Saturday, November 21, 2009

Support for democracy in anti-Zionist dictatorships

This blog often rails against the pro-US dictatorships, Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia the rest of the Gulf dictatorships and others. I describe them as relatively pro-Zionist because other than Egypt and Jordan, none has recognized Israel or interacts with Israel publicly and officially.

I describe them as relatively pro-Zionist because they depend for their security of their regime on a country, the United States, that sees its primary obligation in the region as the protection of Israel as a Jewish majority state. Where that dependency leads is to a situation where Saudi Arabia, for example, nearly never fails to support the same side in regional disputes as Israel.

On the anti-Zionist side there is Iran - which contrary to those who viscerally hate that country, does have transparent elections with distinct political factions who represent interests and policies at least as different from each others' as the major political factions of the United States. If you consider the about four million Palestinians on occupied territory and living subject to Israeli rule, but without any influence over Israel's government, Israel cannot be considered a democracy. That leaves Iran, despite its ongoing conflict with the world's most powerful country, as the most democratic nation in the Middle East.

There is also Lebanon which holds electoral contests that are structurally biased toward pro-Israel factions but within that constraint does hold contested political contests. Contrary to the vigorous efforts of the US, Israel and their Saudi and other subjects, the results of these political contests are respected.

Then there is Turkey, which until very recently had a democratic system subject to be overruled at any time by a pro-Western military establishment, and whose foreign policy was insulated from its democratic political system. Recep Erdogan, Turkey's political genius is methodically reorienting Turkey's political system and the outcome may yet be that Turkey's political system ends up both independent of the military and fully in control of foreign policy. There is also Iraq, a country over which the United States exerts a tremendous amount of leverage because of its direct military occupation, but whose ties with Iran makes it unlikely to ever be as subservient to US interests as Saudi Arabia. Iraq has not stabilized yet. We do not see yet how we are going to characterize Iraq's foreign policy.

But beyond those countries lie the anti-Zionist dictatorships. Nasser's Egypt fell in that category before Sadat's later decision to put Egypt under US control. Saddam Hussein fell into that category before being removed at a nearly unmeasurable cost to the people of Iraq. Today that category is held to some degree by Libya's Muammar Gadaffi and most prevalently by Syria's Bashir Assad.

Syria poses real but not fatal questions to the connection between support for Zionism and opposition to democracy in the Middle East. The most important difference between Syrian policy and Egyptian is that Egypt's alliance with Israel is contrary to the views of 92% of Egyptians people who saw Israel as an enemy of their country in 2006, and 87% who viewed the country negatively in 2008 before Israel's attack on Gaza.

A democratic Syria would more effectively and legitimately pursue similar policies to those it now follows with respect to Israel. A democratic Egypt would more effectively and legitimately pursue policies closer to Iran's than to Hosni Mubarak's. An opponent of Zionism can and should support democracy in Syria in a way that a supporter of Zionism cannot for Egypt.

The US concern, at least as of 2005, that working to remove Assad from power would likely yield a replacement as hostile or more towards Israel as its current government is the same concern that causes the US to encourage the dictatorships in the more pliant states.
But such is the concern over destabilizing Syria that even Israel — its bitter enemy — has urged the Bush administration to proceed cautiously.

The new intelligence assessment was compiled in late September by the office of Director of National Intelligence John Negroponte.

The classified document concludes that if Assad is overthrown, he's likely to be replaced by someone from the ruling leadership who'd pursue the same policies or even more confrontational ones, according to officials who've read it or been briefed on its contents.
So where does that leave us concerning the comparison between anti-Zionist support for Syria's leadership and pro-Zionist support for Egypt's leadership?

Bashar Assad is an authoritarian dictator who I'd like to see removed from power and replaced with competitively selected leadership by a process that reflects the views and sensibilities of the Syrian people. This is a statement that supporters of Zionism, such as Barack Obama, are unable to make regarding Egypt.

The key point, that support for Zionism requires opposition to democracy for the over 200 million non-Jews in the region does not have an analogue on the other side. Opposition to Zionism is compatible with support for democracy, not only in Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the other pro-US stooge dictatorships. It is also compatible with support for democracy in Syria and Libya, not to mention Iran, Turkey, Lebanon, and the all of the territories currently under Israeli control.

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