Thursday, December 29, 2005

Anti-Democratic Developments Roil Iraq, Gaza and Egypt

Nothing is more discouraging in the Middle East today than the unwillingness to accept peace and/or democratic results by recalcitrant groups, who through sheer prejudice or refusal to practice elementary civility compound any attempts to bring progress.

We see this in three countries in just the last week.

IRAQ: Finally, there was a fair representative election, as declared by the United Nations and other unbiased groups. The Sunnis voted, along with the Shiites and the Kurds, and, as has been known for a long time, the Sunnis emerged about a 20% minority. Rather than accept this and negotiate for the best they could get in a new government, the Sunnis took to the streets, immediately revived their bombing campaign, and demonstrated once again that the only Iraq they want is one they are tyrants over. This, more than anything, is the fundamental cause of the war in Iraq. A more draconian approach to the Sunnis seems merited and may, in fact, be the only course realistically open to us.

GAZA: When Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon orchestrated an Israel pullout of settlements from the Gaza strip, widespread hopes were expressed that it would usher in a more benevolent era of government there and the Palestinian governing authorities called for a cessation of unpeaceful acts, such as the rocketing of nearly communities in Israel. Instead, there has been an upsurge of extremist activity, a growth of the terrorist Hamas organization, and an intensification of the rockets. All since just August. The Israelis have now been constrained to declare a buffer zone in northern Gaza from which the rockets are fired, and warn that anyone going there risks being attacked. A reoccupation of the area by the Israeli Army cannot be foreclosed. The fact is that whenever Israel has tried a tentative for peace, the Arab response has always been violent. As the poet W.H. Auden once wrote, "You and I know what all school children learn, those to whom evil is done do evil in return." It is one thing for the silly Steven Spielbergs of the world to tell the Israelis to turn the other cheek. The fact is that in order to preserve their state in the Middle East, the Israelis are required to respond to hostile acts by military action. So, it has been since creation of the Jewish state in 1948. Nothing that has happened since leads one to any conclusion other than that the Israelis are there by force alone. Peace, peace, the well-meaning liberals cry, but there is no peace, nor the likelihood of any.

EGYPT: The U.S. initially this year hailed Hosni Mubarak, president of Egypt, for opening the way to marginally more democratic elections. Now, in the wake of an openly fraudulent process, in which it was demonstrated that Mubarak is fundamentally a tyrant and that his strongest opposition is radically Islamic, in other words has Fascist tendencies, the Mubarak government has jailed one of the few liberal opposition leaders, Ayman Nour, on clearly specious charges. The New York Times in an editorial today properly called this "a kangaroo court case," and it suggested it might be time to start thinking about withdrawing the $2 billion a year that the U.S. has been giving the Mubarak government. The only trouble with that is that if we did not have Mubarak, we might have in Egypt the same kind of fascists that rule Iran.

It certainly would be tempting to declare the Middle East ungovernable and withdraw American and other Western forces, were it not for the reliance of the West on Middle Eastern oil, and the prospect that a withdrawal would lead to a terrorist takeover of major parts of the region with all the threats that would compound for the world.

We may be there, as the Israelis are, by force alone. Still, the alternatives to our presence appear to be worse. This is the grim truth, which much of the American media would prefer to ignore.

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