“Soft despotism is a term coined by Alexis de Tocqueville describing the state into which a country overrun by "a network of small complicated rules" might degrade. Soft despotism is different from despotism (also called 'hard despotism') in the sense that it is not obvious to the people."

Sunday, December 17, 2006

The Illusions of democracy in the Middle East.

Deutsche Welle, never a font of optimism, has posted an opinion piece on the current state of democracy in the Arab world and Palestine in particular. Peter Philipp is Deutsche Welle's chief correspondent and specialist in Middle East affairs. He speculates on what not to expect from new elections in Palestine:

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has called for new elections to solve the current crisis. But DW's Peter Philipp argues that the chances for success are slim.

Democracy without free elections is unimaginable, but that's not to say that free elections bring about democracy. Triggered by the developments and events in the Middle East, this sobering realization must have spread particularly in the United States last week.

Take Iraq: One year after the first, truly free election, the situation there is now worse than ever. Everything moves towards civil war at such a pace that even critics of the US occupation warn that a swift withdrawal would create just more chaos. The Saudis, who usually like to stay out of everything, have warned that they would completely support Iraqi Sunnis in case of a US withdrawal.

In Baghdad, people now try to demonstrate national unity and reconciliation. But that's as unlikely to succeed as in Lebanon: There, free elections also took place. An inclusive coalition government is now under the massive pressure of the Islamist Hezbollah and her allies to grant them a minority veto power in government. Many worry that a new civil war will be the alternative.

That's exactly what Palestinians fear for the autonomous territories. President Mahmoud Abbas hopes to prevent such a development by holding new elections in the very near future. Hamas spokespeople accuse Abbas of abusing his powers in an unconstitutional way and have already announced their resistance against this "coup from above." This, too, could lead to civil war.

Even if that's not the case, it's more than questionable whether new elections will solve the problem. Hamas was elected in January, because people were tired of the corrupt PLO, because the peace process had not brought results and because the despair in the Palestinian territories had apparently reached boiling point. Apparently. It's become much worse since then.

As Hamas does not uphold the PLO's agreements with Israel and refuses to recognize Israel, the government is boycotted by the West and does not receive desperately needed financial aid. Officials smuggle Arab and Iranian donations into the country, but that's no way to govern. Attempts to form a broad coalition of nonpartisan experts all failed. Following attacks from both sides -- including one on Premier Haniya -- Abbas seems to have come to the conclusion that only presidential and parliamentary elections can bring salvation.

It's a dim hope, as elections alone have not turned things around in Iraq nor in Lebanon. Why should it be different in Palestine the second time around?

Will elections make any difference in the Middle East?


  1. Factional violence escalates in Gaza
    Last Updated: Sunday, December 17, 2006 | 8:55 AM ET
    CBC News
    Palestinian Foreign Minister Mahmoud Zahar's convoy came under fire Sunday as it passed through Gaza City, and members of his Hamas movement accused Fatah rivals of trying to assassinate him.

    The attack on Zahar unleashed a ferocious gun battle that raged through the main streets of Gaza City for more than an hour — the worst fighting between the two sides since talks on forming a unity government broke down in late November.

    The shooting took place as the foreign minister was travelling near the foreign ministry offices.

    "It appears the target was Dr. Zahar," said Taher Anunu, a spokesman for the senior Hamas official.

    "The attempt to assassinate Zahar has failed and he is safe and he was not harmed in the shooting."

  2. My husband got me lurking some months ago. But what happened?

    Looks like polonium 210 got your site.

  3. Pesky Russian Commizars

    makin mischief for other folks

    Iraq, Palistine, Lebanon
    Democrazy makin' migration to something. Seems Civil War is as likely as civil society. More so.

  4. What is it we are seeing in Lebanon?

    The Six Enemy Tribes of Anbar, their 300,000 folk are in a Civil Conflict, at least.
    An Insurgency is a form of Civil War, by it's very definition, at least according to Wikipedia.

    One of the reasons Mr Rumsfeld did not want to call the "Enemy" Insurgents, early on.

  5. Incoming Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid Says He Would Support Temporary Troop Surge in Iraq
    WASHINGTON -- The Senate's top Democrat offered qualified support Sunday for a plan to increase U.S. troops in Iraq, saying it would be acceptable as part of a broader strategy to bring combat forces home by 2008.

