Sunday, January 29
Sunday, January 29, 2006
Nobody would be fooled by a name change, unless Hamas politicians severed ties with groups that engage in or endorse suicide bombings or the destruction of Israel. No nation will negotiate in good faith with a group that has sworn its annihilation. Similarly, it may have been Bush's "Axis of Evil" speech that drove Iran to elect an extremist. Bush should instead have talked about Iran's future as a prosperous and peaceful nation under sane leadership, and winked at reformers who despise the clerical leadership. He should have stopped after the invasion of Afghanistan, saying, "This is what happens to governments that harbor terrorists." Strategically and morally, it would have been highly effective. But he got overconfident and decided to go for the big prize, democracy in Iraq. That looks like a big "oops" now, and he will be forced to push harder and harder for a least-horrible outcome in Iraq. He will also be forced to retain his "balls" in the face of provocation. Backing down would "un-brand" him as a decisive, morally unambiguous leader. Nobody knows how far he will feel compelled to go in order to avoid wavering.
Had democracy worked better in Iraq (we should all hope it still works out, since the alternative may be pretty awful), it probably would have had a positive influence on Iran. As it is, democracy doesn't look so good, although it's hard to say how much of the recent far-right Islamic election wins have been a reaction against the failures of previous regimes and how much is really an endorsement of terrorism. People in the US elected Bush because they felt the other party was weaker and not visionary enough. Palestinians may have elected Hamas for the same reasons, and perhaps with a similar outcome. Under Hamas, one of two things will happen: either Hamas will turn into a legitimate political entity, or it will become one of those visionary movements that totally destroys its culture in the name of fighting against contamination by foreign influences. Hard to say which tendency will win out, but it's very clear that Hamas doesn't have the good faith of the US or Israel, of Europe, or of Fateh. Civil war in Palestine is a possibility. But the world is currently in an interesting and unusual state, where everything can unexpectedly ripple and affect everything else.
It's impossible to say whether compassion and the human spirit will be able to compete with fanaticism and fear, but I think we're at the point where compassion is gaining momentum and power and fanaticism is lashing out more and more desparately under the weight of its own blindness. Explosive violence is a sign of weakness and insecurity, especially in those who feel poisoned or spoiled by some intrusion into their culture. People with intact souls aren't as persuaded, and the world may quickly tire of the kind of sickness that has been responsible for so many genocides and mass tantrums. More and more, people understand the psychological and social dynamics underlying the puzzle that has been so hard to solve for so many generations. Information exchange has been vastly accelerated by internet, with high school kids discussing politics and economic/environmental/social ecology in a way they wouldn't have ten years ago. Greater awareness and empathy in the mass may lead to surprisingly simple and humane solutions where force would otherwise be the fallback option.