Tom Friedman in the Times today (behind wall):
First, Nasrallah has set back the whole fledgling Arab democracy movement. That movement, by the way, was being used by Islamist parties — like Hezbollah and Hamas — to peacefully ascend to power. Hezbollah, for the first time, had two ministers in the Lebanese cabinet. Hamas, through a U.S.-sponsored election, took over the Palestinian Authority. And in both cases, as well as in Iraq, these Islamist parties were allowed to sit in government and maintain their own militias outside.
What both Hamas and Nasrallah have done — by dragging their nations into unnecessary wars with Israel — is to prove that Islamists will not be made more accountable by political power. Just the opposite; not only will they not fix the potholes, they will start wars, whenever they choose, that will lead to even bigger potholes.
Does this mean Hamas and Hezbollah will never get another vote? Of course not. Their followers will always follow. What it does mean is that if the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, or Islamists in Jordan or the gulf, had any hopes of taking power through electoral means, they can forget about it. I don’t see their governments ever allowing elections that might bring Islamist parties to power, and I don’t see the U.S. promoting any more elections in the region, for now. The Arab democracy experiment is on hold — because if Islamist parties can’t be trusted to rule, elections can’t be trusted to be held.
All Arab dictators say, ‘’Thank you, Nasrallah.’’
As usual, Tom draws the wrong conclusion from his analysis. The democracy project is not on hold. Rather, Arabs around the world are now seeing that voting for Hamas and Hezbollah and the other radical groups is much more likely to get the voters KILLED than anything else, when the nuts they vote for go on the rampage. In the quiet of a private voting booth (and without a gun pointed at their heads and more than one party to vote for – a couple of conditions that did not accompany the votes in Hamasistan and Lebanon – the distinction between Hamas and Fatah is only one of degree of insanity) I trust that the majority of Arab voters can make a rational decision, much like they did in Iraq’s three elections last year, and in Afghanistan’s, as well. Would be nice if someone who is as allegedly expert on the middle east as Tom Friedman allegedly is could tell the difference between a free democratic election and one that is democratic in name only.