"Evil is powerless if the good are unafraid" - Ronald Reagan

New York

The Bush Doctine and Unruly Democracies

There has been a lot of consternation about the freely and duly elected democracies popping up in the Middle East. Of recent note is Hamas, a recognized terrorist organizations who is responsible for several suicide bombings in Israel over the last several years. Also of concern is the Muslim Brotherhood which had significant gains in Egypt recently. While the United States would have liked to see a more secular democracy in Iraq, Iraqis freely elected a more religious Shia party into power. Finally, there is President Ahmadinejad of Iran. While not a true democracy, he was one of several approved candidates for President and elected by a majority in a rather transparent election.

While President Bush touts democracies as the cornerstone of the Bush Doctrine, critics denounce Middle East democracies as giving rise to extreme political parties. Again, Hamas is the most recent and extreme example of a completely transparent elected democracy. So, is the Bush Doctrine the best method of security for America in the future or are we just giving the power of a democracy to our enemies?

While it is true that democracies seldom attack each other since they share many of the same capitalistic ideals, history is not deplete of past democracies gone astray. Is this what is currently happening in the Middle East? A prime example many people point to is Hitler, who came to power through a democracy.

As a conservative, I am often surprised when the electorate in America elects a liberal to lead this nation. I do not agree with liberal platform, their social tendencies, or their lack of backbone when it comes to standing up to other nations that challenge the United States. I am similarly dismayed when liberals do not win, but manage to receive close to 50% of the vote. From my perspective, I just cannot fathom that so many people could completely disagree with my philosophy. I am likewise dismayed when liberals get all bothered about something so much they ban together to protest their case to such an extent that they violate the established laws in this country and demand others share their view. The recent NSA wiretapping disclosure is such an example, but so is the tobacco tax settlement. Not to be one-sided, I am also dismayed when a conservative anti-abortion zealot murders an abortion doctor to prevent further abortions. While not for abortion, I do not feel murdering an abortion doctor resolves the issue. It only aggravates the issue.

While a Soldier, I also feel the use of the Army to engage in combat is a failure of diplomacy. Understand, diplomacy is a two-sided affair. If one side fails to be diplomatic, then the other side may have no other choice to engage in combat. Hitler’s Germany is a historic example. Osama bin Laden’s attack on the United States and the subsequent war against Al Qaeda in Afghanistan is a more recent example of one-sided failed diplomacy. The pre-emptive attack on Saddam’s Iraq is another example. Ahmadinejad’s Iran may very well be another example in the near future. What do all these failed diplomatic efforts have in common? Once simple thing. They did not have democracies with which to execute diplomacy. In addition, they had rulers that violently suppressed their own people and supported suppression other peoples of other nations. Saddam is a perfect example of such a tyrannical ruler. Ahmadinejad is another example. He not only is suppressing his own people, but actively supports and encourages terrorist acts against other nations.

I do feel spirited, free, public, orderly debate is the cornerstone of a democracy. Democracies breed understanding with others who do not share similar views. Democracies allow the rise of a strong middle class which subsequently gives rise to abundant resources. Ultimately all wars are fought over resources and more directly, the lack of these resources. Hitler’s Germany is a historic example. The punishing WWI payments and rise of unemployment in Germany directly led to his rise to power. Not being able to solve his resource issues internally led him, among other reasons, to conquer externally. The fact that he highjacked the German democracy did not mean the German democracy was bad. It did mean that they unfortunately elected the wrong leader. Democracies sometimes make mistakes. Like Hitler’s Germany, The Palestinian election of Hamas may provide another example of a democracy electing a wrong leader. While not saying President Carter is anything like Hitler or Hamas, I also believe he was precisely the wrong leader for America during his time in office.

A free democracy is the path towards all good things. I believe President Bush shares this view. Hence, even in the face of a freely elected terrorist organization, like Hamas, he can say, “I think it's too early to tell … I'd like to see the will of the people in place.” While I am sure President Bush does not hold much hope that Hamas will drastically change their ways, he does have faith that a democracy will, over time, create a tolerant people. The question at hand right now is will Hamas focus internally to help its own people as it become tolerant over time or will it seek to focus externally against Israel with its new found power immediately regardless of the suffering of its people, like Ahmadinejad in Iran.

