“Hamas’ Worst Nightmare”

Sean Hackbarth reports on a recent weblogger conference with John McCain. I don’t know if my colleague James participated in this one, though I know that he has in the past. What Hackbarth highlighted from the conference, and no doubt everyone else will, too, is this:

Jennifer Rubin asked if Obama has given an unhelpful signal to Hamas? McCain responded that it’s clear who Hamas wants to be President. So does Daniel Ortega. “I will be Hamas’ worst nightmare,” said McCain.

Lovely. Of course, these types of sound bites rarely hurt a candidate in America. But they are worrisome. Let’s not forget that Hamas is, for better or for worse, the elected government of the Palestinian Authority. So as long as the United States feels the need to meddle in affairs in the Middle East, they’re going to need to sit down with Hamas for any workable solution, and rhetoric stolen from bad Sylvester Stallone movies isn’t exactly going to incline them to help out. I’m not saying that it’s necessary to kowtow to them, but one would assume that a basic level of politeness isn’t too much to expect from a presidential candidate.

Additionally, it’s worth pointing out that Hamas has not engaged in any violence outside of Israel and the Palestinian territories, nor have they ever attacked any American targets. Hamas may be a loathesome group, but they are not necessarily enemies of the United States. Indeed, when members of the miliatry wing of Hamas called for attacks on the United States, the leadership at the top quickly shut them down. So why does an American Presidential candidate feel the need to be their “worst nightmare”?

UPDATE (James Joyner): I missed this one, I’m afraid. I was invited and accepted but got tied up with work.

The problem we have here is the same that the Brits had with Sein Fein and the Israelis long had with Fatah: the difficulty of separating a terrorist group’s paramilitary wing from its political wing.

Any American president, especially these days, wants to be an enemy of the former. But, as Alex says, he also needs to face the reality of the latter. That’s easier said than done, since the distinction generally amounts to a legal fiction.

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2008, Terrorism, , ,
Alex Knapp
About Alex Knapp
Alex Knapp is Associate Editor at Forbes for science and games. He was a longtime blogger elsewhere before joining the OTB team in June 2005 and contributed some 700 posts through January 2013. Follow him on Twitter @TheAlexKnapp.

Comments

  1. Boyd says:

    Let’s also not forget that Hamas is, for better or for worse, a terrorist organization.

    Additionally, it’s worth pointing out that Hamas’s charter states, “There is no solution for the Palestinian question except through Jihad.”

    So, when someone attacks your friend and ally, that doesn’t make that attacker your enemy? If that’s the case, you’re not much of a friend.




    0



    0
  2. Alex Knapp says:

    Boyd,

    You’ll find no defense of Hamas from me. But it’s worth pointing out that the United States is not a military ally of Israel in the context of their war with the Palestinians. Last time I checked, we don’t have any troops in the Gaza strip fighting alongside Israelis.

    The official foreign policy position of the United States is in support of a peace treaty between the Israelis and the Palestinians, with the goal of recognizing an independent Palestinian State. Given that Hamas would likely be a part of the government of such a Palestinian state, I don’t see how we can label them an “enemy” without contradicting our basic foreign policy.




    0



    0
  3. Bithead says:

    Perhaps, Alex. But I wonder if, in a larger sense, Hamas cannot be considreed to be part of the larger Jihad against the west. Indeed, to me it seems foolish not to, particualrly since we see Iran and Syria supplying them. We’re not going to get a handle on this stuff by clinging to legal and syntactical borders they don’t respect.




    0



    0
  4. Zelsdorf Ragshaft III says:

    Alex, I know you noticed, but Israel does not have a war with the Palestinians, it is the Palestinians who are at war with Israel. If it were the other way around, there would be no Palestinians or atleast they would not have land they would hold to fight from. Israel has tolerated this terrorism from folks who hate them because of there beliefs. Palestinians who live in Israel are not moving enmass to the Gaza or the West Bank. Life is better in Israel than it was in Palestine before Israel. If Israel ever went biblical on the Palestinians this would be over in a week.




    0



    0
  5. Alex Knapp says:

    But I wonder if, in a larger sense, Hamas cannot be considreed to be part of the larger Jihad against the west.

