June 29, 2005
few weeks ago, we posed thorny questions about what would happen if
Hamas became a big winner in Palestinian elections or if Hizbollah
did the same in Lebanon---both plausible scenarios. On the one hand,
we Americans believe in the idea of a liberal democracy---in which
every one can participate, everybody is treated equally, and any friend
of a fair election is a friend of ours. On the other hand, what happens
when well-meaning citizens elect totalitarians---people whose goal
is to eliminate fair elections?
Weve just seen so-called elections in Iran in which hundreds
of candidates (an overwhelming majority) were eliminated out of hand
by ruling clerics before the election. Both Hamas and Hezbollah, like
Al Qaeda and Irans ruling party, are dedicated to Islamic totalitarianism
and the eventual overthrow of Western democracies. Does it really
make sense to support elections in which these people can be elected?
Or would that be a form of democratic suicide?
George Bush and members of his administration, in an attempt to seem
open minded and consistent with their commitment to democratizing
the world, have recently made cavalier statements about welcoming
Hamas to the polls and to elected office. The article below---Can
Hezbollah and Hamas Be Democratic---by commentator Daniel Pipes,
questions the wisdom of such an invitation. Pipes confronts the contradiction
head on, concluding that people with avowedly evil (anti-democratic)
purposes shouldnt be allowed to participate in democratic elections.
While this notion may seem strange to those of us reared in an open
democracy, it has merit given the alternative---which is the possibility
that a naïve populace could literally vote away their right ever
to vote again.
Perhaps democracy is not as simple as we once thought it was. Could
it be that all comers should not be welcome? Maybe there should be
a litmus test for participation in the democratic process---say, pledged
allegiance to democratic institutions? While politicians have been
known to lie in the past, at the very least, perhaps, a candidate
should have to commit to democracy before theyre allowed to
take part. In any case, to their credit, both Hamas and Hezbollah
have been lucid as to their purposes: They stand squarely against
democracy and squarely for the defeat of Israel and the United States.
want to remind you to use the FLAME website as a resource---it
houses more than a hundred concise articles and position papers
on the most important issues surrounding Israel and the Middle
East. This fact-based information can help you explain the truth
about the current situation to your friends, synagogue and church
members, and political colleagues. Of course, youre welcome
to reprint any of these materials and distribute them as you see
appropriate. To explore this treasure trove of information, just
go to www.factsandlogic.org.
by Daniel Pipes, NY Sun, New York Sun, March
If Al-Qaeda renounced terrorism, would the U.S. government
welcome its running candidates in American elections? Had the Nazis
denounced violence, would Hitler have become an acceptable chancellor
for Germany? Not likely, because the tactics of Al-Qaeda and the Nazis
matter less than their goals.
Similarly, Hezbollah and Hamas are unacceptable because of their goals.
These organizations are important elements of the Islamist movement
that seeks to create a global totalitarian order along the lines of
what has already been created in Iran, Sudan, and in Afghanistan under
the Taliban. They see themselves as part of a cosmic clash between
Muslims and the West in which the victor dominates the world.
Washington, trying to be consistent in its push for democracy,
prefers to ignore these goals and instead endorses involvement by
Hezbollah and Hamas in the political process, pending their making
some small changes.
These signals began last week when President Bush stated that although
Hezbollah, a Lebanese group, is "a terrorist organization,"
he hopes it will change that designation "by laying down arms
and not threatening peace." White House spokesman Scott McClellan
then elaborated on this comment by specifying the two alternatives:
"Organizations like Hezbollah have to choose, either you're a
terrorist organization or you're a political organization."
Bush himself explained further what he meant a day later, presenting
elections as a method to shed the terrorist designation:
I like the idea of people running for office. There's a positive
effect when you run for office. Maybe some will run for office and
say, vote for me, I look forward to blowing up America. I don't know,
I don't know if that will be their platform or not. But I don't think
so. I think people who generally run for office say, vote for me,
I'm looking forward to fixing your potholes, or making sure you got
bread on the table.
Hamas a Palestinian organization, Secretary of State Rice then noted,
could also evolve in the right direction once it enters the democratic
When people start getting elected and have to start worrying
about constituencies and have to start worrying not about whether
their fire-breathing rhetoric against Israel is being heard, but about
whether or not that person's child down the street is able to go to
a good school or that road has been fixed or life is getting better,
that things start to change.
The theory implied here is that running for office with
its emphasis on such mundane matters as fixing potholes and providing
good schools will temper Hezbollah and Hamas.
Count me skeptical.
The historical record does not support such optimism. When politically
adept totalitarians win power democratically, they do fix potholes
and improve schools but only as a means to transform their
countries in accordance with their utopian visions. This generalization
applies most clearly to the historical cases (Adolf Hitler in Germany
after 1933, Salvador Allende in Chile after 1970) but it also appears
valid for the current ones (Khaleda Zia in Bangladesh since 2001,
Recep Tayyip Erdo_an in Turkey since 2002).
Then there is the matter of their undemocratic intentions. Josef Goebbels
explained in 1935 that the Nazis used democratic methods "only
in order" to gain power. Looking at Islamists, then-assistant
secretary of state for the Middle East Edward Djerejian explained
in 1992, "While we believe in the principle of one person,
one vote,' we do not support one person, one vote, one time'."
Khomeini's Iran indicates that Islamists do manipulate elections to
stay in power.
Washington should take a principled stand that excludes from
the democratic process not just terrorists but also totalitarians
using the system to get into power and stay there. It is not enough
for Islamist organizations to renounce violence; being irredeemably
autocratic, they must be excluded from elections.
In a famed Supreme Court dissent in 1949, the eminent justice Robert
H. Jackson argued for the arrest of a neo-Nazi rabble-rouser in Chicago
on the grounds that not doing so "will convert the constitutional
Bill of Rights into a suicide pact." The same imperative for
self-protection applies also to international politics.
Even if Hezbollah and Hamas promise a change in tactics, America
or for that matter, Israel and other Western states should
not accept them as legitimate political parties.