Q&A Friday #45: How Does The War In The Middle-East Impact Democracy In The Region?
Question: “Do you see the current situation in the Middle East as ultimately a good thing in the sense that it may galvanize the world into a decisive (albeing probably very destructive) global struggle the termination of which will lead to the irrevocable ascendency of liberal Democracy throughout the entire world, but particularly throughout the Muslim world? Or is the situation an auger of ominous times and possibly the end of the world as we know it?” — huckupchuck
Answer: To begin with, it’s certainly not the end of the world as we know it. In fact, it’s not even all that out of the ordinary for the region. Ever so often, there’s a big brouhaha over there and the Muslims try to murder all the Jews or the Israelis have to pound their genocidal neighbors to keep them in line. It’s just what they do.
Now on to the democracy, such as it is, in Southern Lebanon and in the Palestinian territory. To tell you the truth, it’s hard to even call what the Palestinians have a “Democracy.” The people have a choice of picking between two terrorist gangs. It would be like if everyone in California either had to vote for someone in the Crips or Bloods, and everybody else who tries to run gets shot. Is that Democracy? In my book, not really.
In Southern Lebanon, you essentially have half of the country that’s run from afar in Syria and Iran. Again, if the Democratically elected leaders of a country are just puppets who take orders from foreign masters, is that really a Democracy in a meaningful sense? That makes the democracy in Lebanon a little off kilter, too.
But in any case, the real test of the democratic process will be after all this fighting dies down. You see, for the moment, things seem to be following the old template. The terrorists pick a fight with Israel. Israel squashes them. Eventually the fighting dies down and then everybody starts getting prepared for the next round.
But this time around, Hezbollah and Hamas will both be significantly weaker and their political foes will be comparatively stronger. Moreover, tremendous damage will have been done in both countries. When they were just terrorist groups, both Hamas and Hezbollah could just shrug their shoulders and let someone else clean up their mess. Now, since they’re both in politics, they’re going to have constituents to deal with.
“When is the bridge getting fixed? When will the power be back on? How are we going to pay for all this? What exactly did we, the people who voted for you, get out of this attack?”
Hamas was already having major problems with their cashflow before this and these attacks will only exacerbate the problem. Furthermore, lots of Hamas officials will be dead or in prison, and there will be lots of infrastructure damage. What will they do about it? If they want to get foreign cash flowing into the Palestinian territories again, they’re going to have to recognize Israel’s right to exist and stop launching attacks at them.
In Lebanon, my guess is that you’ll see the United States and Europe funneling in lots of money to clean up the damage, but they’ll take care to keep the money out of Hezbollah’s hands. Moreover, although the people will be furious with Israel (after all, they have been bombing them), Hezbollah will also get their share of the blame for baiting the Israelis into attacking, especially during tourist season.
That’s why, long term, these Israeli attacks have the potential to majorly weaken Hamas and Hezbollah while strengthening Democracy in Lebanon and the Palestinian territories. Even if they don’t aid Democracy, at least terrorists are being killed and their supporters are being made miserable. That’s always a big plus.
So the terrorists are being killed, Hezbollah and Hamas are being weakened, a threat is being removed from Israel’s Northern border, Arab nations are actually condemning Hezbollah, and democracy has the potential to become stronger in Lebanon and the Palestinian territories. Does that mean this is a good thing? Well, war is never a good thing, even if it is a necessary thing. There have been Israelis killed and terrorized and there could be other negative consequences. The government in Lebanon could collapse. Syria could invade Lebanon. You could have Israel and Iran launching attacks at each other over Iraq. Yet and still, I think Israel made the right decision and is handling this whole conflict very well so far.