Tolerance is what is lacking in the Middle East. The riots of Muslims over newpaper publications of a cartoon Mohammad is an example of insufficient understanding and tolerance of others’ views. While I think an anti-abortion activist murdering an abortion doctor is not only criminal but absurd, I equally agree with the criminality and absurdness of rioting and murdering over a cartoon. This lack of tolerance in the Middle East and the hate it has been slow-brewing is what led Bush and his advisors to develop the Bush Doctrine. September 11th, 2001 was just the straw that broke the camel’s back which allowed the doctrine to be implemented. Democracies have tolerated the hatred fermenting in the Middle East for decades, but nobody was bold enough to seek regime change through democracy. While we did not agree with the totalitarian regimes, they provided stability for our oil hungry economy. Changing out these corrupt, but stable regimes could only lead instability. This was common knowledge. September 11th destroyed this perceived stability, so Bush proposed democratic regime change, the Bush Doctrine.

People expect democracies to be like the United States. I have been to several democratic countries. None of them are like the United States. None of them are like each other. But all practice tolerance—over time. The young United States was not a very tolerant country, especially when it came to religion. Arguably, it took a civil war for Americans to be tolerant with each other. Iraqis, for the most part, are much more tolerant than many Americans I have met. They want to practice spirited, free, public, and orderly debate as they find their democracy that will fit their country. Most are tolerant of an occupying military force in their country because they know this occupying force will allow them to strengthen their democracy, build their middle class, develop their resources, and to rise the level of tolerance among themselves. I would bet most Americans would not be as tolerant of an occupying military force in our country.

Needless to say, President Bush was bold enough to seek democracies in the Middle East. Some we may not like. Some may go bad. Some would not be what we would do. But all freely elected democracies will be beacons of light to the Middle East All, over time, will develop a middle class, which will seek and develop resources. As resources grow and people are no longer living on the edge of existence, they become more tolerant of those that disagree with their views. Democracy is truly the only possible way to seek peace in the Middle East. If anything, we should not be wondering if the Bush Doctrine will work, but why wasn’t somebody bold enough to implement it prior to 3000 people dying on September 11th.

The Achilles Heal of The Coalition of the Willing and Terrorists in General.

Arab News has an excellent article regarding Iran's strengths and weaknesses as its pursues its current nuclear path. Strengths include:

  • It has completed “emergency plans to face aggression” and is busy building a network of logistical support facilities in the western and southern provinces.

  • Some $3 billion has been added to the regular defense budget in the form of a “supplement for emergency exigencies” under the direct control of the “Supreme Guide” Ali Khamenei.

  • The “Supreme Guide” has also created a “High Council of Military Planning” under former Defense Minister Adm. Ali Shamkhani.

  • A list of “high priority” sites that might be attacked has been established and their protection against air strikes or ground sabotage operations beefed up.

  • Import of “sensitive goods” has been increased to build up stocks to face sanctions.

  • The Central Bank of Iran (CBI) has transferred some $8 billion of its assets from the European Union to Asia to forestall the possibility of its accounts being frozen by the EU.

  • The international network of radical organizations created and supported by Iran has been put on full alert.

Weaknesses include:

  • Over the past six months an estimated $300 billion, mostly belonging to small or medium investors, has been transferred from Iran to foreign banks, especially in the Gulf states. (The chief justice of the Islamic Republic Mahmoud Shahroudi puts the figure at $700 billion).

  • Over 10,000 Iranian companies have moved their headquarters from Iran to Dubai, Turkey, Cyprus and even Pakistan.

  • At least 10 oil companies, among them British Petroleum (UK), Baker-Hughes (US), Halliburton(US), and Conoco-Phillips(US) have either withdrawn from Iran or are winding down operations, even in the Qeshm and Kish “free zones.”

  • Several major Western companies have also started their withdrawal from Iran. These include Baker-Hughes (US), Siemens(Germany), General Electric (US) and Phillips (Holland).

  • Some international banks are also winding down their activities in Iran. These include Standard-Charter (UK), ABN-Amro(Holland), Credit Suisse (Switzerland), UBS (Switzerland), and the insurance brokers AON Corps.

  • The US Treasury Department has revived the long forgotten Iran-Libya Sanctions Act (ILSA) and is investigating 73 European, American, Canadian and Japanese firms that do business in Iran in violation of its provisions. Many of those firms are likely to withdraw from Iran rather than face being shut out of the US market.

  • Iran imports nearly 40 percent of the refined petroleum products it needs from other OPEC members, including Iraq and Kuwait.

