« Assad's Got 'Em? | Main | Good news from Iraq »

January 26, 2006

The real Palestinians?

I am of two minds on the apparent electoral triumph of Hamas in the Palestinian elections. On the one hand, Hamas defeated a corrupt, two-faced regime that had been speaking to the West of Palestinian victimhood and a negotiated settlement with Israel while spreading hatred and tactical acceptance of a "two-state" solution as a way point on the path to the destruction of the Zionist state. On the other hand, while Hamas appears to be free of corruption and dedicated to the welfare of the Palestinian people, they are religious fanatics and on record as rejecting Israel's right to exist. Israel, and the West, therefore face a starker threat from a more representative, more straighforwardly hostile Palestinian government.

But this new mideastern reality may hold some promise for a long term settlement. For one thing, if Hamas is capable of delivering a more effective, more efficient Palestinian government, ordinary citizens may be less likely to sign up to become human bombs. There is also something to be said for clarity. For years, Europe, in particular, has tilted towards the image of Palestinians as victims, suffering at the hands of the Israeli occupiers. Now, with a newly elected Palestinian government ruled by a party that is on record as opposing the existence of the state of Israel, it will be harder for well-intentioned, but naive, outsiders to endorse Palestinian claims.

Of course, the "realist" wing of American foreign policy, represented by the bureaucracy at the State Department, as well as in the Democratic opposition, will likely gloat at the apparent self-inflicted wounds of Palestinian democracy. In this meme, Bush's unrealistic policy of embracing democracy in the Arab world will have resulted in the emergence of radical regimes, opposed to peaceful change. Perhaps, but democracy forces politicians to be sensitive to their people's needs. If Palestinians continue to suffer defeat and degradation in their (losing) military struggle against a Jewish state, perhaps they will tire of continuous intifada, and militate for creating a more stable, prosperous Palestine.

At least one can hope.

January 26, 2006 at 11:11 PM | Permalink


TrackBack URL for this entry:

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference The real Palestinians?:


Perhaps the responsibility of running the government will mellow Hamas. I hope so, but look at Iran. The hubris among the right wing there is growing stronger. The big downside here is an Iranian/Syrian/Palestinian alliance that grows in strength, bringing Hamas in Lebanon into power. Iran gets an atomic bomb. The United States is in Iraq. Israel is attacked. What does Egypt do? .......................

It makes a civil war between Hamas and Fatah look good. It isn't anything the Middle East hasn't seen before, but it is something the good people of the world have been working for generations to make less probable. It would be sad to see all that go backwards.

On the other hand, a lot of the hatred in the Middle East comes from political repression and this democratic election has relieved that pressure a bit. If the government really follows the will of the people, perhaps they will be more interested in building roads and creating jobs than in making war. A good outcome could come from this.

A lot depends on what happens in Iran. If they succeed in making a nuclear bomb the military side of their alliance will be emboldened. We have to find a way to stop that. But it has to be a way that doesn't in turn create a bigger problem.

Ultimately, the majority of people don’t want war; they want a better life for themselves and their children. Elections may be painful, but in the long run they will lead to a better Middle East. This may be one of the riskiest, and also one of the most admired parts of George W. Bush’s legacy. The “realists” realize this too.

On a tangential, but directly related point, cutting down US energy consumption is one of the strongest things we can do to help our foreign policy. Increased oil demand from Asia will strengthen our adversaries and increase our vulnerability to imported oil disruptions. As we move our external policies ahead, we need to simultaneously take strong steps to reduce our consumption of oil. It may take some time to see the effects, but now is the time to start.

Posted by: BA | Jan 28, 2006 5:00:40 AM

Very well written and thoughtful comment.

As for reducing our energy consumption, the two keys are higher oil prices and nuclear power. With aggressive development of nuclear power, we can stop increasing carbon dioxide levels in the atmoshphere and begin using hydrogen-based fuels in vehicles. Of course, higher oil prices are needed to make these new technologies economically viable. Of course, taking some the legal and political risks out of building nuclear power plants would lower cost of non-combustion derived electricity.

The point I'm making is that the world oil market will guide the world economy, via price signals, to other energy sources. Government policies can help stimulate this process, but supply and demand will do the real heavy lifting.

Posted by: Spart | Jan 28, 2006 9:40:56 AM

I agree that supply and demand is the key. I also agree that we need to increase the price of oil.

But before jumping to nuclear energy with all its negatives, why not start doing simple, non-invasive things to cut down on consumption? Let’s use tax breaks to encourage energy conservation, for things like: smart building design, white roofs in NYC, high mileage cars and extremely efficient household appliances, solar water heaters on roofs in sunny areas of the country (they are all over the Mediterranean), flat panel instead of CRT monitors. Et cetera.

The question is, if we do these sorts of things, how much oil will we save. If it is significant, and I think it will be, then we will be way ahead and can plan how to increase supply from a stronger position. But we have to start now. And it has to come from the top.

We may have to build more nuclear power plants, and I realize that they may take as long as a decade from idea to turning on the lights, but that gives us time and even more of a reason to figure out smart ways to conserve.

If George W. Bush embraces energy management from the demand as well as the supply side he will gain a lot of support and create a stronger and more enduring legacy.

Posted by: BA | Jan 28, 2006 3:56:34 PM

Check out these two cool charts:

US energy supply by source and consumption by end use sector for 2004: http://www.eia.doe.gov/emeu/aer/pdf/pages/sec1_3.pdf

A more summary look at the same data by primary energy source and modes of consumption: http://www.eia.doe.gov/emeu/aer/pdf/pecss_diagram.pdf

What I take away from these is that any incremental consumption measures along the lines you describe will have minimal impact when you consider the existing stocks of energy consuming equipment out there and the slow rates of annual replacement. Nearly two thirds of our current primary energy consumption comes from oil and natural gas. In order to get that down to, say, one third, we would need to more than quadruple nuclear power production or more than double coal production. Both are completely feasible, given present technology and natural resources. However, I would argue that the environmental impact of nuclear would be significantly more lower than that of coal, particularly if you believe that rising atmospheric CO2 levels are causing global warming.

Posted by: Spart | Jan 28, 2006 7:52:17 PM

The thought that conservation will not have a real impact on overall oil use does not seem intuitivly right to me, but I do not have the facts to back that up. I will try to get some facts over the next week or two and post them.

Posted by: BA | Jan 31, 2006 6:28:01 PM

The comments to this entry are closed.