I was previously a constitutional law and civil rights litigator and am now a journalist. I am the author of three New York Times bestselling books -- "How Would a Patriot Act" (a critique of Bush executive power theories), "Tragic Legacy" (documenting the Bush legacy), and With Liberty and Justice for Some (critiquing America's two-tiered justice system and the collapse of the rule of law for its political and financial elites). My fifth book - No Place to Hide: Edward Snowden, the NSA and the US Surveillance State - will be released on April 29, 2014 by Holt/Metropolitan.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Democracy and the Middle East

More good news in the Middle East . . . if you're an Iranian mullah. Looks like the Shiite Muslim theocracy which is about to rule Iraq won't be Iran's only ally. According to the Israeli daily Haaretz, Hamas is looking nice and strong in the elections to take place in the Palestinian Authority in January:

"Israel will be in deep trouble if Hamas wins the elections for the Palestinian Legislative Council or if it scores a significant achievement," [Shin Bet Director Yuval] Diskin said."They will penetrate [Palestinian] government offices, and bolster their grip on the territory," he told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee. Committee Chairman MK Yuval Steinitz said.

Diskin had painted a bleak picture of substantial gains in strength for Hamas, a fact that, Steinitz said, bodes poorly for Israel. If Diskin's predictions hold, Steinitz added, Israel will be facing an entirely new situation, in which a terrorist organization which calls for the destruction of Israel will be an equal partner in controlling the Palestinian parliament.

What's that George Bush and his followers are so fond of saying about the Middle East? Oh, that's right: "Freedom is on the march!" It certainly is - it's the freedom to elect the most anti-American regimes possible, ones which will be close allies with the merchants of terror. And it looks like that freedom is being exercised enthusiastically. Freedom is on the march.

What a great strategy we have embarked upon. When do we start replacing Mubarrak with the democratically elected Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and Musharraf with the radical Islamist parties in Pakistan? We want to make sure that by the time George Bush leaves office, every country in the Middle East is ruled by people who hate us. That will make us much safer, just like the war in Iraq has.

UPDATE: Anyone who believes that simply exporting democracy to trouble spots around the world is some sort of tonic to all of our woes should (in addition to realizing that dictators can be and sometimes are elected democratically) read this post by Julian Sanchez, one of the guest posters on Andrew Sullivan's blog, and in particular should read Sanchez's "short squib" in Reason which is linked in this post:

PERPETUAL PEACE?: I see Cato is hosting (and streaming over the Web) an interesting looking event next week with Columbia's Jack Snyder and U Penn's Edward Mansfield about their new book Electing to Fight: Why Emerging Democracies Go to War. I spoke briefly to Snyder, after reading a chunk of his previous book on this topic, about a year back while working on a short squib on the rather more radical ideas of Princeton political scientist Joanne Gowa, a skeptic of the democratic peace hypothesis.

Without going so far as to endorse Gowa's critique in all its particulars, she and Snyder are a useful antidote to the assumption that, from the point of view of promoting stability and security, "spreading democracy" (in the formal sense of popular elections) is some kind of silver bullet. What would likely be effective to that end is the spread of liberal democracy—which entails cultivating a whole complex of mores and institutions. It is, of course, much easier to focus on flashier, more photogenic milestones like lines of purple-fingered voters outside polling stations. But as Snyder and Mansfield make clear, it may also be dangerous.

As I've argued many times -- both before the Iraqi elections and immediately after -- what matters for America's foreign policy is not how a leader is elected, but what qualities that leader has. A democratic election in another country is not an inherently favorable event for the U.S., particularly where they are occurring in countries brimming over with hostility towards the United States and which are entirely devoid of the underlying values necessary to sustain basic precepts of liberty. After Iraq, how many more examples of this do we need to see?

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