The Bush Administration and the Middle East

[Weekly Standard] Reuel Marc Gerecht - The Levant has not been kind to the Bush administration. The Israeli-Palestinian confrontation is as it was in 2000: an event controlled by the continuing Islamist evolution of the Palestinian people, who do not in sufficient numbers countenance peace with a Jewish state. The only real question remaining is whether the Fatah dictatorship on the West Bank will evolve quickly or slowly into a spiritual twin of Hamas. President Bush got the order backwards in his post-Annapolis speeches, suggesting that the Palestinians need to be able to envision a complete state living side by side with Israel so that democracy can triumph. Democracy did triumph among the Palestinians - Hamas won. Arab autocrats sign peace treaties with Israel; Arab democrats won't. Increasingly, Muslims, especially devout Muslims, are backing democratic politics because they see this as the only way to restore legitimacy to government. Democracy, not dictatorship, opens societies to debates, which fundamentalists may well win. Elections that allow fundamentalists a chance to triumph - not police-state repression - is the key to eventually destroying the appeal of the extremists. As always, bin Laden is a helpful guide: If he loathes democracy among Muslims, it's a good reason to support it. Hamas' triumph in the Palestinian elections of January 2006 probably put the last nail in the coffin of the Bush administration's efforts to encourage reform in Egypt and Saudi Arabia, the two countries that drove the spread of modern Islamic radicalism. Even the relatively moderate, state-supported version of the Saudi Wahhabi faith is inimical to what Muslims historically have considered mainstream. It is also organically anti-American. On a global level, it is more dangerous than anything that has ever come out of Iran. The writer is a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute.

2008-02-13 01:00:00

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