Thursday, February 21, 2008

Radical Islam's Electoral Setbacks, Israel tries isolate Hezbollah

After the Read More! Amir Taheri argues that Islamist parties, not Pervez Musharraf, was the real loser in the Pakistani elections. Barak tells Assad that Israel is going after Hezbollah and warns him to stay clear. And it turns out the Lebanese public is less enthusiastic about war than Hassan Nasrallah. Plus, Sadr extends his "truce" with the USA. Finally, Assad's cousin, Rami Makhluf is the object of US financial sanctions.

Taheri writes, "The latest analysis of the results shows that the parties linked, or at least sympathetic, to the Taliban and al Qaeda saw their share of the votes slashed to about 3% from almost 11% in the last general election a few years ago. The largest coalition of the Islamist parties, the United Assembly for Action (MMA), lost control of the Northwest Frontier Province -- the only one of Pakistan's four provinces it governed. The winner in the province is the avowedly secularist National Awami Party."

And it's not just in Pakistan either. Taheri claims that radical Islamism's electoral appeal is declining world-wide. The question is why?

Analysts in the West used that prospect to argue against the Bush Doctrine of spreading democracy in the Middle East. These analysts argued that Muslims were not ready for democracy, and that elections would only translate into victory for hard-line Islamists.

The facts tell a different story. So far, no Islamist party has managed to win a majority of the popular vote in any of the Muslim countries where reasonably clean elections are held. If anything, the Islamist share of the vote has been declining across the board.

Peter Wehner, a former Deputy Assistant to the President, writes in an article called "Debating Bush's Wars" in the International Institute for Strategic Studies that we rarely realize the "tremendous damage ... inflicted against al-Qaeda" but that more subtly, fail to appreciate the huge political effects American determination has caused. Wehner argues that prior to 9/11 "American irresolution did in fact embolden jihadists" who were led to believe that they would ride to victory on the tails of some miraculous carpet. But once the US started fighting back their battlefield defeats, and -- Taheri would probably add -- their electoral setbacks now give the radical Islamists pause.

My guess is that the resistance and rejection are intertwined. Radical Islam would have done better at the polls if the West had fled before them on the battlefields of the world. Everybody loves a winner, as Hillary's political strategists must now realize, and the appearance of victory is its own motor. But once the aura of invincibility vanishes, a cause or candidate loses the greatest part of its power. In some fundamental way fighting the foe is essential to winning against it. And if that sounds too trite to be true, consider how often the reverse is believed.

As if to demonstrate the interplay between force and politics, the Jerusalem Post reports that "Defense Minister Ehud Barak relayed a message to Syrian President Bashar Assad through Turkish President Abdullah Gul that Israel is planning to step-up military activities against Hizbullah and Hamas."

According to the report, Barak encouraged Damascus to take a different stance towards Hizbullah, and emphasized that such a move would be seen as a goodwill gesture, and could open up the possibility for peace negotiations between Israel and Syria.

These are the sort of headlines calculated to increase paranoia, if that were possible, among the Hezbollah, because no matter if Assad indignantly rejects Barak's offer, the Hezbollah knowing the cunning hearts of their Syrian masters, can never be quite sure they haven't been sold out.

And of course they will be, if the price right, either in lucre or the avoidance of pain. Hezbollah would do as well for Syria and Syria would for Hezbollah. In 'militant' circles, the question is never 'whether' but 'how much'.

Meanwhile, a Lebanese newspaper say that the public is sick of war and that Hassan Nasrallah's recently bloodcurdling threats to fight Israel are sending people into depression.

The fear is worst in villages in the south where residents have barely recovered from the 34-day war that killed more than 1,200 civilians in Lebanon, a third of them children, and 160 Israelis, mostly soldiers.

"Since the last war, I have been living on anti-depressants," said Iman, 51, whose home near the coastal city of Tyre was bombed during the war. "And after the latest threats made by Nasrallah, I have been trying to get a visa to any country that will take me. There is nowhere to hide and I can't take this anymore."

In another village southeast of Tyre that was heavily bombed by Israeli warplanes during the war, Mohammed Balhass, 23, is expecting the worst.

"Nasrallah would not have spoken of open war if Hizbullah couldn't stand its ground against Israel," he told AFP. "But, unfortunately, we are the ones who always pay the price."

One of the reasons people in Anbar eventually gave up on al-Qaeda is that they insisted on acting out their fantasies on their front porches. And when they realized peace would immediately come if no terrorist attacks were made; when it became clear that all you had to do to have peace was to live in peace, then they figured war wasn't such a good idea. Maybe that day will come in Lebanon too.

The AP reports that the "powerful Iraqi Shi'ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr is widely expected to extend a ceasefire by his Mehdi Army militia on Friday, a decision Washington says is important to maintain security gains.

