Saturday, January 28, 2006

The Silver Lining News from Palestine...

(pics via

I had a mini debate with two readers about whether Hitler was elected to power in a democratic election. He was. In the July 1932 Parliamentary elections, the Nazi party led by Hitler gave the Nazis 13,745,000 votes, 37% of the total, granting them 230 seats in the Reichstag, becoming the largest in Germany. President Hidenburg was reluctant to nominate him as chancellor but did that eventually in January 1933 (President Abbas could do the same thing in Palestine and nominate a non-Hamas figure as PM. But unless Hamas agrees to that it won't be a very, well, democratic decision). In March 5, 1933, the last free elections were held in Germany, and Germans gave Hitler 44 per cent of the total vote, 17, 277,180. In any case, all of this reminded me how the German communists reacted to the Nazi victory. Believe it or not, they actually welcomed it. They declared that the new Nazi-dominated government was the “dying gasp of moribund capitalism” and that Hitler's government would create the conditions for a “revolutionary upturn” and accelerate the momentum toward a “proletarian revolution."
So... it's kind of interesting to monitor the reaction to the Hamas victory and the way officials and pundits are finding a "silver lining" in all of that (See my earlier post for the president's response). It reminds me of an aunt of mine who when you gave her some bad news, that you lost your job or your house was destroyed in fire, would always respond: "It's all for the best, dear." For believers there is the God Works in Mysterious Ways... And for Marxists and neocons it's -- how should I put it? -- dialectical thinking runing amok.
For a great "silver lining" see Efraim Karsh on TNR Online on "WHY HAMAS'S VICTORY ISN'T SUCH A BAD THING." Because...perhaps you'll read it and explain it to me. My deconstruction is: It's good that we had a democratic election in Palestine because it demonstrated the Palestinians are really not very democratic...
I usually benefit from reading Juan Cole on the Mideast (btw, he was once bashed by Karsh in the NR). And I agree with much of what he had to say on the election on But I have two contras which apply to other stuff coming out mostly from the left. First, I think that he tends to exaggerate the impact that the U.S. had and could have on all of this. We are talking here about an outcome that reflects long-term social-demographic and political trends reflected in other developments in other parts of the Arab and Moslem worlds, including in Turkey. And I'm a bit uncomfortable with the comparison between Hamas and Likud and not because I like the Likud. I don't. But the Likud, and even the Herut party before that it merged in the Likud, was a secular nationalist party and not a messianic religious movement. Some of its allies in the settler movement could be defined as such (and btw, Vladimir Jabotinsky, the founding father of the movement that had given birth to Herut was a European anti-clerical figure). The historical analogy that should be made is between the PLO and Likud, both of which have renounced their commitment to Greater Palestine/Israel. The point is that very much like in the case of the Jewish settlers, I cannot see how Hamas would give up its messianic agenda.
Here are two final observations:
1. I know that runs so much contrary to what almost everyone to the left and right believes but is it possible that perhaps the United States will not be able in the short- and mid-term to counter these developments in Israel/Palestine? The West was very successful in "taming" the Islamists in Turkey by using economic and diplomatic pressure and eventually to co-opt them (they now support EU membership). But the political conditions in Turkey were very different then they are in Palestine today.
2. I'm opposed to the Bush administration's democratic crusade not because I'm against democracy. I think the best way the U.S. can help to spread it is by serving as a model to the world (Patriot Act and Abu Gharib don't fit into it) and through trade and other forms of engagement. In many cases, the spread of democracy and free elections don't advance U.S. interests. For example, did you hear about Hugo Chavez and Evo Morales? At the same time, Franco and Salazar were two important partners in the Cold War and -- by refraining to enter in WWII -- in the victory over the Nazis.
For more about this topic read on the pitfalls of the Democratic Crusade you'll have to wait for coming article in the American Conservative.

The Hamas Victory: Another failure of intelligence

I'm not talking here about the other kind of intelligence, although as I watched President Bush in his last press conference trying to give his interpretation of the Hamas electoral victory and as I was trying to hide under my my bed, feeling embarassed for W. that thought came to my mind. Here is a highlight:
And so the elections should open the eyes of the old guard there in the Palestinian territories. I like the competition of ideas. I like people who have to go out and say, vote for me, and here's what I'm going to do. There's something healthy about a system that does that. And so the elections yesterday were very interesting.

I suppose someone could have made similar comments when Hitler got elected. Whatever...
I was thinking more about the other kind of intelligence, like one in the "CIA," especially since Bush in his press conference was explaining to me why he and his spooks need to listen to my phone conversations and read my emails in order to "protect America." Now... since Bush's body language and incoherent remarks (it seems that he was trying to recycle the "talking points" his spinners prepared when they were expecting that the Hamas would do well, but not win the elections)made it clear to me that our President and his spooks were "shocked! shocked! shocked!" upon learning the results of the elections in Palestine. Does that mean that if they had only listened to my phone conversations and read my emails they could have predicted the outcome? They could have actually read my blog without any special legal requirements. (see:
Here is my point: We've been discussing the intelligence failures on 9/11, Iraq's WMD, etc. And the Bushies/CIA have been defending themselves by arguing that there was not enought "human intelligence" ("Humnit." I love that lingo). You know, it's so difficult to penterate those tribal areas in Pakistan or Saddam's "inner circle." But let's see now: The West Bank, Gaza, Israel. We are talking here about the most "penetrated" piece of the land on earth. Hundreds of media organizations, NGOs, diplomatic services, businessmen, religious institutions, and, yes, spooks roam the Holy Land where an American passport and U.S. dollars can buy almost anything. In fact, it's not a secret that some of the top PLO guys receive stipends from the CIA, not to mention the fact that some of the "research institutes" and polling companies are getting funding from the U.S. and the E.U. Any Arab-American working for our intelligence services could settle in the West Bank and Gaza where the population is multilingual and where everyone talks. Did I mention that we are discussing here an area that is about the side of Montgomery Country, Maryland, where I live. So.. what was exactly is the problem? Why couldn't we figure out the electoral trends among the Palestinians? And what about the legendary Mossad? Sorry, guys, but if we couldn't get this election right, why do we even need an "intelligence service?" Well, maybe it's my own low intelligence, like the other intelligence, that can't figure that out.