink the idea of promoting more democracies in countries like Egypt. Hosni Mubarak’s greatest challenge would not come from the liberal democrats of his country, it would come from the infamous and outlawed Muslim Brotherhood (these are the folks who killed Anwar Sadat).

I am sure the Muslim Brotherhood must be elated about Hamas’ victory. Perhaps with the help of men like former President Carter and the United States, they too will someday be able to democratically defeat Hosni Mubarak.

The same kind of debacle could occur in Syria and Jordan should we push the

envelope.

Hamas’ desire to participate in a Western-styled election was not because they wanted to follow the U.S. model. Quite the opposite! They want not only to repudiate the American example along with the self-serving (and corrupt) local elites it has long sustained.

The idea that democracy per se will produce an Arab leadership more in tune with American foreign policy than those currently in power is a self-serving delusion.

To the President’s credit, the democratic experiment seems to be working in countries like Afghanistan, and possibly Iraq or Lebanon, but it will take time before we know whether a true democracy that values freedom and civil rights will take root.

Having said all this, I will now argue that having a Hamas lead the Palestinian government is preferable to a duplicitous policy based on realpolitik and deception. In some ways, Hamas’ victory clears the air, and ought to dispel any myth that the Palestinian people wish to live in peace with Israel.

Reality hurts.

The triumphalist rhetoric heard from the White House in recent weeks suggests that when it comes to the consequences of Arab democracy, many eyes in Washington remain tightly shut and are lost in a political fantasy land.


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