It would have been nice to have the fall of autocrats lead to committed democrats winning elections, and they live happily ever after; but I've said again and again I'll settle for having regular and reasonably free elections so that the people can eventually recognize that their votes aren't just expressions of hate but decisions on how good or bad their lives will be. The voters must learn they are responsible for what their government does.
Besides, simply supporting autocrats who suppress the people even as the autocrats stoke Islamism to bolster the regime while regime opponents also stoke Islamism to bolster their cause just makes the people more Islamist (either for our against the autocrats, more become Islamist). That's no way to change the Islamic world. And no way to eliminate the appeal of jihad against the West.
While I continue to have hope that Iraq will be an example of rule of law that can spread in the Arab Islamic world (and even to Shia but Persian Iran), there is another place where hope has a toe hold--Gaza:
Most Palestinians in Gaza are fed up with the incompetent and corrupt rule of Hamas. Most Gazans no longer blame Israel for electricity shortages and economic problems in general, but accuse Hamas of mishandling things. Hamas has become corrupt, and their refusal to allow any more elections just makes it harder to believe anything Hamas says. The corruption is most obvious in the many taxes and fees that Hamas imposes, and the few obvious benefits from all this money. What Hamas does spend a lot of money on is their own security. There are more than enough gunmen on the Hamas payroll to deal with any popular uprising and that's how Hamas plans to stay in power. At the same time, Hamas is stalemated with its rival Fatah, which controls the West Bank and has a growing number of supporters in Gaza. The Arab states that donate money to keep Gaza and the West Bank going are fed up with the inability of Hamas and Fatah to work together for the good of all Palestinians.
The hate for Israel is still strong, of course. But Hamas no longer gets a pass on failing as a government because Hamas can scream "death to the Jews" the loudest.
When Hamas won those first and only elections, I wrote:
So now a small and weak PA has elected nutballs. Maybe this was a reaction to Fatah corruption. Maybe the Palestinians really do want death to the Jews. Better to know, right? If the former, in time more rational leaders may be elected. If the latter, better to have the veneer of civilization stripped away from the government so everyone can see who they are.
So let's cut off aid to the PA but funnel it to NGOs that build democratic institutions and civic organizations. Our goal should be to promote democracy. So rather than trying to nullify this election result, we should make sure that there will more elections, and that those results will be honored by even a Hamas government that loses.
We can't make them elect good men. But we can insist they keep holding elections until they decide to elect good men.
And think of the effects in other more imprtant countries that see that we really do support democracy even when we don't like the results. This could be revolutionary in its impact.
As I wrote, they are free to elect whackos. But then they have to live with the reality of what whackos do. That's when we have our real opportunity to see progress. Before we can teach them to elect good men, they have to recognize who the bad ones are.
This takes time. Which is why we can't grow tired of the war on terror by pretending we've won already. What's the alternative? Pretending we're the reason the Islamists hate us (and everyone else)?
UPDATE: Thanks to Stones Cry Out for the link.