January 28, 2006
Democracy as Spinach
So ... Democracy
What disconcerts so
is the obstinacy of the democratists in believing that good, heavy
doses of democracy will bring eudaemonia and peace everlasting.
The most that can
be said with confidence about democracy is that certain satisfactions
are given to those who practice it. If three-quarters of your
gang voted for this kind of government, then you live with this
kind of government. If the citizens are mad at other governments,
they have the option of going to war against them, which non-democratic
governments often do. But if there is self-rule, they have only
themselves to blame, and relief is in their own hands at the next
What happens between
yesterday, when the Palestinians voted in Hamas, and the day after
tomorrow, when Hamas is voted out, is the question before the
house. We will, everyone hopes, struggle through, but it's worth
remembering that democracy got us into this mess. Not because
democracy is to be doctrinally rejected, but because democracy
simply cannot be trusted always to do the right thing, in Palestine,
in Bolivia, in Venezuela, in Weimar Germany, or in Iraq.
There are three alternative
roads ahead. Up against reality, Hamas leaders can temporize.
But David Horovitz of the Jerusalem Post warns us: "Some
may seek comfort in the belief that an ascent to government could
prompt a greater sense of responsibility, a move to moderation.
But Hamas' intolerance is based on a perceived religious imperative.
No believing Muslim, in the Hamas conception, can be reconciled
to Jewish sovereignty in the Middle East. To deny that, for Hamas,
is blasphemy. And that is the ideology to which the Palestinian
people, for whatever reason and by their own free hand, have just
tied their fate. That is the guiding ideology with which Israel
and the West will now have to grapple."
So what is to be done
if doctrinal orthodoxy continues to guide Hamas?
In words of one syllable,
a fight to the death. We would need to stimulate latent forces
of moderation, and there are some, notably in Egypt, who do not
desire such orthodoxy as would appeal to the Muslim Brotherhood
in their own country. Saudi Arabia and Jordan would not want a
situation in Palestine such as the Hezbollah brought on in Lebanon.
And it is always reassuring for the Israelis to know that, at
least for the immediate future, they are invulnerable.
A second road would
be an imaginative and resourceful Israeli response to the election
events. General Sharon put his program for disengaging from the
PLO deep in his pocket, and that program continues to reside in
the pocket of a prime minister dispossessed of mind and authority.
Sharon thought with mailed fist to encourage settlements, and
then, with mailed fist, to disassemble some of them, leaving Gaza
at liberty to claw its way back to independence -- under the leadership
of a Hamas government.
And Sharon constructed
that wall, which winds in and out of Palestine, blocking some
Palestinians who are terrorists, and reminding many Palestinians
who are not terrorist-minded of life on the impotent side of a
wall. It is entirely justified to wonder whether Hamas would have
carried the day so decisively on Thursday if the wall had not
A third way would
spring from Hamas' recognition that, having power, it may be necessary
to reject the use of it. Hamas is left without the alternative
of a Fatah government to blame for every national inconvenience
or blow to the pride. It is one thing flatly to reject the Oslo
Accords and the road map and progressive measures toward a Palestinian
state. But Hamas in power, as distinguished from Hamas in the
parliamentary wings, has to settle for realistic progress, or
else turn back to war every day, with an enemy that is brighter,
better trained, better armed, and with access to definitive U.S.
support. These are alternatives that require more exertions than
waving green flags out the windows and on the streets.
It's wrong to assume
that the mere creation of democracy will bring reasonable conduct.
But it is always correct that the burden of ruling imposes restraints.
2006 Universal Press Syndicate