Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Pipes vs. Gerecht

Last night on CSPAN I caught a little debate between Reuel Marc Gerecht and Daniel Pipes.

They were debating, fast tracked democracy vs. slow tracked democracy in the Middle East. Daniel took the slow track position and Reuel wants it fast tracked. Note, I do not say liberal governance (if you think Saddam should still be in power in Iraq you are not a liberal maybe a leftist, the closing comment show what is need for liberal Islamic governance) which is different from democracy.

Daniel Pipes arguments came down to one thing. Is it a good idea to let Hamas or Al Qaida govern a nation? That, fast tracking Democracy in the Middle East will most likely result in Islamists taking power (Islamists are concerned about your lack of faith in Islam and are interested in forcing its belief upon you, as opposed to pious Muslims who practice their faith and do not try to coerce you into belief). This is a very valid concern.

Reuel Marc Gerecht OTOH, does not think this is as big a danger as Daniel believes. He makes a couple of points. Islamists coming to power through violent revolution, Marc claims, are much more dangerous than Islamists who come to power via the ballot box. Marc also points out that the Middle East has been under a "gradual transition" to Democracy for sometime now and it is (with Iraq and perhaps Lebanon being exceptions) no such thing.

Marc doesn't think Hamas coming to power is as bad as Daniel believes. In the course of taking power they will realize that having power does not mean being able to do whatever one wants. In fact a member of the Egyptian Embassy described how an Islamic firebrand won election to Egypt's lawmaking body and was all set to lay down the Sharia. The firebrand quickly learned it wasn't easy to convince everyone else to go along with you, that is he moderated on entering office.

Both men make very good points. I recall when I lived in the Middle East chatting (online) with some locals about democracy and Algeria. She complained (with some justice) that when the Islamic parties in a democracy win an election the military intervenes and cancels the election. This is essentially what happened in Algeria in the early 1990s

In the first ballot, in December, the FIS wins 188 seats in the National Assembly. This is just 28 seats short of an overall majority. It seems a safe bet that the party will achieve that majority in the second ballot, due in January 1992. But the ballot never takes place.

Three days before the polling booths are due to reopen, the army intervenes to cancel the election. It is an action which plunges Algeria into years of civil war.
Source: History World - HISTORY OF ALGERIA

That is the Islamic parties can not win here. They play by the rules the rules get canceled, they play outside the rules they get labeled terrorists, and they have a point. This is very different then playing by the rules and losing, it is playing by the rules and winning to be denied the prize.

The most interesting comment that was uttered came from Marc. It but it went something like this: There can not be a Thomas Jefferson without a Martin Luther. Marc hopes the Islamic Martin Luther shows up soon and also believes it will not be quite as bad for the House of Islam as it was for Christianity and Germany when Martin Luther came onto the scene.

I tend to lean slightly to Marc's side.