Mr. Taheri continues to point to failed threats made by Iran. The Iranian attempt to get OPEC to cut production failed miserably. Not only is OPEC not going to cut production, but they are also seeking at bringing oil down from $50 to $25 per barrel. The other threat noted was Iran seeking to expand the intifada through Hamas and Islamic Jihad. As mentioned earlier, Iran, Syria, Hamas, Islamic Jihad, Hezbollah, and Al Qaeda recently solidified the “Coalition of the Willing”. Hamas’ recent victory in Palestine was unexpected to the coalition and can possibly be the Achilles heal in the coalition. As noted the Arab News article, assets in Iranian banks may have been reduced up to $700 billion as countries begin to leave Iran not only due to threat of sanctions, but also worry over its overt rhetoric. With Hamas’ victory, the PA may lose up to $1 billion annually (from the US and EU) of its $3 billion budget. Another $600 million, collected annually by Israel, is also in threat of not being delivered to the PA. Not just economically, but Hamas, now a leader in the PA Parliament, will be hard-pressed to carry out attacks on Israel without a subsequent retaliation against the PA Parliament directly. Iran’s greatest threat, to expand the intifada, will most likely fail due to these facts.

In addition, the article does not touch on the internal strife in Iran. Ahmadinejad is, behind the scenes, is being confronted by more moderate reformists in Iran. While all most probably agree with his rhetoric regarding the US and Israel, the moderate reformists do not believe the publicity he is bringing to these objectives is in Iran’s best interest. Mr. Taheri points to these weaknesses by identifying the 10,000 company headquarters which as moved their headquarters out of Iran and the ten major oil companies and other companies who’s operations are winding down. This exodus has undoubtedly hurt Iran’s immediate bottom line and long-term ability to maintain it production capacity and economy. As the Iranian economy retracts, Almadinejad will have a more difficult time exporting terrorism.

With the IAEA’s referral of Iran to the Security Council, the stage is becoming set to further isolate Iran. While unable to do anything until next month when it receives the IAEA’s report, Iran is on notice that further progress on its nuclear program will only make the council more and more likely to impose sanctions. If sanctions occur, they should be focused on further limiting external participation and investment in Iran and limiting its access refined fuel. These are the two principle ways to bring Iran back in line with the international community.

As mentioned earlier, the Coalition of the Willing was formed as an attempt to strengthen these groups and states. Iran is being weakened further not only from possible Security Council actions, but by private companies who are pulling assets out of Iran and internal descent from moderates reformists. Hamas, at what should be the heights of its glory, is now under pressure from many governments to renounce its charter and will probably have to rule a PA without well over half of its annual budget. Syria’s Assad is under constant attack from the UN. Al Qaeda’s efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan are not going well. Hezbollah’s support in Lebanon is waning. With this much pressure against these groups and states, it is hard to believe the Coalition of the Willing will maintain its goal of expanding the intifada much less a global caliphate state. One of these states or groups will soon fail, marking a significant reduction in the capabilities of the Coalition of the Willing and quite possibly an end to one or more of these groups or states as sponsors of terrorism.

The Global War on Terrorism will be a long, slow war. However, western countries are in a unique position to keep pressure on the Coalition. Regional powers in the Middle East are becoming less and less supportive of terrorists as their own countries are now in the terrorist sites. Money is the quickest way to limit terroism. Now the leading supplier of monies to terrorist organizations is also having financial troubles of its own as countries are pulling up stakes in preparation for possible sanctions. The PA is also trying to find out how it is going to pay its civil servants, much less terrorist organizations it supports. None of these groups or states could have imagined they would be in this predicament a little over four years after their celebration of 9/11.

The "Coalition of the Willing" against Israel, the EU, the US, and UN.

The election of Hamas to majority control of the Palestinian Parliament has led to some interesting results, namely a seldom seen consensus of international opinion is forming for this and other reasons.

German Chancellor Merkel pledged not to deal with the radical Islamist Hamas until it recognized Israel's right to exist. Specifically, she stated, "Cooperation between Israel and the Palestinians can only be possible if they (Hamas) meet three conditions -- the renunciation of terror and violence, recognition of Israel's right to exist and that they accept all existing international agreements."

She continued with, "This is Germany's position and we will also communicate this to the EU."

Secretary of State Rice, enroute to London to discuss how to deal with the newly elected Hamas government and Iran's pursuit of nuclear enrichment stated not only western states, but also regional states were "on the same page" with regards to continued funding for the Hamas controlled Palestinian Authority (PA).

