Apparently Hamas has won big in the recent elections in Palestine. The Bush administration has stated that it considers Hamas to be a terrorist organization and therefore does not recognize the new government. Well that's interesting. The US has been pushing for so called "Democracy" in the Middle East and in Palestine you just had what has been universally considered a free and fair election (probably fairer and freer than those recently held in the US) and the US decides not to recognize the winners because it has deemed them "terrorists." hmmmm. Interesting. the ANC was considered a terrorist organization in it's "rebel" days. Now it leads the government in South Africa and no one has peep to say about it's past.
In a recent article Fareed Zakaria discussed Illiberal Democracies:
THE AMERICAN diplomat Richard Holbrooke pondered a problem on the eve of the September 1996 elections in Bosnia, which were meant to restore civic life to that ravaged country. "Suppose the election was declared free and fair," he said, and those elected are "racists, fascists, separatists, who are publicly opposed to [peace and reintegration]. That is the dilemma." Indeed it is, not just in the former Yugoslavia, but increasingly around the world. Democratically elected regimes, often ones that have been reelected or reaffirmed through referenda, are routinely ignoring constitutional limits on their power and depriving their citizens of basic rights and freedoms. From Peru to the Palestinian Authority, from Sierra Leone to Slovakia, from Pakistan to the Philippines, we see the rise of a disturbing phenomenon in international life -- illiberal democracy.
It has been difficult to recognize this problem because for almost a century in the West, democracy has meant liberal democracy -- a political system marked not only by free and fair elections, but also by the rule of law, a separation of powers, and the protection of basic liberties of speech, assembly, religion, and property. In fact, this latter bundle of freedoms -- what might be termed constitutional liberalism -- is theoretically different and historically distinct from democracy. As the political scientist Philippe Schmitter has pointed out, "Liberalism, either as a conception of political liberty, or as a doctrine about economic policy, may have coincided with the rise of democracy. But it has never been immutably or unambiguously linked to its practice." Today the two strands of liberal democracy, interwoven in the Western political fabric, are coming apart in the rest of the world. Democracy is flourishing; constitutional liberalism is not.
This post is not a discussion of Zakaria's thesis but rather a highlight of the fact that the Bush administration and indeed many of the administrations before him were simply not interested in Democracy in the Middle East but rather a certain type of government. That would explain the friendliness to the clearly non-democratic Saudi Arabia and the vile opposition to Hugo Chavez.
On the other hand I find the electoral victory of Hamas to be an interesting turn of events. Back in November of 2004 The Ghost published a blog entry in which we discussed the changes that would need to be made by the Palestinian leadership:
In my admittedly limited understanding of this conflict, the PLO, Hammas et.al have been so focused of the removal of Israel (which will not happen so long as the US is it's military benefactor), that they have not even considered a "plan b." A Palestinian state, however limited can legally purchase arms without legal interferance. a organization with the label "terrorists" cannot. a Palestinian State, however limited can demand that Israel remove illegal settlers. In fact even a limited Palestinian state could 'deport" any settler within it's borders.
The faster the PLO understands that this anti-colonial struggle is militarily unwinable, the faster it can move to "plan b." Hopefully a part of that 'plan b" is an India type move into information technology. Until then, Palestine will contine to be the playground of the Israeli Military and a testing ground for the US military with poor women and children being the primary victims as more prosperous Palestinians move to other countries and live relatively well.
It would seem that Hamas' recent dial down of it's calls for an end to the State of Israel is a step in the direction The Ghost suggested. The US will eventually be forced to deal with Hamas as the duly elected government of the Palestinian people. Hopefully Hamas will spend more time on the social and economic development of Palestine than talking and suicide bombing and killing other Palestinians.
Meanwhile, Mr. Bush and indeed other White Supremacist types who think they should be dictating the leadership of other countries are to be shown to be the hypocrites that they are. Say hello to democracy. Sometimes it's not what you expect it to look like.