I think it's a good move on Sadr's part. That way he can claim that the declining violence in Iraq is due to him. It was better anyway than declaring war on the Coalition and dying in the next few days. Way to go Moqtada.

The Washington Post reports that "the Bush administration yesterday froze the U.S. assets and restricted the financial transactions of Syrian businessman Rami Makhluf, a powerful behind-the-scenes middle man for the Syrian government, in a move targeting the political and economic inner sanctum in Damascus."

"Once you hit Rami Makhluf, you're at war with Syria," said Joshua M. Landis, a former Fulbright scholar in Syria who teaches at the University of Oklahoma. "When you sanction Rami Makhluf, you're also sanctioning all the people who deal with him, including the wealthiest and most powerful people in the country."

Maybe that's the point of the sanction to start with: not just to send a signal but to hurt the Syrian elite where it lives.

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Blogger Whiskey said...

Taheri misses the point. Elections don't matter in Muslim countries. What matters is how many gunmen, with what regular payments, and how many payments at large, can be mustered by organizations and groups.

Pakistan's tribal militias, AQ, Taliban, etc. are not going away or going to be weakened. Pervez Musharraf or the Bhutto dynasty won't matter. What will is the men with the guns.

2/21/2008 08:03:00 PM  
Blogger jj mollo said...

Is there any reason to believe that the Hamas election wasn't fair?

It seems to me that the popular support for these movements stems from the appearance of success. People will put up with a lot if they think they're running with the winning team. Hezbollah keeps spinning the story to claim victory over Israel, and that's worked for them. AQI held the Iraqis in thrall as long as they seemed like the inevitable future. Now, the Anbar Awakening is painting the average CLC as the conquering hero. They like it, and it makes them like the Americans. Michael Totten says that, what he's seen, they imitate the American soldiers in every way, even the way they walk.

2/21/2008 08:24:00 PM  
Blogger Ticker said...

It seems to me that the popular support for these movements stems from the appearance of success.

It's rarely remembered how popular the Nazis were in 1940. How virile, how inevitable. And in the Pacific War you wouldn't believe how many instant anti-Japanese "guerillas" came into existence once Krueger's 6th Army hove into view, much to the annoyance of the real guerillas.

Everybody loves a winner. Laugh and world laughs with you. Cry and you cry alone. Which always made me wonder why the liberal response to radical Islam was always to engage in pre-emptive apology and unilateral retreat? It's not just that you die in the end, but you die sniveling. When you could have won by standing your ground just once.

2/21/2008 08:32:00 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

re: 1940s..

And it wasn't until Gulf 1 that there was a coalition effort that was half the size of the axis. They looked unbeatable and aligned with everyone. Fascism was popular around the world.

2/21/2008 08:45:00 PM  
Blogger otherwhen789 said...

>It's not just that you die in the end, but you die sniveling.

Well, one point I’ve made in your comment section a couple of times is that I think the Left wants to die, they just want to see their Western enemies go first.

As for the sniveling, the only thing wrong with it is that it’s disgusting, unmanly. The Left generally rejects the validity of moral arguments from disgust.

And they have no use for manliness except from Communist dictators.

2/21/2008 08:47:00 PM  
Blogger Whiskey said...

Wretchard, part of that unwillingness to fight is Otherwhen789's point that the Left is "unmanly." Or rather deeply feminized. Women prefer surrender to fighting. Since surrender in most cases can be managed, while fighting places them at risk. Particularly young women can always find more power with the conquerer than native sons.

Nazi soldiers did not lack for company in France, the Netherlands, or many other places.

But the other reason is also related to the inevitable feminizing of the West. Welfare States always compete with military spending.

If you WANT a massive Welfare state, as big as it can get, you have to erase any and all military spending which after all cannot be spent on various schemes, often deeply appealing to women, to expand the Welfare State even more. Even worse, the Military DIRECTLY UNDERMINES the Welfare state.

Militaries demand results, victory over the enemy, or at least avoidance of defeat. They demand male values of heroism, shared sacrifice, honor, and the like which directly contradict the Welfare State.

This is why Code Pink (all women btw) so hates the Marines and the Military. The West suffers a gender divide: Women would prefer to surrender in stages to Islam than fight. Men mostly prefer to fight, since they will unequivocally lose in creeping Sharia/Islamism. Women don't lose as much, and can gain (through marriage to conquerers).

Look at the Democratic Party: committed to defeat militarily and appeasement of Islam. Of course, they're mostly women (and minorities that don't like the US).

The aim is to discredit any and all military spending and effort to grow the feminine Welfare State. Which benefits women far more than men.

If your military can never win, why bother?