Ismael Haniyeh, a senior Hamas leader rebutted with, "This aid cannot be a sword over the heads of the Palestinian people and will not be material to blackmail our people, to blackmail Hamas and the resistance."

With almost $850 million in aid money to the PA expected from the US and EU this year, Hamas will be hardpressed to continue its hardline stance and assume the duties expected of a government. Like I have stated before in previous posts, Hamas' election victory has brought a lot of issues to the forefront. Fatah leaders are realizing they cannot continue with their corrupt way if they hope to regain power, Hamas will have to moderate or it will loose support, and the international community is realizing their tactic approval for anti-Israeli groups can no longer continue.

While Syria and Iran may increase funding for Hamas to compensate for other reductions, both of these countries are already in hot water internationally and aid from them does not come without increased risks. However, it appears that an extremely high stakes game is being played between the new "Coalition of the Willing" led by Iran against western and regional governments friendly to the United States. Hamas Leader Khaled Meshaal attended a conference in Tehran on 12 Dec 06 where he elicited support from Iran for his organization as were collaboration between Hamas, Jihad Islami, Hezbollah and Al Qaeda. Further Meshaal, Mugniyah the operational Hezbollah leader, Ahmadinejad, and Assad met in Damascus on 19 Jan 06 in an effort to consolidate this new alliance. Interestingly enough, Al Qaeda was holding an operational meeting in Damadola around the same time-18 Jan 06.

What is striking most of all is the timing of these events. With Iran moving ever closer to possible sanctions, Assad under intense international scutiny by the UN, and Lebanon calling for Hezbollah to disarm, it appears that these weakened entities are attempting to consolidate objectives and coordinate future actions against Israel and the US. But with Hamas' recent victory, we now have not only the US siding with Israel, but the EU coming online against these terrorist regimes. It also appears quite possible that the UN will be forced to stop its tacit approval of nations that support terrorists and terrorists organizations.

The democratic beacon in Iraq is reverberating throughout these Middle East regimes. Iraqis are now actively and effectively fighting foreign terrorists in Iraq and democracy is budding. The "Coalition of the Willing" now links three state-sponsors of terrorism, Iran, Syria, and the PA. Their destinies are linked. The collapse of any one of these regimes, will strike a deathblow to terrorist efforts in the region.

A recent assassination attempt on Ahmadinejad on 17 Dec 05, will undoubtedly result in persecution of reformers in Iran causing even more internal discourse among leaders in Iran and among the people. While all Iranian leaders would like to see a nuclear Iran to allow it to support terrorism with impunity, Ahmadinejad's outspoken nature definitely makes the more moderate factions in Iran nervous. Whether he will be able to quell internal dissent is still an open question. If he succeeds in quelling dissent, it is only a matter of time before UN sanctions or direct military action marks his demise. Hamas' victory has put it in a bad position as support for Israel, or at the least, understanding of its defensive position will continue to grow.

Assad is attempting to gain immunity for his cooperation with UN investigations. His powerbase is severely weakened and another failure may very well bring his demise. Recent actions by the Iraqi and US military in Anbar province is also limiting his affect in Iraq further eroding his support at home. Syria has always been a leader in the region. Its loss of Lebanon and its lack of effectiveness in Iraq is bringing it close to revolution.

Hamas, as stated above, while gaining power is now unexpectedly on the defensive and will have to attempt to govern without $850 millions in aid which may very well bring its immediate downfall as internal support dissipates or severely moderate its long held position. Either way, Hamas will be weakened.

All three regimes have their backs against the wall. They are attempting to coordinate efforts to ensure their survival. However, the unexpected Hamas victory has now pushed their actions into the limelight and showed their hands. Even small pushes by the US, the EU, or the UN can have devastating effects. The easiest to derail is Hamas by cutting $850 million in aid resulting in its quick demise as public servants and others dependent on this aid lead the march for its removal. This will be seen as another Assad failure resulting in his ousting with support for Hezbollah obviously disrupted to say the least. Iran would then stand alone with no allies. Curtailing gasoline imports into Iran would be an effective sanction to push reformists over the edge to bring down this regime.

