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Dispatches
Sunday, February 19, 2006
  POLITICS: "Kennanizing" Hamas and the Contradictions of Fundamentalists being Elected
Seeing pictures of Hamas leaders being sworn in as members of the Palestinian parliament, it strikes me that their underlying beliefs are fundamentally against the principles which make democracy what it is.

The ideals of self-determination, pluralism, open dissent, and tolerance are necessarily part of any truly democratic society, and Islamic extremists, such as Hamas, certainly would not endorse the effects of those ideals in their communities. Yet here they are, being duly sworn in as elected members of a legislature which gave those voting a choice. The voters of Palestine (theoretically) could have elected political leaders of any stripe, including those exactly opposed to the fundamentalist ideas that Hamas espouses, and with Fatah and Hamas both being members of the same legislature, in some sense, they did.

What does this mean? In my view, the fact that Hamas and other extremists are participating in these elections is the beginning of the end for them. The basic tenets of their beliefs, theocratic rule based on the Qur'an, and the lack of self-determination and tolerance in some respects, cannot survive in an open democracy. By participating in that democracy, fundamentalists are creating contradiction.

To take from George Kennan, the key to defeating terrorism is to force fundamentalists to participate in democracy. For each extremist government elected in Iraq and political sea-change empowering Hamas in Palestine, fundamentalists will eventually fall within the weight of their own contradictions. Islamic extremism cannot survive while participating in the democratic process which necessarily reinforces the ideals of choice, self-determination, and to some extent, freedom.

And, much to my chagrin, this seems to be exactly what the Bush administration's goals are (not that I agree with their methods-- See Fukuyama --> overmilitarized). And in that sense, it is important that the Bush people have the strength to maintain their convictions despite seeming backlash in the election of fundamentalists.

It is only a matter of time for fundamentalists, containment is the key.
 
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