    President Bush's former secretary of state, however, expressed doubts any troop surge would be effective, noting U.S. forces already are overextended. "The American Army isn't large enough to secure Baghdad," said Colin Powell, Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman during the 1991 Gulf War.

    Yet more American soldiers in Baghdad is precisely what Iraq's Sunni vice president said is necessary to quell sectarian violence _ even though the Shiite-dominated government has proposed shifting U.S. troops to the capital's periphery and having Iraqis take the primary role for security.

    "Who is going to replace the American troops? ... Iraqi troops, across the board, they are insufficient, incompetent, and many of them (are) corrupted," said Tariq al-Hashemi, who met with Bush in Washington last week.

  6. That is quite an analysis from Powell. I cannot think of a precedent of a sitting president having heard such a blunt assessment from his ex Sec of state.

  7. I should have said the public assessment.

    "Former Secretary of State Colin L. Powell said today that badly overstretched American forces in Iraq were losing the war there, and that a temporary increase in troop levels probably would not help.
    Skip to next paragraph
    The Reach of War
    Go to Complete Coverage »
    Readers’ Opinions
    Forum: The Transition in Iraq

    But, he quickly added, “we haven’t lost.”

    The situation could be reversed, General Powell said in one of his most extensive commentaries on the Iraq war since leaving office. He urged an intense effort to train and support Iraqi security forces and strengthen the government in Baghdad."

  8. exSec of State and exChairman of Joint Chiefs.

    If the "attitude" of the US Military does not change, there is no indication that it is about to, then the surge will not succeed. In the Long Term, as the surge recedes so will signs of success.

    The Sunni VP of Iraq is not all that impressed with his Army.

    Each day that passes the Sunni exodus out of Iraq continues. The drum beat of ethnic cleansing building, though still far from crescendo.

  9. 42 or 43 months the US has been in charge in Iraq.

    Given the build up to action lead time another 6 or 8 months. Four Years.

    That is how long we have been "Training" the Iraqi Army. Success is still years away. So say the Generals that have been "In Charge" of the present state of affairs.

    Who does the Iraqi VP expect to have replace the US if not the Iraqi? Politics of reality rejection all around. For years, the Sunni have rejected reality, the US as well.

  10. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  11. This is interesting from Aljezeera.

    Hardliners fail to sweep Iran vote
    Candidates allied to Ahmadinejad
    have failed to sweep the polls

    Candidates allied to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Iran's president, have failed to score a resounding victory over moderate forces in twin Iranian elections, according to initial results.

    Voting for the Assembly of Experts, the body that chooses the supreme leader, and the Tehran city council concluded on Saturday.

    Centrist cleric Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani appeared to have sprung a surprise by reaping more votes than a hardline rival in the election for the Assembly of Experts.

    In the Tehran city council, reformists were on course to take a handful of seats and end total conservative domination.

    High turnout

    The result from the assembly of experts vote is of vital symbolic importance for Rafsanjani.

    Official results announced by the interior ministry, based on half the votes counted, showed Rafsanjani in first place and Mesbah Yazdi in sixth.

    The authorities were keen to emphasise an unexpectedly high turnout of about 60 per cent of the electorate, far higher than in similar elections in the past.

    "The Iranian people have taken a decision to reach the summit of progress. As soon as they see that the enemy wants to stop them doing something, they carried it out," Ahmadinejad said, hailing the turnout.


    In Tehran city itself, Rafsanjani was more than 400,000 votes ahead of the second placed cleric, the ISNA news agency reported, citing official figures.

    His popularity appears to have been helped by a growing alliance with reformists, such as Mohammad Khatami, a former president.

    In Isfahan, Iran's third city, reformists had won three seats on the city council, with the other eight places going to a mixture of Ahmadinejad loyalists and independents, the Jomhouri Islami daily reported.

    Although results for Tehran city council are not expected until next week, unofficial reports indicate the body would be shared between a mixture of reformists, Ahmadinejad allies and technocratic conservatives.

    Parvin, Ahmadinejad's sister, is also running for a seat on the body.

    Moderates were a strong force under Khatami's presidency, when at one point reformists dominated parliament and local councils.

    The reformists reached their lowest ebb in the 2005 presidential election, when their candidates went out in the first round.

