Thursday, February 16, 2006

Press Advisory: Stop quoting this "respected pollster"

Google "repsected pollster" and "Palestinian" and you'll get quite a few hits leading you to like here to Khalil Shikaki the, yes, "most respected pollster in the West Bank." Martin Kramer exposes this guy as someone who has failed to do his job as a pollster especially before the parliamentary Palestinian election. According to Kramer, foreign governments and organizations (who help finance his polling outlet) as well as the Israeli intelligence had relied in his pre-election polls that failed to forecast the Hamas victory. According to Kramer:
Shikaki runs something called the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research, which gets money from foreign governments and foundations to conduct opinion surveys. They've earned Shikaki the moniker of "respected pollster," and he's always running off to Washington or a European capital to present his findings.
Shikaki conducted three crucial polls that affected perceptions in Washington, in the early parts of June, September and December 2005. They showed Fatah well ahead of Hamas, by a comfortable and growing margin.

Kramer notes that "with each new Shikaki poll, U.S. policymakers grew more lax when it came to setting conditions for Hamas participation" and disregarded warnings "because of certainty at the State Department and the White House that Fatah would win anyway, and that Abu Mazen would be in a stronger position to discipline Hamas after the victory. A lot of that certainty derived from Shikaki's polls."
But the American media continues to quote this "respected pollster" including Tom Friedman in a post-election column in which Shikaki once again does what he does best: Provide his American and other clients with the news they want to hear. Now he argues that Hamas actually didn't win the popular vote -- he has the numbers -- which suggests that the Bush Administration could try to do what it seems to want to do, that is, to take action that would lead to the Hamas' downfall.

More on Sticking it to the Man

Democracy Promoter

Jim Henley comments here on my recent critique of the Bush administration's effort to pursue in two contradictory policies in the Middle East: maintaining hegemony and promoting democracy:
Leon Hadar thinks Bush Administration foreign policy is like a TV commercial. Funny article. My cautions: We have to be very careful to separate out three distinct issues - whether itÂ’s good for the United States if Democracy spreads; whether the United States should actively push other societies toward democracy; whether the United States should fight wars to bring some form of democracy to other countries. My answers are: 1) All things considered, yes; 2) Sometimes maybe, though itÂ’s important not to get ahead of the cultural support system for democracy in any particular country - my preferred model is actually the AFL-CIOÂ’s work in Poland in the 1980s; 3) Man, what?

In the specific case of Palestine and Hamas, IÂ’m less convinced than Leon that the alternatives were viable. Having Hamas running a proto-country is not good. But IÂ’m not convinced itÂ’s worse than the US and Israel actively propping up a simultaneously corrupt and unreliable Fatah regime loved by approximately no one either inside or outside Palestine.

In the larger sense, my big concern is the mystifying leap from “Democracy is good” to “We need to shoot foreigners.”

Actually, as I suggest in a long article in the new issue (February 26) of the American Conservative, "Democracy & Its Dicontents" (not available yet online)we need to raise more than the Jim's three questions, including, for example, how do you define "democracy" and whether "democratic nations" (whatever that means) rarely go to war against each other (as the neocons and Democratic-Peace ideologues argue). In any case, the argument I made in my recent piece -- sorry if I'm repeating myself here -- wasn't that the spread of democracy is a bad idea in itself. It proposed that if the United States wants to be a Hegemon, the Man, in the Middle East -- it shouldn't spread democracy, because by doing that it would be like sticking it to itself. Now... I'm actually opposed to the idea of the U.S. being the Hegemon, the Man, in the Middle East. So from that perspective, whether Hamas or Lyndon LaRouche come to power in Palestine should be something that the Palestinians should decide on (which doesn't mean that they won't make self-desructive decisions). I've been very critical of American and Israeli policies vis-a-vis the Palestinians and I also regarded Yasser Arafat than nothing more than a gang leader. So... in short, Jim, what we need to discuss is not whether we need to spread democracy in the Middle East, but why are we in the Middle East and whether we should stay there. For than read my book, Sandstorm: Policy Failure in the Middle East.