Since the end of WWII the United States has had a foreign policy centered around spreading democracy across the world. The general belief is that democracy, though imperfect, provides the best mechanism for providing peace, building a market economy, and cordial foreign relations – (not to mention keeping more countries in the good graces of the U.S.). Some of the strongest arguments from the right and the conservatives in this country for going into Iraq and from the left for interveneing in humanitarian efforts like Sudan was for providing freedom and spreading democracy.
Last year, after years and years (even decades) of working and negotiating with the Palestinians, Palestine held its second (relatively) free election. Much to our surprise and the surprise of the West, so-called terrorist group Hamas won. Many of us asked how that could have happened. We thought that democracy would naturally choose the most pro-freedom and U.S. friendly. The Hamas victory came as a shock to the nation, and undoubtedly strongly upset the Bush administration.
I was extremely disappointed in the Bush adminstration for their handling of the election results. In fact, I am/was more disappointed in that than I have been over anything surrounding Iraq. Essentially, the U.S. said that they will not recognize the legitimacy of Hamas as a political entity and governor over Palestine. We will not work with them or support them. What a missed opportunity for our country to really make a positive difference there, instead we acted like kids and whined about the results, all because the election did not turn out how we would have liked.
This response on the part of America is as hypocritical as it is childish. Here we are spouting how great and wonderful democracy is. When our State Department goes into a country, all we do is push freedom and democracy. We hear the rhetoric from our President, our congress, our radio pundits, the blogs, and on the television. Yet when a country elects a group that we are completely against, we refuse to even remotely work with them. How can we be expected to be a standard bearer for democracy when we act like that? It is sad.
The proper response would have been to publicaly state our disappointment in the results but that we respect the choice of the Palestinian people. They have the right to vote for whomever they vote for. Then go on to say that, ‘nevertheless, we will work with the political wing of Hamas to the extent appropriate so long as they begin from day one to reign in the militant wing, so long as they behave the way a political and government entity will behave.” And rather than waiting for evidence of this to occur before we start working with them, we should have started from day one. (I’m not saying that we had to be buddy buddy with them and treat them Britain, but recognize them as valid and treat them like we do Pakistan, we have issues with their government too). This type of response would have demonstrated our unwavering commitment to democracy, our respect for the palestinian people, and could have provided enough incentive and support to Hamas to abandon its terrorist entities and primarily become a political group, much like the PLO did. Essentially, it would have provided more of a window of opportunity for peace in the region.