Recent elections in the Middle East discredit the Bush administration's efforts to promote democracy in that region, according to a line of argument. On "Meet the Press," Tim Russert summarized the criticism this way: "You have free elections in Iraq, and the head of the parliament calls us butchers. You have free elections in Palestine, and Hamas wins. You have elections in Lebanon, and Hezbollah wins 10, 12 seats in the parliament and two cabinet seats. Free elections are no guarantee of democracy."
It's worth examining these arguments with care. It is not as if Hamas replaced the Palestinian version of the Federalist Party. Hamas defeated Fatah, which was a corrupt and brutal regime under Yasser Arafat--himself a father of the modern terrorist movement. Mahmoud Abbas is a very different man and committed to peace, but he has been unable to fundamentally reform Fatah. The Palestinian people voted against Fatah in part because of Arafat's despotism.
Hezbollah is powerful not because of the number of its parliamentary seats (14 out of 128); it is so because it is an armed, brutal militia that exists in a weak state and a fledgling democracy. Beyond that, Hamas, Hezbollah and the Muslim Brotherhood were not the creation of free elections
Elections are not the problem; rather, they reveal what problems exist and remind us what tyranny in the Middle East has wrought. Liberty is the antidote to the virus, not the virus itself.
No, the virus itself is Islamic totalitarianism; and the disease was well entrenched in the body long before the application of U.S. interferon. Like most virulent viruses, this disease is extremely hard to get rid of. Liberty, the political body's own immunity, takes time to work before its medicine can succeed.
As in the worse forms of medical managed care--where the patient is rousted from the hospital bed after a pre-set number of days, because the insurance powers that be have decreed he must be cured by then, and sent out no matter what his physical state-- we have an impatient, wholly counterproductive (at least to the health of the patient) and unrealistic oversight of the healing process going on in the Middle East..
The transformation of that part of the world into an area of peace, freedom and progress is not a magical utopian dream devised by some stupid neocons, but a critical attempt to counter the very real toxic spread of a virulent religion that has the potential to destroy the entire world through its fanatic ideology. An instantaneous cure is too much to hope for; and will take a great deal of patient and careful nursing in the decades to come.
The patient and the doctor are both trapped in the ICU. And there is every possibility that the patient will die despite the best efforts of the medical team. The problem is, that the organism infecting this particular patient has every intention of either spreading the disease to the entire world, or taking the entire world down with him when he goes.
All I can say is that we better hope that liberty is the antidote; and that it was introduced into the system early enough to save the patient; because if it isn't....