2/21/2008 10:19:00 PM  
Blogger Elroy Jetson said...

"Way to go, Moqtada"
When I read that, Wretchard, I almost fell off my chair. I guess even thugs need a pat on the back when they make the correct decision.
Besides, he probably hasn't stockpiled enough viagra for his 72 from big pharma.

2/21/2008 10:34:00 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

New opportunities in Pakistan

Ten days ago, I wondered whether Pakistani President Musharraf monitors Osama bin Laden’s poll numbers.

I speculated that it was bin Laden’s and al Qaeda’s popularity in Pakistan’s northwest tribal regions that prevented Pakistan’s security forces from going after bin Laden and his organization.

I surmised that a new poll showing a sharp drop in al Qaeda’s popularity inside Pakistan could remove this restraint on rounding up bin Laden and his men.
- Westhawk

2/22/2008 12:56:00 AM  
Blogger always right said...

Boy, somebody stirred up a hornet's nest.

Women prefer surrendering to fighting? WTF?

Study your history at least. Tell me since the Revolution war, women prefer surrendering!

Too upsetting! You place little credence to your mother, your sisters, and other women folks in history.

2/22/2008 10:12:00 AM  
Blogger watimebeing said...

For a change...,"Nasrallah proposed some sort of a competition between two rallies, one called by the majority and the second called by the Hizbullah-led opposition, to determine which of the two sides can marshal more supporters and, therefore, represents the majority. The mocking of the will of the majority of Lebanese provides a small glimpse of what Hizbullah thinks of democratic process. For a larger view see any of the many assassination's that have be perpetrated on MP's over the course of the last four years.

"The Hizbullah leader charged that an "open war" has been underway by Israel against south Lebanon since the creation of the state of Israel in 1948. History, Hizbullah style, bearing no relation to fact.
I suppose we can hope that too much change is for the better. Or sommin like that.
He rejected calls for restricting the decision to go to war or peace by the government, declaring: "we'll take the decision to defend our country by ourselves at a time that we decide … It is our national decision." Notes from Kosovo? Or just the lessons of Bhagdad Bob?

2/22/2008 10:48:00 AM  
Blogger Utopia Parkway said...

Regarding the remarks attributed to Ehud Barak to Syria I think most or all of the reports from this area since the Mughniya killing need to be taken with a grain of salt.

All of the visible players in this conflict, as well as others less visible, have a desire to shape the battlefield, that is the media. There have been many unattributed reports and these are all suspect. Every player wants to make the others think certain things and possibly even provoke the others to say something that's true, in an unguarded moment. Also, the media itself is not unlikely to simply make things up in order to generate some news, or to support their side.

In short, don't believe what you read.

There also are plenty of countries that wouldn't mind seeing a new Israel-US-HB-Syria-Iran war. Take the Saudis for instance. It is even conceivable that they killed Mughniye as an agent provocateur in order to provoke HB/Syria/Iran to retaliate against Israel. The Saudis would love to see the Iranians smashed, and wouldn't mind seeing Israel hit in the face either.

I'm not saying there's any evidence of this but there's no real evidence of any kind of who did it or even really what happened. All the reports of what happened were anonymous also.

So reports that HB is massing 50,000 fighters on its border or that Israel has only just begun to assassinate HB and Iranian agents seem to me most likely just made up or at least exaggerations. Many or most of these recent reports seem to have a single source that is quoted in multiple media outlets, which also makes them unlikely to be true.

2/22/2008 10:56:00 AM  
Blogger hdgreene said...

Once leftist achieve complete power they are very aggressive and war like. Out of power they simply want undermine the status quo, not defend it. In their minds, peace movements are simply creating pre-revolutionary conditions. Weakening current society is a feature, not a bug, of their welfare programs. Why else promote failure?

I speak of the Hard Left here, not the useful idiots.

If you say the status quo is worth defending then it is worth keeping. If you are proud of your nation every day, why change it? The hunger for "change" (them in complete control)is so deep they deeply discount the current value of their nation. They want to have a fire sale of the present and will start the fire themselves if necessary. Meanwhile, the talk of the wonderful future remains maddingly unspecific. You will buy the pig, poke and all, and you will love it not matter how diseased the carcass.

We mistake the left as "peaceful" because the smaller socialist nations in Europe have no future in being militarily strong. For that, the left needs a united Europe -- and that means weak national armies now. Once the "program" is complete, don't be surprised if their military spending increases dramatically -- it will be needed in the multipolar world, after all.

2/22/2008 02:46:00 PM  
Blogger otherwhen789 said...


Those European nations you refer to have no future at all, except as Islamic states. Not enough white post-Christian babies. It’s over. The fat lady has sung.

2/22/2008 07:47:00 PM  

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