Friday, February 13, 2009

Does Fighting Terrorism Really Make Their Support Stronger?

Ilya Somin at The Volokh Conspiracy addresses the claim:
Gaza War Leads to Drop in Palestinian Support for Hamas:

There is a commonly held view that taking military action against terrorists has the counterproductive effect of strengthening their popular support. Recent polling data suggest that Israel's recent action in Gaza had precisely the opposite effect. It turns out that military defeat (Israeli forces killed hundreds of Hamas fighters and damaged its infrastructure, while taking few losses of their own) actually lowered Hamas' support among Palestinians. A new poll by the Palestinian Center for Public Opinion found that 51% of Palestinians and 56% of those living in the Gaza Strip now believe that Hamas is leading Gaza in the "wrong" direction. Only 28% of Gaza Palestinians say they support Hamas, down from 52% in a survey conducted in November, before the recent conflict.
Of course, it is not just that the terrorist attacks themselves have been unsuccessful--that would merely lead to bigger bombs and rockets that reach farther into Israel. What has 'convinced' Gazans is that at long last Israel has demonstrated that there is a price to pay, and when the world does not interfere and the Palestinian Arabs feel the full brunt--while seeing their Hamas leaders cower in their bunkers--they get a new view of things.

Somin notes that this is not surprising--it is borne out by history:
It is not surprising that military setbacks have reduced Hamas' popular support. We can see similar patterns throughout history. German support for Nazism collapsed because of Hitler's massive military defeat. In the Arab world, previously strong support for Egyptian dictator Gamal Abdel Nasser's ideology of pan-Arabism plummeted after his defeat in the Six Day War. Here in the United States, support for neoconservative hawkishness declined greatly as a result of setbacks in the occupation of Iraq. Most people are highly biased in their evaluation of political information, and tend to reject anything that cuts against their preexisting beliefs. But clear military defeat is such an obvious setback that all but the most committed ideologues find it difficult to ignore or explain away.
Instapundit adds an additional example:
In other news, the response to Pearl Harbor led to a dramatic reduction in Japanese militarism.
Sometimes, the military setbacks lead to peace--as in the case of Japan. In the case of Hamas, where there is no parallel dedication to the lives of the people under their rule, Israel is not so lucky. The Japanese concept of sacrifice of life during WWII was based on its sanctity. Not so in the case of Hamas, whose hypocrisy and cowardice stands in sharp contrast to their empty bragging.

If Israel and the West can provide Gazans with a better life without Hamas, that will go a long way to bringing peace--and a second Palestinian state is not necessarily the solution.

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