The Therapy Sessions
Saturday, January 28, 2006
Many people are absolutely shocked that the Palestinians have put Hamas in power.
Many people think it’s terrible.
It is the end of "peace process" charade, the beginning of the end of the Palestinian “state,” and the start of its civil war.
Here is where I give out all the bromides like “yes, war is terrible.”
Of course it is.
But it is not a question of whether more war will visit the Middle East.
It will. Terrible wars are coming. Millions will die.
The important question is who will be fighting them (at least for the time being). If the war is being fought between the corrupt lords of Fatah, the armed gangs of the Al Aqsa Martyr’s Brigade, the mystical lunatics of Hamas and the nutjobs of Hezballah, it is not going to be fought by Israelis.
Or Americans. At least not yet.
It is pure Machiavelli: if your enemies are intent on fighting themselves, let them go for it.
Many people have said that in this election the Palestinians voted against Fatah - not for Hamas. And this is true. Most Palestinians know that the intifada is lost and pointless at this point. The Israeli fence – a tremendous strategic feat (which - it should not forgotten - was opposed by the rabid left) - has made restaurant bombing difficult. And direct conflict is suicide. Economic freedom – which allows entrepreneurs to grow the economy – is absent. So naturally, the Palestinian economy is moribund and dependent on aid. With Hamas in power, that aid is certain to decrease.
It’s almost as if the American people got tired of Bush and the Republicans, and put the Nazis in power. In the US, we have the Democratic Party – yes, they are irresponsible and silly in opposition – but they could, if called upon, put together something that resembled a competent, rational alternative government. The Palestinians have nothing like that. For them, it was serious people versus corrupt people.
And the Palestinians – the people who “never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity” – have once again painted themselves into a corner.
Hamas – the most vicious terrorist organization in the region – can’t sponsor attacks anymore, at least not under its own name. As a fringe terrorist organization, you can hide your leaders and sponsor all the attacks you want. But when you are a government and you order attacks against a neighboring country, that is war – and it is a war that Hamas will lose. It invites Israel to retaliate and take out their leaders – conveniently located in the Palestinian government houses in Ramallah.
I take it as a given that Hamas will corrupt itself and further destroy the economy. Arafat once ably ran the PLO - a pure terrorist organization- but was quickly corrupted by power. These Hamas guys are similar: they know nothing about how to run an economy (the first lesson is that you don’t “run” anything) – they are street fighters. Give the Hamas politicians access to millions of dollars and they will become a new mafia - as corrupt as Arafat was. And when that money dries up, they will extort money from any poor Palestinian who has the gall to make money himself.
Hamas will probably splinter. A political wing will take power in Ramallah, and its more violent members will stay in hiding. They will probably change their name, but to the Palestinians (and Israelis), they will still be Hamas – the Hamas the Palestinians voted for. These lunatics will maintain their street cred by lobbing an occasional missile into Israel. They might not do this under the name of Hamas, but it won’t matter: Israel will respond by taking out the political leaders of Hamas anyway. It will soon become clear that being a political leader and a member of Hamas will be suicidal. This will create a power vacuum in Ramallah, and the end of the Palestinian “entity.”
It is a trap: Hamas will be unable to take power unless they change. But once they change, they won’t be “real.” And Palestinians want real: the undiluted, immutable fanaticism of Hamas.
Many critics will contend that this is the problem of “neo-conservatism.” See, we don’t really want democracy in the Middle East!
Yes, people can vote for war. Even an irrational, losing war of bigotry. They will - at times - vote fanatics into power. (By contrast, the voters of Iraq have done very well indeed).
I would argue that this is exactly what we want, and it is exactly why democracy in the Middle East is a GOOD THING.
To take power is to take responsibility. When you run an organization on the fringe – Hezballah in Lebanon, The Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, al Qaeda throughout the region – you can say and do what you like, even with the tacit approval of those in power.
When you are in charge, things change. The terrible economy is not an advantage – something you can complain about to generate support; it is a liability. It is your job to make it better (and only economic freedom creates economic growth). If you sponsor attacks in other countries, these are not just suicide bombings, they are acts of war.
No more shadowy groups hiding in the fringes. If these groups take power democratically, so be it. If that leads to civil wars, that’s sad – but we might as well get them over with.
For a century, we tolerated dictators in the region as the price of stability, but there was another hidden price: behind the scenes, thousands of fringe groups were taking the hearts of the people – or so they thought. This policy has been shattered by Bush, and those groups are being told: put up or shut up.
These are good things.
We should now try to insure that this election of is not the Palestinians' last. Bush and Rice should – at every opportunity – point out that the Palestinians can unseat Hamas whenever they’ve had enough of their incompetence and violence. Hamas knows that the only way it can prevent that is to cancel elections. When they try to, they would be wary of making Bush seem prophetic.
But as I’ve said, I don’t think that will be deter them.
Neither of my balls is crystalline, but I see war coming. Hamas will provide “alive again, dead again” leadership – filled with power vacuums that will cause other groups to salivate. They will have no “progress with Israel” to point to. The economy will only get worse, and the public will seethe. Hamas will refuse to allow further elections – especially ones it will lose – and the various armed groups in the PA will march against it.
While its closest enemies are fighting, Israel will be safe. Temporarily.
Their next threat is existential, and it is ours as well.
Iran. A nuclear Iran, run by a rabid, anti-Semitic dictator who thinks he is here to usher in the messiah.
Scary times ahead. The Clinton-era “holiday from history” pause in the Mideast is a distant memory now.
History is now stuck on fast forward.