Democracy’s Demons

When the 2006 Palestinian Arab elections resulted in a decisive victory for Hamas, the advocates of democracy as the solution for all regional ills blamed Israel’s undermining of the Palestinian Authority. In the aftermath of the Arab Spring when the Al-Nahda Islamists swept to power in Tunisia and the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafists captured a majority in Egypt, some of the same people blamed the United States for enabling dictators.

The excuses were an attempt to place the blame somewhere other than the electorate which had cast their ballots for theocracies, or rather more extreme versions of the existing theocratic elements in the legal and political system. The most convenient target for blame was the scapegoat of Western foreign policy.

If only the United States and Israel had not undermined the “liberal” alternative to the hard core Islamists then the results would have been different, went the refrain. But the United States had done everything possible to back the “liberal” opposition in Egypt, despite it being fueled by a raging hatred of the United States. During the shakedown in Egypt, Western nations had all but ordered the Egyptian military to cede power to El Baradei.

The Palestinian Authority was fed by Israeli and American money and protected by their armed forces. It was the United States that encouraged the PA’s showdown with Hamas after its election losses and it was Israel that bailed out the PA’s cowardly militias when Hamas began throwing them off buildings. American weapons, training and money, not to mention funding of social services and all the other vaunted elements of soft power did not salvage the Palestinian Authority which has learned its lesson and has repeatedly ducked out of holding elections since....

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