20 Mar 2006
The Hamas Syndrome Haunts Bush’s Middle East Policy
The landslide victory of Hamas in the Palestinian elections did not only send shock waves around the world, it certainly did send American Mid East strategists back to the drawing board.
The centre piece of the Bush administration strategy in the region lies on the premise that occupied Iraq will be injected with a Western-style democratic model that will be the envy of her neighbours. Iraq’s ‘good example’ will then impact on others and a ‘domino effect’ will help bring down all those autocratic regimes in the region thereby heralding a new era of democracy and freedom. On the surface the idea looks smart and brilliant. The only flaw in the strategy is that the Americans demonstrated a lack of understanding of the Arab psyche especially during this era of religious awareness.
While it is the wish of America to see secular democratic governments emerge in the region, the trend is that Islamists will ride on the back of democracy to install theocracy. In 1990, Algeria’s Islamic salvation front was poised to take over power through a democratic process but the West and her local allies stopped them through an undemocratic method. Egypt has been avoiding full democracy for fear of the Muslim Brotherhood grabbing power. Even erstwhile 'secular' Iraq under the watchful eyes of the Americans could not resist the temptation of charting her political path along religious lines.
America may need to refine her definition of the type democracy she wants before committing American taxpayers’ money to foreign adventures. If she wants democracy without a qualification, she will certainly have it implanted in the Middle East. On the contrary if she wants ‘secular’ democracy, I am afraid the Middle East is not a fertile ground for it. The monarchies in the region on which America had relied over the years are becoming a liability as time progresses. The real dilemma is how America can manage their demise by ensuring that any transition can usher in pro-American regimes or at least people that are not hostile to America.
From the trend that we are witnessing in the region, it appears that neither a democratic process nor even an undemocratic one will produce future regimes that will please the U.S. government. American goodwill in the region has suffered considerably as a result of the invasion and occupation of Iraq. In the present context of both religious revival and obvious hostility to America, any democratic election in the region is most likely to produce American-bashing Islamists as leaders. The Iranians and Palestinians have taken the lead and the Bush Mid-East doctrine is hanging on the balance.
CopyrightÓ2006 by Njei Timah
Njei Moses Timah