  12. What is the difference between communism and capitalism? Under communism, man exploits man. Under capitalism, it's just the opposite.

  13. Bobalharb said, "In many things, as goes California, so goes the nation."

    Sometimes I wish California would hurry up and break off into the Pacific as its own island nation. But Oregon and Washington make California look like Utah.

  14. The First Muslim to perform a Mobius Strip Tease for the virtual strip search machine gets a lifetime trip to Mecca.

  15. Predictably Boring Flame Thread

    Posting this in the vain hope that some of you drooling troglodytes have two sparking neurons to rub together.

    It's not so easy to get a good flame thread launched on this here Moronblog anymore. Some of you idiots have forged alliances and...and... (cough) friendships. Meaningful ones, based on mutual admiration.

    "I like pudding!"

    -"I like pudding too!"

    (heavy breathing and gooey smacking noises)

    It's revolting. I don't know why I keep coming to this place.

    posted by LauraW. at 09:18 PM

  16. "Sometimes its hard to think at all well of the race."
    Talk about blaming the Victim!
    Just Cause they went extinct don't mean you have to hate ALL White Finned Dolphins!

  17. Phillydan's link An Alternative to Baker: Kill Our Enemies, Quickly,.
    the article ends with this:
    ..."We have played the Iraq War various ways. Gen. Tommy Franks drove to Baghdad and resigned. Paul Bremer fired the Iraqi Army and called a constitutional convention. A constitution got written, and most Iraqis rallied to it, but the men of blood continued their work. Lately we have been appealing to Sunni tribal leaders—with some success, though not enough. By this ass-backward route, we have arrived at the place we were in Afghanistan on Halloween of 2001, three and a half weeks into Operation Enduring Freedom, with everyone in a tizzy and the late R.W. Apple savoring the “the ominous word ‘quagmire.’” The solution then was to stop worrying about the effects of our actions on the long-term fate of the country and to kill as many Taliban as possible. Which we did, and which led to victory. (Yes, the Taliban are still out there; no one said freedom is easy.) The solution now is to put 30,000 troops into Baghdad, without stripping Anbar, and kill the enemies of order. If the generals say they don’t need 30,000 more troops, find new generals.

    Livy was another old writer—a historian, not a poet. He said that when the ancient Romans were digging the foundations of a Temple of Jupiter, they uncovered a bleeding head (commemorated in the word capitol, which comes from caput, the Latin for “head”). The state begins in violence. Free states give way to order and peace, but they too begin there.

    This is not international social work, or finishing a job. Since the violent in Iraq include Al Qaeda, and terrorist wannabes, killing them is a twofer. Let the end begin."

    It is worth the read.

  18. Hamas has rejected Abbas' call for new elections, calling it a coup against a democratically elected government, but so far the group hasn't decided if it would boycott new elections.

    Both sides have some incentive to compromise on either a unity government or one made up of non-political technocrats. Hamas' victory in elections last January, its refusal to recognize Israel and the impasse between Abbas and Fatah have cut off Western aid and Israeli payments to the Palestinians, leaving the economy in ruins and the government unable to pay some 160,000 employees.

    Implications for Region

  19. Again some see the light

    "... Before they alienate every potentially friendly group inside Iraq, U.S. government strategists would be wise to accept Iraqi society as it is, rather that to continue to bludgeon it into something they would like it to become. There was a moment long ago for soaring idealism. Now time has almost run out. America can still achieve a favorable result for its interests in Iraq. But first it must dispense with its notions of social engineering. ..."

    "A tiny anecdote from Iraq "

  20. DR , special ops went into Afghanistan riding horses and dressed as Afghans.The crew that went into Iraq went so far as to recommend changes in the Iraqi flag. Hard to imagine what went wrong.

  21. I cannot believe that your imagination is that limited.

    We're going to Stay the Course and call it a New Way Forward.

    Mr Reid has signed on, as did Mr Reyes.

  22. The DoD did not "Do" Afghanistan.
    The CIA did.

    "Civilians" perform better, unfettered.

  23. rufus
    you'll get a kick from the third comment in this link. How geodesic shelters are being used to grow algae.

    American ingenuity.

