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26 January 2006

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wtofd

"Freedom from religion" is brilliant. Dead centers our inability to understand the ME.

PL, I agree with you that Palestinian Muslims (and Christians) are motivated by salvation. But aren't they also distrustful of the once foreign based PLO?

How much of Hamas' success do you attribute to religion and how much is a result of their having run free clinics and other charitable orgs?

John Howley

Talk of democratizing the ME is mostly for domestic (U.S.A.) consumption ("dust in the eyes of the masses").
Though unexpected, this election outcome is consistent with the decades-long strategy of the USA of keeping the Arabs squabbling among themselves. With all that oil, Arab unity would threaten all of the established power blocs: EU, Russia, China as well as Israel -- all of whom share our strategic interest in keeping the Arabs weak and divided. When the religious fanatics get too strong we build up the secular nationalists. When the secular nationalists get too strong, we "tilt" to the religious. So long as the oil keeps flowing we can handle the occasional blowback.
You won't find this strategy written down anywhere (in English, Russian, Chinese, French or Hebrew) but it seems to be the general pattern of the past half century. The "commentariat" miss the pattern because they purge their memory each time we inaugurate a new president.

wtofd

Yuval Steinitz (Likud MK, Chairman of the Knesset For. Affairs and Def. Committee) says "These elections contradict the Oslo Agreement and contradict democracy."

As you note, if it weren't so sad, it'd be amusing.

http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/675205.html

racwalker

It seems that the people in the Middle East, when given the freedom to vote, have opted along theocratic lines. This does not differ from recent elections in the US where there is a return to 'faith' rather than reason in uncertain times. Sad to see that what Marx coined as the 'opiate of the masses' still dominates so many societies thinking. Perhaps the Bush administration should look at its own base to begin to understand motivations outside of the US and begin to forecast election results more accurately. After all, we in America are not that different from other peoples in emerging democracies.

Pat, wonderful website that sheds light on subjects we as Americans must begin to understand. Thank you.

earp

Hamas has an organization, a popular purpose, and had a weak, corrupt opponent.

The Palestinians have a purpose, but no functioning organization.

We will soon see whether we can deal with the real expressions of popular will being encouraged by our savvy government. Doesn't look like we've enhanced our position one little bit.

Bush and the neocons need to get out more and meet real people.

Babak Makkinejad

I concur with your comments. I would like to add further that there are vast numbers of people of Muslim faith inside and outside of the Middle East that love their religion; for them there is no other possible identity. I would also like to add that searching for a secular order in majority Muslim states is a chimera; all such states have been hard or soft dictatorships.
Historically, the United States government and society have been dominated by, broadly speaking, a variety of protestant Christian sects; in my opinion. A salient feature of these protestant Christian sects has been the possibility of personal dialogue with the Deity. This dialog with Deity, in turn, circumscribes the possibility of dialogue with other peoples, including Muslims. US has been carrying a monologue and what it needs is a dialogue.

Alvord

As usual I found this post very insightful. I keep hoping that the "facts on the ground" reality of that part of the world will force its way into a more prominent role in the reporting that we see in the traditional big media but it doesn't seem to be happening. Maybe I just haven't been looking in the right places. However, from my perspective what we seem to get are 90 percent Bush Administration assertions that what they are doing will all work out well in the end and maybe 10 percent criticism by either political opponents in this country or critics in other countries stating the contrary. But the reporting always seems to consist of superficially repeating the assertions of the administration or the complaints of the critics and rarely going into squaring the facts on the ground with either.

W. Patrick Lang

wtofd,

Islam is a "seamless garment." These are the same things.

The nuns and brothers who taught me believed exactly the same thing with regard to their Christianity. pl

W. Patrick Lang

Howley

Rubbish. Keep believing that and you wil never understand anything in the ME. pl

W. Patrick Lang

racwalker.

Thanks for the good words, but I think that a comparison of Islamic understandings of man's relationship to God to that of even the most zealous protestant evangelicals does not "track." To find similar intensity of thought in Christianity one must look to the past.

There are exceptions but such views are held by small groups. pl

W. Patrick Lang

Babak

Thank you for your comments. pl

wtofd

PL, loud and clear. Does it follow then that whatever percentage voted Hamas (they won 58% of the PLC seats) is Islamist and the voting in no way reflected Fatah/PA corruption?

Amazing results. I think often of your story of meeting with Arafat after Camp David '00. Here and in Iraq it looks as though Israel and the U.S. is getting what they/we unwittingly asked for.

Thanks for the reply.

Charlie Green

So it would seem that Allah works in mysterious ways. Just like other Gods.

As Rummy says, democracy can be messy. So, obviously the next step for our Leaders is to make democracy work. And get the "right people" in office in those other country's offices.

dano

One thing the Palestinians voted against in this election was the widespread corruption of Fatah and Arafat's cronies in the PA. One thing they voted for was the social services provided by Hamas. These social services are real and Hamas has been providing them - ambulance service, medical, food aid, education - completely outside the normal and corrupt Palestinian Authority's chain of command.

One way to view this is that the people want good government and voted the bums out.

(Too bad the US electorate can't do something similar.)

Yes, we all know about Hamas' proclamation, but it's also quite possible that if they become a mainstream party they may tone down the rhetoric. (Of course they may also just build their own form of corrupt infrastructure.)

It will be an interesting experiment.

