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This is the Bush Doctrine, Flinching

Pointing out contradictions in the Bush Administration’s foreign policy could be (and is) a full-time job. Most of them are rhetorical contradictions, however, the most obvious of which being the spreading peace/waging unilateral war contradiction.

But every once in a while we get a doozy - a paradox that cannot be reconciled without significant effort, or evasion (or renouncing the law of non-contradiction).

This week's doozy is brought to us courtesy of the upcoming Palestinian elections, which will likely result in a substantial number of seats won by Hamas. As far as the Bush Administration is concerned, Hamas is a terrorist organization. Which would mean its members are terrorists too, right?

Not necessarily, as Andrew McCarthy (no, not that Andrew McCarthy) laments in today's National Review.

He notes an interesting exchange in Wednesday's daily White House briefing with Scott McClellan:

Question: In the event that Hamas, a terrorist organization not yet disarmed by the PA, wins a majority in the legislative PA, will the Bush administration still send $350 million U.S. taxpayer dollars to the PA, or not?

McCLELLAN: It's - the one thing that you see when people have elections that are free and fair is that they tend to choose people who are committed to improving their livelihood, not people who are committed to terrorist acts. And I think if you look back at the previous Palestinian elections, the people that were elected, while they might have been members of Hamas, they were business professionals. They were people that ran on talking about improving the quality of life for the Palestinian people and addressing their economic needs and addressing other needs that are important to them - not terrorists. [McCarthy's emphasis.]

Here is where we find the fatal flaw. Composed of equal parts democracy and anti-terrorism, the Bush Doctrine cannot reconcile the inevitable: when the people elect the "wrong" representatives.

For McCarthy, the solution is simple: don't allow them - the terrorists - to participate. After all, the social conscience of a terrorist doesn't chance the fact that he's still a terrorist:

What is McClellan thinking about here? All terrorist organizations engage in this kind of beguiling propaganda. That Nazis had lots of spiffy spokesmen talking about improving people's lives. So does the IRA. So does Hezbollah. Osama bin Laden's construction concerns built roads and infrastructure to improve people's lives in Sudan and Afghanistan - all the better for ingress and egress to the many terror training camps he ran in those countries with impunity.

He's right in theory here (except for the fact that the Nazi's weren't terrorists in this sense of the word), but these are easy groups to disparage. One could produce a dozen examples where a group, waging what it calls a war of independence, is labeled as a terrorist by the government in power. This is the problem; there is no standard method of determining who is and who isn't a terrorist. The label is bestowed by the power.

What McCarthy is railing against (and he's really mad) is that Bush has strayed away from his traditional, unflinching posture:

The rationale for the Bush presidency, the bedrock basis for reelection, is that the President has been clear-eyed and unflinching on the central issue of the day: the threat posed by militant Islamic terrorism.

Again, true. But what the Bush Administration has realized, at least in this instance, is that the world isn't made up of right angles, and sometimes flinching is necessary. It has likely come to this point because it is cognizant of the precarious situation in Palestine, and has determined that the process is more important than achieving its favored outcome.

If it intends to find success with its promotion of democracy in all corners of the land, however, expect more flinching to come.

Posted by schtaple at April 14, 2005 2:58 PM