  24. A real "bare bones" development, one that could provide better than average returns for the operator of a 22 acre resort.
    made in Pakistan

    A couple of the 30' diameter for public space and an 18' matched with a 14' for individual units.

    Could have 100 individual units, 50 footprints operating much faster than conventional buildings, at much lower costs.
    $1000 per unit of 38 sq m.

    Marketing the land and "camp experience", a Safari experience.
    Very "green"

    Then start the more conventonal development in another area of the parcel.

  25. Trish,

    Social engineering truly is everywhere. The Jewish Oligarch, Merv Griffin, the fabled "King of Gameshows," engineered on a national scale. In fact, if you attempt to run your own franchise of Wheel of Fortune on local television, you will be muscled out

    The pathetic Pat Sajak was but a polish tool in the social kit of Mr. Griffin, at the ready to turn the screws on American phraseology.

    The very "fortunate activity" produced by Griffin, Sajak and the Dionysian White was conformity to the dictums of Mr. Griffin, enforced ruthlessly by Sajak and produced with the glamour and winks of Vanna.

    How quickly everyone forgets how long the airwaves have spewed social engineering all over viewers for decades upon decades. Moses brewed his mischief in cauldrons, stirred by his iconic staff, but Merv Griffin's plagues are made in TV studios. Who will tell Pharoah?

  26. How do you ask members of a society to stop shooting when martial-themed hootenannies are everywhere?

    You will have to offer the Iraqis a hootenanny of a different kind, one celebrating something different than sectarian superiority.

    You must get into their minds and into their economics, and then enough of their culture may follow. A new hootenanny tradition that does not applaud sectarian chauvanism may rise and values may change as a result of this. Dishdashas and thobes will whirl and, who knows, maybe even a little najis will creep into the song and dance

  27. How do you ask members of a society to stop shooting when martial-themed hootenannies are everywhere?

    You will have to offer the Iraqis a hootenanny of a different kind, one celebrating something different than sectarian superiority.

    You must get into their minds and into their economics, and then enough of their culture may follow. A new hootenanny tradition that does not applaud sectarian chauvanism may rise and values may change as a result of this. Dishdashas and thobes will whirl and, who knows, maybe even a little najis will creep into the song and dance

  28. How do you ask members of a society to stop shooting when martial-themed hootenannies are everywhere?

    You will have to offer the Iraqis a hootenanny of a different kind, one celebrating something different than sectarian superiority.

    You must get into their minds and into their economics, and then enough of their culture may follow. A new hootenanny tradition that does not applaud sectarian chauvanism may rise and values may change as a result of this. Dishdashas and thobes will whirl and, who knows, maybe even a little najis will creep into the song and dance

  29. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  30. trish said...
    Where's Allen?


    Allen is has lost interest. Allen is no longer amused.

    Every conservative, indeed, every patriotic blog should have front and center the story of a guy from Texas who, 23 years ago after disbarment in at least two states, was commissioned an Air Force JAG. This non-lawyer lawyer, faux-officer went on to become probably one of the most influential people in the Air Force; think of LtC. Oliver North, here. Among other things this liar, cheat, and fraud, became commandant at the Air Force JAG School in Montgomery, Alabama, i.e. he formulated the policy and curriculum used by all JAG commands throughout the world; think Iraq and Afghanistan, here. He negotiated with and distributed “large sums of money” to selected tribal leaders and other political entities in Iraq. (And when the US government admits to “large sums of money”, it must be assumed that they were LARGE sums of money.) In short, the liar, cheat, fraud, disbarred non-lawyer, faux Colonel chose and rewarded the Iraqi allies of the United States. Finally, this flag fraud served two tours within the White House, presumably advising the President, through the Air Force, on legitimate target acquisition and other material issues in TWAT.

    For all those who obviously missed a REAL story, that of “Colonel” Michael D. Murphy is one. Oh, and it is one over which the President may exercise his sole prerogatives as CnC.

  31. A real story, The civil war, Lebanon witnessed many of them and now their main concern should not return to the Arab and bloody wars, has vowed the Lebanese people in the 14th of March to remain united in perpetuity, Muslims and Christians chanted that behind Shahid Jubran Twini, Palestine, and is now about to fall into the trap of civil war, which the government has Israel is behind the assassination of children and the elderly

    Free Palestine T-shirts, Free Lebanon T-shirts