Addendum to “The Terrorists Have Won”

A number of readers have pointed to the Gallup poll that shows a wide majority of Americans in support of the Egyptian protesters. I was, of course, aware of this poll before I read about the Reuters/Ipsos poll I was citing in my piece. In fact, the Reuters article to which I linked, while not specifically pointing to the earlier Gallup poll, does address this issue.

What the polls taken together show is that Americans are supporting Egyptians rising up against a military dictatorship, as one would expect, but afraid of what form democracy in Egypt will take and, crucially, wanting our government to take steps, including slowing down the march toward democracy, in order to arrive at the outcome we desire, even if it is not what Egyptians desire. This was precisely the point of my piece.

The two polls are not contradictory, but complimentary.

The Terrorists have Won: Americans Abandon Democracy Out of Fear

People on the liberal/left side of the spectrum often don’t even like to use the word “terrorists.” But they exist, and folks, they’ve won.

The term “terrorist” has been badly and cynically abused, with some absurd folks (including Veep Joe Biden as well as more typically irresponsible and ignorant “leaders” like Mitch McConnell and Sarah Palin even applying the term to Julian Assange of WikiLeaks. But terrorism has a pretty clear definition: “the systematic use of terror especially as a means of coercion.”

Terrorism might have a variety of goals, but it is usually striving to get populations to abandon their values and act recklessly out of fear; it is often desired that their concern for others be diminished by their panic. This is useful because the target of terrorism is almost always a party that is more powerful than whomever’s cause the terrorists are championing. The more powerful party then acts with less concern than outsiders expect and this generates sympathy for the less powerful. It doesn’t always work (the Palestinians, historically, have had decidedly mixed results with this approach, which is why many groups have abandoned the tactic), but sometimes it does.

In the case of my country, the USA, the terrorists have clearly accomplished their goal. Fear that democracy may produce results we don’t like overcomes that most basic of American convictions: that everyone deserves freedom.

We can see this in the Reuters/Ipsos poll released today. 58% of those polled supported a “slow approach” by Washington regarding Egyptian democracy so we can manage it and forestall any “Islamists” taking power. Only 32% said that the US should support Egyptian democracy regardless of the risks.

Typically, Americans do not realize just how badly our hypocritical approach to democracy has hurt our international standing. The George W. Bush administration talked more about “spreading democracy” than perhaps any other president. Yet, when the Palestinians, in what was universally applauded as a free and fair election despite the obstacles of occupation, elected a majority of Hamas delegates to the Palestinian Legislative Council in 2006, we brought the hammer down. Continue reading