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Overthrowing Our Election

The U.S. has been arming and training Palestinians military forces off and on since the Oslo days. First we called it “police training.” The Palestinian police would stop terrorism against Israel so the Israelis could have confidence in the “peace process.” But the “police” were moonlighting as terrorists and our training made them better terrorists, so we stopped for a while.

The U.S. has been arming and training Palestinians military forces off and on since the Oslo days. First we called it “police training.” The Palestinian police would stop terrorism against Israel so the Israelis could have confidence in the “peace process.” But the “police” were moonlighting as terrorists and our training made them better terrorists, so we stopped for a while. In 2005, an American general was to reform the Palestinian security services to provide greater security for the Palestinian people so THEY could have confidence in the “peace process.” In January 2007, it was reported that the U.S. military was training Abu Mazen’s personal security service to provide greater security for him so HE could have confidence in the “peace process.”

Now, Reuters reports that Abu Mazen’s guard will expand from 6,000 to 10,000 men and U.S. will begin training and equipping the Palestinian National Security Forces, an organization of 20,000-40,000 soldiers presumed loyal to Abu Mazen.

None of this has anything to do with the “peace process” except to the extent that the U.S. is trying to support its client in the “peace process,” Abu Mazen, in the burgeoning Hamas-Fatah war. The descent of Gaza into a monstrously bloody and violent mess – more than 75 dead, including two teenage members of a family executed with their father and three little boys being driven to school blown up in their father’s car (the father wasn’t in it) – has apparently prompted the administration to run for the gun cabinet.

That may be OK if it signals an end to the notion that voting brings democratic government to people who have no experience with either loyal opposition or the rights of the minority. Sharansky’s democratization required civic space, personal security and intellectual freedom in a framework of rules and transparent government. Democracies would be judged, he said, not on what the majority does, but how the minority does. President Bush knew that in June 2002 when he called on the Palestinians to build a “practicing democracy, based on tolerance and liberty,” accompanied by reforms in government and leadership.

The Palestinians clearly failed all the tests. But in its haste to move the PA into the “democratic” column, the administration sanctioned the participation of Hamas in the 2005 legislative election, and hailed the result as a victory for democracy. Secretary Rice said, “Whenever you have 80 percent of the Palestinian people turn out in a free and fair election, one that is free of violence, it has to be a cause for hope.”

Not really. The war in the PA is what happens when bad people “win” an “election,” or armed and violent losers undermine the winners, or a government is undermined by those – foreign or domestic – not in the process at all. Maybe the only choice the U.S. has now is to help Abu Mazen overthrow the result of the U.S.-sanctioned election. But furtherance of larger American goals in the region requires the observation that the imposition of democratic forms on illiberal populations will more likely produce anarchy than democracy. The implications of the failures in the PA will reappear in other larger and more important places, perhaps Egypt or Saudi Arabia.