President Bush's Greater Middle East Initiative is coming to a climax. Who would have expected a Hamas victory could have stirred up events so much. It is not often that random events come together to such a lopsided end. While terrorist entities were secretly coordinating alliances to orchestrate their action for the new year, Hamas' unexpected rise to power has significantly changed the dynamics and may allow western and regional powers to bring down two terrorist organizations (Hamas and Hezbollah) and two state-sponsors of terrorism (Syria and Iran). After them, the last bastion of hope is still hiding in caves in the mountainous region of Pakistan. The predator strike in Damadola which killed 4-5 top Al-Qaeda leaders may have also significantly disrupted Al-Qaeda new year plans.

Why is it always the somebody else's fault?

Maher Othman conducts an analysis in his article entitled, Palestine: A Democratic Achievement…What Next? for Lebanon's Dar Al Hayat. He suggests several reasons for the recent Hamas victory inlcuding the main reason cited in my analysis, namely Fatah's corruption and subsequent disregard for the Palestinian people.

He points to several other factors for Fatah's defeat which I find interesting to say the least.

Mr. Othman states, "The first is that Israel did not give the PA's party, since President Abbas took over the presidency succeeding to the late Yasser Arafat, anything that it can offer to its people as an achievement; such as heading towards an acceptable settlement in the near future. Moreover, the US President George Bush walked away from the Palestinians and was occupied by the repercussions of the war on Iraq. He remained a strong ally of Israel despite its violation of the international resolutions, thus, failing to keep his promises to Abbas."

Later in the article, he states, "After all, there was no peace process initially. Moreover, during the last few years, the US was not serious about striving to achieve a settlement."

He also notes, "The international reactions are ongoing and materializing despite the fact that some of them, especially the ones expressed by the EU countries and the US, have defined perspectives. No one will engage any dialogue with "Hamas" if it does not recognize Israel and change its charter in conformity with this recognition. It should also set aside its arms, since this armed status is inconsistent with its presence in the legislative council and at the helm of the PA later and soon."

Fianally he comments about Israel's ascertion, "It announced yesterday that it will call for halting the financial assistance granted to the PA and will not negotiate therewith. Thus, the way is now wide open for Israel to take more unilateral moves. It will probably continue to draw its borders by biting into more Palestinian territories, under the same old fictional pretext "No partner on the other side."

While I don't disagree with the statements in their own right, I do disagree with the context of blame in all the statements. The main theme regarding all of these factors for Hamas' success is it is somebody else's fault lending to the fact that if Hamas fails like Fatah, it isn't the Palestinian's fault. It is the United States', The Europeon Union's, and Israel's fault.

The Israelis did not give Abbas anything. There was no peace process. The US was not serious about achieving a settlement. Israel is in violation of international law. No one will engage with Hamas unless it recognized Israel. Israel is halting financial assistance. Israel will continue unilateral disengagement.

The is no mention of the hundred of millions upon hundreds of millions of dollars of international aid and extensive development support. I guess it is Sharon's fault that despite several Palestinian broken truces, he should have looked the other way and not retaliated against in kind. Oh by the way, he did not retaliate in kind, but was extremely tempered in his responses. The fact that Arafat was given almost everything the Palestinians wanted by President Clinton but chose to continue the intifada and not continue negotiations is conveniently omitted. President Bush liberating Iraq and bringing democracy to the Palestinians (not to mention the Lebanese) is also strangely absent. Israel, since it does not have a trustworthy partner on the other side continues to disengage from occupied territories. But heck, this puts Israel in violation of international law. But Hamas is in compliance with international law by refusing to recognized the UN Mandate of 1948 creating the state of Israel and committing terrorists acts.

As stated previously, Hamas will have to moderate since it is now in a unique position. Specifically, if it targets Israel, Israel now has a fixed government which to attack and not just a bunch of terrorists in camps.

More than anything, it seems that Mr. Othman is upset that the Hamas terrorist organization will no longer be able to carry out its violent terrorists attacks with impunity anymore. And if it fails to transform from a terrorist organization to the democratically elected government for the people, it too will be voted out of the democracy and as a result receive little support for continued terrorists acts.

The Palestinian election is a watershed event. They have nobody to blame but themselves for their future success or failure. The have voted out one corrupt party for another corrupt party. This is their free choice, just as it is the free choice of other countries to withhold aid. It is now up to Palestinian leadership to begin the political process, stop senseless terrorists acts, quite blaming others for their plight, and grow up. They have started the process of growing up by participating in free democratic elections. Now lets see if they grow up enough to understand that the art of democratic compromise.