Thursday, February 03, 2005


If you look back to my 11/4 blog entitled "Pere Arafat," You will ntice that I had predicted the political participation of Hamas in Palestinian elections. The thing I didn't predict was the overwhelming success of their candidates in Gaza. Without getting into the varied explanations for why the Reform and change lists did so well, I want to briefly discuss why this is a positive thing.

Hamas has been popular for some time. They have been largly the one organization that many Palestinians, particularly in Gaza can look to for assistance and resistance. Part of their popularity comes from the fact that they are seen as uncorruptable, in contrast to the deep corruption and nepotism of Fatah. However, up until now, Hamas has had really very little to lose. They had popularity without authority and could thus operate with relative impunity vis a vis the Palestinians. Now, Hamas will have a real stake in what happens on the ground. There is now something to lose, that is, legitimate authority. With a political stake, Hamas will be forced to consider its actions in terms of political returns, and the success of agendas will be dependant on sustaining electoral support.

I stil believe that as the political operatives in Hamas become further entrenched in the process, there will be a split within the organization. This is a fairly common occurence within revolutionary groups, the most popular example being the IRA, but it has happenned in other movements as well. Such a splintering will grant the political arm only more legitimacy, though it may initially threaten its internal structure.

The politcal ascendancy of Hamas presents unique problems for both Fatah and Israel as well. The PA cannot sideline Hamas as being simply a security issue. THey will have to deal with them as political operatives, as it is likely that Hamas will win a larger number of seats in this years assembly elections. The problem for Israel is compounded by the fact that Hamas has long held among the most anti-Israeli agendas of all groups operating inside of Palestine. The reaction in the past has been targeted assasinations and relegating Hamas agents to the realm of terrorists. The old respons simply won't do; Israel will not reasonably be able to deal with democratically elected officials in the same way as they did with bomb-makers and spirtual leaders.

What does it all mean for the peace process? There is still quite a bit to play out. If nothing else it means that negotiations on the Palestinian side will be more complex and will likely come to the table with a deeper set of demands, hopefully more representative of the overall needs of the people. It will also be a real test of Abbas' leadership, now that he is not simply the voice of an overwhelming Fatah authority. Just as Hamas now has a real stake, Fatah will have to respond to the fact that the Palestinians have activated their desire to see Hamas help determine the agenda.

Thursday, January 27, 2005

All Hails, democracy by force!

The people of Iraq will go to the polls this weekend in what may be the closest thing to legitimate elections since the 1950s. I want to make clear just what we are looking at here as this “historic” moment comes to pass.

The first problem is that you cannot have a legitimate election in the presence of an occupying foreign power. As has been pointed out elsewhere, the fact that the U.S. is the only real source of security means that only those political operatives who can reach some level of consensual cooperation with the appointed interim government have the necessary logistic resources to build power bases and campaign in any meaningful way. The only way you can succeed is to collaborate, in other words, because the only security is provided from without.

The second problem is that, to paraphrase Natan Sharansky, elections are only the most conspicuous aspect of democracy, and hardly the most important. A free election is not the foundation of a democracy, but rather the symptom of a series of institutional relationships that foster a political system in which the vote can react to the exchange of forces within these institutions. This is something that we forget in the U.S. And this is why, when the Iraqi election takes place the Bush administration will be all smiles and triumphalism. For most of us here, the vote is the only real contact we have with our ostensible democracy. Therefore, we come to imagine that an election that takes place anywhere in the world is the sign of a functioning democracy.

The day of the vote will be bloody. This will not come to pass as it did in Afghanistan, where the security situation was vastly less complicated. The insurgency will not wane after the election. On the contrary, the results of the election will be interpreted as further evidence of the occupations infiltrative and divisive nature and will breed only more injustice on both sides. Civil war is perhaps long overdue in Iraq, and while the Kurdish north has remained relatively quiet during the war, the city of Kirkuk may soon become another flashpoint, another Falluja, another Mosul.

The elections will only be a new beginning, not an end, to this great crime.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Throwing Rice

Poor Dr. Rice. She is being called a liar, she has had her integrity "impunged," and is likely to win an overwhleming majority of votes in the senate confirmation for Secretary of State.

So what has the Dems suddenly behaving like the protectors of the people? Why the sudden vociferous and relentless pursuit of honesty and honour in the face of Dr. Rice's imminent ascension? Beats me. It seems that the possibility of winning back the house in 2006 has caused a spark in the Dem leadership, and they think now is the time to strike, with Condie playing the role of the anvil.

Don't get me wrong, i think it is great that she is being challenged in this way. How far she went in decieving the people is subject to debate, but she is no doubt an apologist for a failed and misguided foreign policy. She has playd a central role in deveoping a strategy that has isolated the states and hs likely made us less safe than before 9/11. All criticism and calling out is welcome, in fact necessary, and all together healthy for democracy.

However, i can't help but feel that the Dems are being a bit opportunistic, and not just a little partisan. Frankly, this might be the wroing war at the wrong time. Where was such vigilence and virulence when the subject of the war was first brought to the floor? Almost 1500 hundred body bags, and a near nationwide insurgency later, and the Dems decide it is time to get some teeth. I will excuse the likes of Byrd and Kennedy, because they have fought all along. But the Dems in general are making this confirmation process an issue by taking advantage of a moral highground that they should have been standing on all along. And here we are at, at the beginning of the second, yes second, Bush term, and all of the sudden there are two major parties in the United States of America.

I am sorry, but all I can say is too little too late.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

What Democracy?

I am actually in the middle of going through a couple of days worth of news that i have neglected. Of course, since i have last written, Mahmoud Abbas was elected as chairman of the PA, and that will be the subject of the next post, maybe the next couple.

But before I forget, I just wanted to make a quick point. It has been speculated that Israeli Defense Forces restricted the movement of some of the Palestinian Candidates campaign running inot the election. It may not matter, being that there was no real viable candidate other than Abbas. What is important, is that other than restricted movement of potential candidates, the elections are genereally being regarded as fair and reasonably uncorrupted.

The obviousness of where this is going makes the reality of the situation that much more absurd. We had to invade a country to bring democracy to the Middle East. Yet perhaps the single most embattled people of the region seemed to be able to able to get on just fine without us.

What gives?

more later . . .