BadTux

The exit poll data vs. final results discrepancy doesn't surprise me. Much like a lot of people in the exit polls here in the USA back in 2004 wouldn't admit to having voted for Bush, yet the final tally supporting Bush. While the Democratic conspiracy mongers whine about stolen elections, the more likely explanation is that the majority of Americans wanted Bush -- and got what they asked for, good and hard, and Lord help us all.

Theocrats, it appears, have a huge attraction to voters on both sides of the sea.

-BT

BadTux

And BTW, Pat, I suggest that you do not know what things are like in the Bible Belt when you say there is a huge difference between our home-grown lovers of theocracy and the Middle Eastern variant. I go home and I have people honestly tell me that they support killing abortion doctors because "they're all baby killers" and that evolution should be banned from schools because it is "anti-Christian propaganda by a secular humanist conspiracy". This is little different from Hamas extremists justifying the killing of Jews because "they're all baby killers" and the regular denunciations of various facts such as the Holocaust as "anti-Islamic propaganda by a Jewish conspiracy." The only difference is that they still hope to obtain their objectives via multi-generational political struggle, and thus are not attempting armed struggle (yet -- with the exception of those bombing abortion clinics and killing abortion doctors). You have turned your eyes towards other countries for too long, and not seen what is happening in the belly of our own.

- BT (from the Bible Belt).

wtofd

BT,
with respect I think you're trying to force connections were there are none.

Do you equate Palestinians (largest forced diaspora/refugee population in the world) with Evangelicals in the south? I could list the differences but, honestly, do you need me to?

Perhaps the Evangelicals think we've forced R v. W on their Land but we don't take their land, houses, cemeteries, schools, etc. We also allow them to work, attend school, receive medical attention, visit families, etc.

I've followed your comments on SST06 and this last one is way below your standard.

Regards.

BadTux

No, I am comparing the feelings regarding religion of Islamists in the Middle East with the feelings regarding religion of evangelicals in the United States (who, BTW, are not restricted to the South, though that is their stronghold). Evangelicals believe that Biblical law should be the guiding law of the land, that this nation was created as a Christian nation and that Christianity should be embedded in all aspects of daily life, and that their point of view must be imposed upon non-believers because it is God's will.

Their world view is not much different from that of the Islamists that I have encountered, other than that the religion is different. Both want their religion to guide all aspects of daily life in their nation. Both want their religion to be the official religion of their nation and to guide daily life in their nation. None of this is specific to Palestinians, other than that a large number of Palestinians are Islamists, as are a large number of people in the Middle East, and that this will tend to skew the results of any elections in the Palestinian territories towards Islamist parties such as Hamas.

Thus far radical evangelicals in the United States have only engaged in sporadic terrorism, primarily against abortion clinics and abortion doctors. This is because they view the political process as being a more likely mechanism for attaining their goals, not because they have moral qualms about violence (as I mentioned, I have had evangelicals tell me with a straight face that killing abortion doctors and bombing abortion clinics is moral and just). It is possible that Hamas, too, will become less violent as they attain more political power. I'm not going to hold my breath though.

-BT

Happy Jack

BadTux - having experienced the joy of living in Saudi Arabia once, I'd say the closest thing we have are the Reconstructionists.

I'd disagree that a majority of evangelicals have reached this level yet. Can't guess what the future holds, though.

Serving Patriot

COL Lang,

Thanks for the great post and very clear insight.

Living where I do now, you are right on the mark when you discuss the level of belief and complete non-attraction for people in this region to un-Islamic ways of life.

And I truly enjoyed all the other comments (expecially those comparisons of fundementalists in America). Someone noted uncertain times drive everyone back toward faith based thought and organizations. I tend to believe it has more to do with hope and optimism (in general) in the human condition and future. In the immediate aftermath of Soviet collapse, there seemed to be an overall rise in hope and optimism. Since 11 Sep 01, it has been exactly the opposite (like a light switch). This is the real impact of that terrible day on the whole world.

The truly sad part is that we Americans did not have to collapse global hope in the wake of that attack. For a few days there, when we all pulled together, I thought we just might turn that adversity into an opportunity to strengthen that post-Cold War feeling. Instead, we went negative ("us or them") and found out that, yes America, there are a whole lot of folks who really don't like you.

Kinda like the Prom Queen who finds here "real friends" don't speak to her at the reunions.

SP

W. Patrick Lang

Charlie Green

Allah=God=Allah. Same God pl

W. Patrick Lang

Someone asked why I call La Rice "Miss America." It is the walk and the way she waves to the crowd. The unending talk about world peace and the piano recitals probably have some thing to do with it as well.

Besides, I am a mean old man. pl

W. Patrick Lang

The ME expert that I live with? My wife. pl

ked

"Do you equate Palestinians with Evangelicals in the south?"

Comparing a polity to a sect is not quite apples-to-apples, however I'm afraid BT is closer to the truth.

One of the defining tenets of faith-based extremism (everywhere) is the belief that belief transcends experience of the base physical world (sorry this is tautological, but, there it is). Thus, violence may be one's duty, justified by an unfettered (or manipulated, as in the New Dark Ages of Islam & Christianity) inner faith that the world is base.

If you can't appreciate this, I recommend you get around more - in America.

wtofd

BT, I agree with the 2nd paragraph of your response. I just don't see Evangelical America as that comfortable with violence. And not because they strategically choose political engagement over their own intifada. A few bad apples, if you will. Palestinian society, on the other hand, has widely accepted that violence is a useful way of dealing with occupiers.

ked, I get around quite a bit, in this country and overseas. Best of luck pounding square pegs into round holes.

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