Friday, January 27, 2006
Hamas = No Harm
As the Hamas parliamentary election victory changes the face of Palestinian politics, many critics anticipate there will be an increase in violence, political instability, and social turmoil. I am only a dilettante when it comes to theories of war and conflict, but I am skeptical of these claim. I see two reasons why this election might moderate violence rather than enhance it.
First, Hamas has, in essence, transformed itself from a roving bandit into a stationary bandit. They now have an incentive to maintain social and economic systems in order to facilitate the future attainment of taxes, power, and prestige. As the status quo, they now have a incentive to reduce potentially disruptive terrorist activities for their own benefit. Despite their threats against Israel, this election has given them a lot to lose from frivolous military action.
The second force acting against greater violence is that terrorism is more difficult to fight than wars between nation states. As Martha Crenshaw writes in "The Strategic Logic of Terrorism", terrorism is a weapon of the weak -- of those not represented by governments. The Hamas victory has indelibly linked the group with a nation state. To an extent, they have lost the ability to engage in stealthy terrorist activities. Furthermore, the United States and other countries can now blame Hamas and the state of Palestine for terrorist activities even if they are not responsible. This will create some incentive for Hamas to regulate terrorism even if it is towards goals which they approve.
These two reasons alone are not enough to be carefree about the situation in the Middle East. Clearly, these could be very troublesome times. These are, however, two reasons to hope that the pessimism of journalists and political commentators is misplaced.
Posted by David at 3:49 PM