Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Democracy Matters

In President Bush's speech last night, he talked about how the oppressed of the world want freedom and liberty, and that democracy is the best way to give them that. He also mentioned that democratic countries don't war with other democratic countries, and that it is the best way to eliminate the terrorist menace that the world's currently facing. I have to agree with these statements, in that since the creation of functional democracies, they have not gone to war with one another in approximately 200 years of history.

Democracies CAN go wrong, though. The French Republic failed, descended into the Reign of Terror and then the dictatorship of Napoleon. Germany's Weimar experiment failed utterly- either the Communists or the Fascists gaining control in 1932/33 would have dissolved the Reichstag. Even the United States had it's Civil War over different concepts of democracy and liberty.

But here's the rub: Democracy has to work when there's a functioning system that allows for the democratic process. And that means you have to have political parties that are willing to play the political campaign dance, and build party platforms. And both parties ultimately have to be offering different things, rather than just be rivals for power with nothing to hold the center together. That brings me to the situation in Palestine.

There are folks that are saying- both on the left and the right- that the Palestinian election showed that Bush's words are nothing but hollow idealism. The Palestinians did vote in a relatively free and clean election, and they did have a choice- between Fatah and Hamas. And Hamas won the election, and still want to destroy Israel. That must mean that the will of the people of Palestine have been answered, and that democracy doesn't necessarily bring about peace and stability.

Well, yeah, sometimes democracies can be really shitty, and could cave in. But was the Palestinian elections democratic? Let's be clear: it was an election. That does not mean that it was democratic. But wait, you say, there were two parties with divergent issues involved in the election, Hamas and Fatah. Theoretically, Fatah was not calling for the destruction of Israel. But realistically, they were mouthing placards to the western media in english, while going to rallies in Palestine and asking for war in arabic. Neither had the best interest of Israel in their minds. Some are saying that Hamas was more willing to fix Palestine up in the election- to improve it's roads, schools, and hospitals- while Fatah was willing to basically give the people the status quo. However, considering their foriegn policy goals are their main reasons for existence- neither has any track record of providing services for the people other than as a by product of their terror systems.

That leads me to believe that ultimately, the election was about two things. First, it was about gang rivalries- two groups largely with similar ideas but who both wanted power, and all the trappings that came along with it. The second, was that neither party really had a platform- and anyone saying that Hamas really will fix the roads is missing the forest for the trees. For all intents and purposes, this was a one party election- both parties concepts ultimately dovetail together. There wasn't much of a choice here- and Gaza itself is effectively entirely a Hamas stronghold. There was no Fatah presence there. This isn't a democracy, it's one giant party masquerading as two parties. Sure, they probably won't get along, but that has more to do with "my hand's in the cookie jar, and yours is not" than "we disagree with your energy policy, it's not a realistic proposal based on your bugetary constraints, and we'll block it in Parliament/Congress". And both parties are definitely well versed in terror tactics in their own backyard. They don't like dissent. That makes it a one-party system that's not afraid to use terror and muscle in order to keep the streets theirs.

Just look at the fledgling democracies in Afghanistan, Iraq, Lebanon, Kuwait, and Saudi Arabia (yes, even Saudi Arabia) and compare them to the situation in Palestine. In all cases, they have actual political parties that have actual political platforms that are generally dedicated to the rule of law, and are in political debates in their various governmental institutions. Even in Lebanon, while Hezbollah is still around, they are isolated and ostracized from the rest of the Lebanese government. The Palestinian people have had themselves an election- but they don't know the first thing about having political parties represent them. They have gangs who have controlled them by fear and intimidation for the better part of 15 years.

So, going back to Bush's statements- democracy works, when you have people who want it and are willing to live within it. It doesn't work when you have people who want nothing but power for themselves and the only thing that differentiates the various factions is weather or not they'll harass you today or tomorrow. If Hamas wanted to be responsible for the people, they'd immediately recognize Israel, drop their war with them unconditionally, and accept whatever borders the Israelis want to give them. They'd then get the money and support they need from the international community. But they will instead continue their mad dream to topple Israel- and suffer the consecquences. The Palestinians just voted for a different brand of gun. The Israelis will vote on which party will best protect them and govern their country. They don't fear the leadership of the Likud, Kadima, or Labor parties.

I don't think the Palestinians know what their system is, other than naked agression and gang warfare. Great election, folks! Maybe they'll vote to make new roads after Hamas gets them into a disastrous war with Israel.


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