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Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Rice's confusion on terrorists' participation in elections

There's an article by US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in the current issue of Foreign Affairs in which she discusses the participation of violent groups in elections. It reflects a level of confusion that is astounding given Rice's position. Here's a quote:
The participation of armed groups in elections is problematic. But the lesson is not that there should not be elections. Rather, there should be standards, like the ones to which the international community has held Hamas after the fact: you can be a terrorist group or you can be a political party, but you cannot be both. As difficult as this problem is, it cannot be the case that people are denied the right to vote just because the outcome might be unpleasant to us. Although we cannot know whether politics will ultimately deradicalize violent groups, we do know that excluding them from the political process grants them power without responsibility. This is yet another challenge that the leaders and the peoples of the broader Middle East must resolve as the region turns to democratic processes and institutions to resolve differences peacefully and without repression.
The 'professionals' have commented on the quote above here. But since that site does not allow comments except by members, I thought I would put my comments on my own blog.

Of course, we cannot avoid holding elections because we don't like the anticipated results. But accepting the democratic societal framework is - or ought to be - a fundamental condition precedent for participation. And it's a condition that cannot (as the US and Israel attempted to do) be imposed after the fact. Hamas should never have been allowed to participate in elections in the 'Palestinian territories' (and Hezbullah should never have been allowed to participate in elections in Lebanon) without having accepted the basic ground rules and without having given up their arms and eschewed violence.

While the idea of trying to bring democracy to many of the backwards societies of the Middle East is an attractive one, there is more to democracy than voting. America's democracy would not be what it is without the protections of individual liberties that are contained in the Bill of Rights. Other countries don't need to reach the exact solutions that the United States reached in order to be democratic, but it would not be democratic for a party that barely won an election "to do whatever we want," (channeling the words of Chaim Ramon just after the Rabin assassination). Instead, the mechanisms for protecting individual rights need to be in place before 'democratic' elections are held. That's what was done in post-World War II Germany (as is mentioned by Joshua Muravchik in his comments), but it was not done in the 'Palestinian Authority.' And it's not likely to be done there except in the same way it was done in Germany: reoccupation and de-Nazification.


At 6:41 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

And there's the other problem, not of an openly violent group being allowed to participate, but of groups that have renounced violence yet openly admit desire to ultimately bring in full shariah when in power (which thus ends up being intolerant and violent)--i.e., the "Muslim Brotherhood" problem, Egypt being an example, though it's a trend, in general. (Egypt bans participation of the MB, rounds them up en masse before their "democratic" elections.) Condi's refusal to acknowledge problems with the intolerant, imperialistic political ideology disguised as a religion called Islam (even going so far as to redefine terms) avoids dealing with the real problem until it's too late.

At 6:45 PM, Blogger NormanF said...

Exactly. Clueless Condi is putting form over substance. You cannot have elections without a democratic culture that guarantees every one can talk in the town square, to use a phrase of Natan Scharansky's without reprisal and people are free to express different beliefs and know they can compromise without being killed. The Middle East doesn't have that kind of culture. Allowing terrorist groups to participate in elections ultimately means the end of democracy as in one man one vote one time. I don't think Condi really grasps there is far more involved in a democratic society than just holding an election and it shows in her very confused article. More than that, its her shallowness of judgment that's most evident in someone who is supposed to act as a mediator between Israel and the Arabs. The Middle East is many things but it ain't and will never be the Midwest.


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