Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Believe In Democracy

Believe In Democracy

The recent election in Israel has many commentators in a tizzy, and politicians wondering what to do next. Even Kofi Annan rejects the idea of a Hamas-led state. But I ask the question: what is so unusual about a democracy electing the wrong leaders?

This has happened many times before. Even Hitler achieved some election success before seizing the Chancellorship. This is democracy at work. Especially in a new democracy, where the people are not used to having real control over their government. The Philistenes are about to learn this the hard way. With a government that will not accept the idea of a peaceful world, they are about to be forced to withstand a serious diminution of international aid. Their government can not survive without this cash.

In today's world, people seem to need instant gratification. Like an infant, public opinion wants everything, and has no patience. But wanting is not the same as having. All the people living in the Palestinian Authority want is prosperity. They elected Hamas because they were tired of the corruption of Fatah. Seen in this light, maybe they had no good choice. But they, and we, will have to suffer the consequences of this election. Things will have to get worse before they can get better.

Democracy is not an event, it is a process. The Philistenes have just had their first free election. The people had no reason to believe that Fatah would give power up to Hamas, and indeed, that has not actually happened yet. But if they do, and Hamas takes control, the world community must restrict the total amount of needed aid to that government, unless and until it renounces terrorism and murder as legitimate state actions. And then, in the fullness of time, there will be another election. When that happens, we have every reason to believe that the electorate, now realizing that their votes count for something, will take the process a little bit more seriously. In the meantime, they will suffer. That is what it will take before those people can believe in democracy. Now, if only we can get the leaders in our own country to believe in it as well.