Monday, January 30, 2006

Hamas and 'Democratic Peace Theory'

A democratic vote in Palestine produces someone the world isn't happy with. A violent government. The civilised world is outraged (Doesn't sound at all familiar, does it?). This disproves policy wonks who've pinned all their hopes on what is called 'Democratic Peace Theory'- a theory central to Bush Doctrine.

As Daniel Pipes puts it:
The positive prong involves promoting democracy. The historical record shows that democratic countries almost never make war on each other and tend to be prosperous. Therefore, elections appear to be what the doctor ordered for the maladies of the Middle East.

This theory is so central to the foreign policy of the US and its lapdogs that it is crucial to consider its weaknesses and why it might fail.

Democratic Peace Theory started off claiming that democracies would not be warlike. War was the tool of demagogues, voters would not allow it. That theory, obviously, is entirely incorrect, and no-one sane still attempts to uphold it.

So the theory adjusted to its current form: democracies do not wage war on each other. And is applied to mean that, as long as we (Western democracies) convert them to democracy, countries will stop being a threat to us.

Overwhelmingly, to date, this has proven true. But there are historical factors that theorists believe may have caused this, and which splay doubt over the utility of the theory in a place like Palestine.

Consider the adjustment: why did the theory have to change shape? Because democracies have not proven to be, by any stretch of a whiskey-sodden imagination, peaceful. For Exhibit A I give you... Australia. How many times Australia has waged war across the past 100 years? How many of those occasions did we act in direct self defence?

OK, you feel the wars may be justified, but they are wars: democracies may act on different motives at times, but they are not peaceful by definition. Just as dictatorships are not necessarily warlike. "Peaceful" and "Righteous" are different concepts.

There is every reason to conclude that the countries we recognise as democracies haven't waged war on each other because they have mostly been, until recently, allies. With common interests.

Daniel demonstrates the blind siding of the Right when he asks whether Hamas will prove the exception to the theory. Ask the same question of Israel:

Will Israel stop taking military steps against Palestinians, irrespective of provocation, merely because they are now demonstrably a democracy?

Of course not.

Regardless of whether you believe it was justified or not, voters in the US, Australia, Israel and now Palestine are perfectly capable of making a democratic statement in favour of the use of military might, including against another democracy.

Democratic Peace Theory may have some relative merit, maybe democracies are less likely on the whole to wage war, but it cannot be blandly applied to any region, any conflict, any peoples.

The theory, which underpins Bush doctrine, is demonstrably deeply flawed. Democracy may be a feature of the bulk of peaceful nations, but it needs a populace who have moved, in education and ideology, beyond the primitive urge to wage war at every opportunity.

The theory is flawed for the same reason that the old dictator's cliche - 'democracy represents the imposition of Western culture' - is flawed: a functioning democracy will more or less reflect the people within that country.

If they hate the US, or Israel, or want to murder all the civilians of a particular race, unfortunately that's the government you'll get following free and fair elections.

I offer no defence of the election of Hamas. It is a statement by the Palestinian people, a tragic one, and they as well as their leaders may be held to account for it.


Guy said...

DPT was an ideological wank designed to provide some intellectual foundation for the outrageous hawkish foreign policy of the U.S.

We'll have to see how things develop with Hamas (maybe they'll turn good guys and hang up the explosives), but DPT is certainly looking more like rubbish by the day.

Splatterbottom said...

Will Israel stop taking military steps against Palestinians, irrespective of provocation

Where did you get this from? It is not a phrase Pipes uses in his article. Looks like you are making it up. Of course Israel will respond if Hamas keeps on murdering its citizens. Even democracies do that.

The election of Hamas provides us with a true insight into Palestinian thinking. They want to kill all the Jews and destroy Israel. That is why they elected Hamas.

The fact is that the Palestinians will not accept any permanent solution that involves the continued existence of Israel. The election of Hamas proves this theory. If they wanted a two state solution, they could have had it at Taba and in the dying days of the Clinton administration.

Remeber Oslo - 'land for peace' they said. Israel let Arafat back into the country and he increased the terror.

There is really not a lot of difference between Hamas and Fatah except Fatah subcontracts its terror to al Aqsa and then Saeb Terrorcrat makes statements saying how dreadful it all is, and of course the PA is against violence. It is like the Sinn Fein/IRA distinction - effective for political purposes, but not real.

I prefer the honest approach of Hamas, but in the end I suspect they will be too gutless to maintain it. I magine if there is a PA sanctioned attack against a disco or pizza place. Israel would surely reduce the PA HQ to rubble.

So Hamas will split its militant wing from its political wing for reasons of expediancy and everyone will go back to pretending that the Palestinians will one day agree to a two state solution.

And maybe when the Palestinians realise how much suffering Hamas brings them, they will elect a more peaceable government. The Islamic revolution in Iran was massively popular at the time, but is not so popular now.

And wasn't Hitler elected democratically?


Armagnac Esq. said...

="It is not a phrase Pipes uses in his article. Looks like you are making it up."=

Yes SB, I said as much too. You're next line is precisely the reaction I expected- you are agreeing with my thesis, that it is a nonsense to say democracies won't go to war with each other.

And will you get on with your blog! Been waiting for you to get one of your own through 4 blogs of my own...

Splatterbottom said...

Armaniac, thanks for the kind words, but I don't have the time (=I'm too lazy).

Blogging is more of a solitary thing, I prefer the dialogue of the comments section.

It is more fun commenting on lefty blogs. I have tried a few comments on Blair & LGF, but it is not as much fun as explaining to lefties that they are silly. If I had my own blog lefties wouldn't read it and I'd have no one to argue with.

Armagnac Esq. said...

WHich suggests that really, deep down, you're one of us, however you have a pathological need to fight.

It's ok, we can accommodate you..

Ben Ze'ev said...


You make a number of very valid observations and deductions regarding the nature of democracy, and the stupid US neocon democracy project. Your views are quite well supported even in that very first work of history, Thucydides. You are correct on all points, but...
(waxing overly metaphorical)

I see you go to fantastic length to feel your way around the mass in your living room. You have identified that it has a trunk. You have found tusks, and a tail. The skin is baggy and the animal is huge, and making an awful smelly mess on the carpet. You have strong reason to suspect that it is a mammal, even as it tries to trample you.
In spite of all this insight, you refuse to open your eyes and read the word "Islam" written in large unfriendly letters on the side of the elephant.

You stay in the abstract, and forget the lesson of history, that if Nazism was not voted in outright, it was certainly helped democratically at least 90% of the way. You ignore that fact that there are circumstances that make some societies thrive under democracy, and other spawn demons.

I trust that you know enough about Islam beyond the usual politically correct crap, and that you do not excuse an insane totalitarian ideology simply because it has been around for a long time or succeeded in subjugating over a billion poor souls. I also trust that you will not make the usual equivalence between Islam and Christianity, or for some reason choose to mention the misunderstood, distant and irrelevant Crusades.

You cannot keep ignoring the new threat just because it happens to be a religion, and that some adherents therof are too poor in their practice and thus "moderate" in your book, even as they are condemened as apostates and paraded as moderates in equal measure by their far less moderate leaders, clergy, spokesmen and armed wings.

This omission is especially disappointing when you show the good sense to quote Daniel Pipes.
(Though not on his most important point)