March 22, 2005

Can Terrorists Become Politicians?

I pose the question based upon Daniel Pipe's latest article in which he argues that trying to make Hamas and Hezbollah partners in democratic reform is foolhardy and destined for failure.

"If Al-Qaeda renounced terrorism, would the U.S. government welcome its running candidates in American elections? Had the Nazis denounced violence, would Hitler have become an acceptable chancellor for Germany? Not likely, because the tactics of Al-Qaeda and the Nazis matter less than their goals.

Similarly, Hezbollah and Hamas are unacceptable because of their goals. These organizations are important elements of the Islamist movement that seeks to create a global totalitarian order along the lines of what has already been created in Iran, Sudan, and in Afghanistan under the Taliban. They see themselves as part of a cosmic clash between Muslims and the West in which the victor dominates the world.

Washington, trying to be consistent in its push for democracy, prefers to ignore these goals and instead endorses involvement by Hezbollah and Hamas in the political process, pending their making some small changes."

These are good points and worth considering. If the ultimate goal does not intersect with our own does it make sense to try and bring them into the fold. What is to be gained by a temporary ceasefire, especially if it allows the other side more time to shore up their defenses and prepare for the battle that everyone knows is coming.

Because of the ideological root of the problem I join Pipes in his skepticism.

"Count me skeptical.

The historical record does not support such optimism. When politically adept totalitarians win power democratically, they do fix potholes and improve schools – but only as a means to transform their countries in accordance with their utopian visions. This generalization applies most clearly to the historical cases (Adolf Hitler in Germany after 1933, Salvador Allende in Chile after 1970) but it also appears valid for the current ones (Khaleda Zia in Bangladesh since 2001, Recep Tayyip Erdo─čan in Turkey since 2002).

Then there is the matter of their undemocratic intentions. Josef Goebbels explained in 1935 that the Nazis used democratic methods "only in order" to gain power."
This fight cannot be won by purely military or political means, it requires both. And the most fundamental issue here is the overwhelming need to change the ideological stand of these groups. As long as they are diametrically opposed to our own we will witness continued problems.

People who are willing to die for their cause are a difficult foe. We shouldn't underestimate their will or drive to fight and we should make it clear that they should offer the same respect to us.

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