Hamas, the Islamic paramilitary organization operating terror networks and religious and social programs in the territories putatively controlled by the Palestinian Authority, is now poised to establish a new governing administration for the PA after a sweeping victory in the first contested Palestinian parliamentary elections since the establishment of the PA. Yassir Arafat’s Fatah party looks to be sidelined to opposition for the first time in the short history of this neo-state regime of terrorists and thieves.
Hamas came to power, we are told, because the Palestinians had had enough of the gross corruption and ineptitude of Fatah. The rationale proffered is that Hamas has won the hearts of the people for having spilt more blood than anyone else, notably Israeli civilian blood, for its “faith-based” social welfare network, and for its appearance of fiscal rectitude. While the first rational is certainly true, the latter two have never been tested. Hamas has never operated a government budget and has never operated with transparency. Providing Islamic-based social welfare programs on a charitable basis without any external audit controls or accountability is not the same thing as governing. Everyone agrees Hamas must prove itself now that it has achieved its first major political goal.
The real question at issue in all of the speculation surrounding the Hamas victory — will democracy succeed in transforming the tyranny and terror of the Palestinians? — also underlies the Bush doctrine at work in Afghanistan and Iraq. That doctrine theorizes that democracy and freedom beat in the hearts and souls of all peoples, including those of the Islamic persuasion. Thus, once given the opportunity to articulate their political representation within democratic institutions, the virulently anti-American, Western Civilization-hating Moslems will be tamed and their murderous designs for toppling the decadent nations of the Christian world and destroying Israel and the Jews will fade into the background of a noisy, peaceful democracy. The thesis articulated by neo-conservatives and liberals alike goes something like this: Governance within the constraints of a democratic regime, which allows the people to hold their governments accountable through the ballot box, necessarily pacifies the violent and hegemonic tendencies of ideologies such as Islam. Thus, the now-famous retort: democracies don’t start wars.
THE HAMAS VICTORY HIGHLIGHTS for us in stark terms the fallacy of the democracy thesis. Democracy itself is a form of government to give expression to a People’s national existence. But one mustn’t confuse the expression with the actual content of that national existence. Democratic institutions can give articulation to the freedom and peace loving aspirations of a People; they cannot create them. The U.S. is what it is not because of democracy but because the Christians who came to this land and funded its national existence with blood, sweat and tears, wished to give everyone an opportunity to prosper and to live with dignity. Democracy allows that national character and will to articulate itself and to develop. But had the early Americans not yearned for life and liberty, all of the democracy in the world would not have established it.
Majoritarian rule by a nation of Islamic fascists will give voice to democratically elected fascists, not peace-loving Arabic speaking American look alikes. When 70 percent of the Palestinian population consistently approves of murderous suicide bombings against innocent men, women and children, when they dance in the streets after 9/11, there is arguably something so fundamentally evil about their society that no democratic institution or combination of institutions is capable of repairing it. Indeed, democracy promotes these expressions because that is what modern democracy has become. National malevolence will not be curbed by democratic politics; it will be assisted and encouraged.
The proponents of democratic nation-building respond that there is some moral or historical imperative at work such that democracy and freedom will win out, and, a peaceful people will arise. For them, violence, tyranny, and terror can all be explained away with some sociological or psychological explanation. The proponents of this view hold fast to the idea that voters in democracies, even ones with violent natures, care more about their pocket books than their prayer books. The masses, who now have political franchise, will come to learn that peaceful nations are more prosperous nations. Democracy and economics are united in this way to deny that there are evil nations or peoples; only evil regimes.
If we just apply the proper incentives, the argument continues, all nations can rise above their peculiar national character or culture no matter how violent or evil, and be rehabilitated. Democracy and free markets accomplish this. These ruminations of course are little more than the leftist incantation that “there are no criminals, only criminal circumstances” raised to the level of nations rather than individuals.
The simple response to this claim is that there is no evidence it is true. There is no historical example of this, but rather its opposite: when confronting an implacable enemy bent on your destruction, a strategy of conquer and control is the only effective response. Thus, Germany, Italy, and Japan were conquered and ruled by the Allies militarily and economically and even then democracy only took hold because there was no national anti-democratic ideology at work. Nothing in the long histories of these nations suggested that the early 20th century regimes bent on world-wide aggression were part of the national fabric of the people. What then can we expect in an Islamic democracy?
The democracy proponents must confront the fact that Islamic regimes that come to power by election, by revolution or by coup, such as in Iran or Afghanistan, and which initially have much popular support, soon eliminate any real democratic limits on tyranny by simply eliminating or reducing to a caricature the democratic institutions. What survives is what we see in Iran or what we saw in Taliban-controlled Afghanistan or what was left of Fatah in the PA: tyranny, corruption, terror, and regimes bent on external aggression. The fact that Fatah passed the baton of power democratically to Hamas is hardly consoling to Israel or the West, unless sustaining democracy, even one bent on terror, is the goal.
Islam rejects democracy as we know it because it rejects liberalism and multiculturalism. No true Moslem will grant a Christian or Jew the right to practice his or her religion freely in a Moslem-dominated country. Even in the secular regime created in Turkey by Ataturk in the first half of the last century, a regime that resisted Islamic inroads by virtue of the constant threat of military rule, public expressions of religious fervor other than Islamic were carefully curtailed. While Islamic regimes might allow certain churches to exist and to pray privately, Islam will never permit religious or political freedom for competing truth systems, be those religious or secular.
GIVEN THIS REALITY, WHAT DOES President Bush have in mind in Afghanistan or Iraq? In both cases, regime change was needed and was a credible foreign policy. Now, the question is, why are we pinning such hopes on democracy? Even in the PA, where religious fervor has always taken a back seat to political and geostrategic goals, Hamas has arrived as a full-fledged political power. What serious hope is there that Hamas will now govern by the rules of democratic transparency and give up its hold on power once it fully matriculates its militants into the official role of police, border guards, secret service and army? What evidence is there that Hamas will disavow its religious hatred of Jews and Israel as infidel occupiers on holy Moslem land?
Other than a naive and dangerous dream that all will turn out democratic and peaceful, there is scant evidence that Moslems and Islam are prepared to see the world along the same lines as the West. Given that fact, regime change must also mean that if the democracy experiment fails, the U.S. must be prepared to install a regime faithful to the West even if it is not democratic. Thus, while Washington can say that it will not have dealings with a Hamas-led PA that preaches the destruction of Israel, Jerusalem does not have the luxury to sit back and allow a Hamas-led PA to build an army, acquire an arsenal beyond what already exists, and send death squads across the border into Israeli cities.
Policy makers in Washington, Jerusalem and in Europe (although Europe is all but lost), must recognize that one billion Moslems around the world with a dream of a One World Islamic state will not simply melt peacefully into the West. A strategy of conquer and control must be contemplated, devised and made ready for implementation.