    I don’t think that’s a fair qualification. Hamas is pretty much a Palestinian organization, through and through. Just because they are supported by other countries doesn’t mean that their primary goals aren’t simply related to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

    (Also, do you have a link for the Iranian supply to Hamas? Hamas is a Sunni organization, so I wouldn’t think that Iran would give them much support. Could be wrong though–not arguing the point, just asking out of curiousity.)




    0



    0
  6. Andy Vance says:

    Indeed, to me it seems foolish not to, particualrly since we see Iran and Syria supplying them. We’re not going to get a handle on this stuff by clinging to legal and syntactical borders they don’t respect.

    Was that intended as parody?




    0



    0
  7. Bithead says:

    Yeah, that’s not exactly intuative, is it?
    Yet, I’m seeing indications that they are in fact getting such support. A few of them:

    Fatah: 7 Iranian weapons experts arrested in Gaza

    Of course Fatah has been getting support too, back when Arifat was running things.

    Perhaps most important is that it’s still happening.

    Just a few off the cache in no particular order. It’s my take that ethy’re supplying Hamas and or Fatah on the idea of “the enemy of my enemy….” Now that doesn’t mean that they’ll have Iran’s support should Israel ever be wiped out. But they do have their hands in that one.




    0



    0
  8. Bithead says:

    I don’t think that’s a fair qualification. Hamas is pretty much a Palestinian organization, through and through. Just because they are supported by other countries doesn’t mean that their primary goals aren’t simply related to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict

    Well, look at it this way… when Israel is tied up dealing with Hamas, or Fatah,(whichever is in power at the given moment) they’re not dealing directly with Iran, are they? If Iran has designs on Israel, and I think it clear they do, then what better way to deal with Israel than using Hamas or Fatah as a sheild? It would be in their interests to keep them minimally supplied.




    0



    0
  9. Alex Knapp says:

    Bithead,

    Thanks for the links.

    Let’s not forget, though, that until the election of Hamas, the United States provided a substantial amount of money to the Palestinian Authority, too. Things are often more complicated than they appear.




    0



    0
  10. Jeffrey W. Baker says:

    This isn’t _at_ _all_ comparable to the relationship between the British and Sinn Fein. It’s more comparable to the relationship between the Italians and Sinn Fein, which is to say none whatsoever.




    0



    0
  11. Triumph says:

    rhetoric stolen from bad Sylvester Stallone movies isn’t exactly going to incline them to help out.

    Well at least McCain is moving up from coming up with ideas based on kids cartoons (i.e. League of Democracies).

    This is just more evidence that McCain is a lightweight on foreign affairs. It is part of a consistent and recurring pattern of nonsense that emerges whenever he talks about foreign policy. He’s said that Iran is behind Al Quaeda in Iraq. He thought that Gen. Petraeus was in charge of Afghanistan military operations. Now he’s making belligerent overtures against Hamas.

    I thought foreign affairs was supposed to be his strong suit?




    0



    0
  12. Alex Knapp says:

    Well at least McCain is moving up from coming up with ideas based on kids cartoons (i.e. League of Democracies).

    Actually, Triumph, the best way to write it for maximum ridicule purposes is with an exclamation point–“League of Democracies!”.




    0



    0
  13. davod says:

    Alex:

    1..AP article Mon., March. 19, 2007 -Hamas-Iran links full of contradictions Mutual interests spur relationship between traditional Sunni-Shiite rivals.

    “…Yet the dispute over Saddam’s execution did not break the Hamas-Iran alliance, either.

    Instead the two — bound by common strategic interests — have solidified their relationship in the last year, creating a growing worry for both some Arab countries and for Israel…”

    http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/17685078/

    2..SR 534
    “…Whereas on June 25, 2006, despite Israel’s evacuation of Gaza in 2005, the terrorist organization Hamas, which is also supported by Syria and Iran…”

    http://www.govtrack.us/congress/bill.xpd?bill=sr109-534

    3..H. Res. 921 (109th)Condemning the recent attacks against the State of Israel, holding terrorists and their state-sponsors accountable for such attacks, supporting Israel’s right to defend itself, and for other purposes.

    “…Condemns the governments of Iran and Syria for their continued support for Hezbollah and Hamas in their attacks against Israelis and other terrorist activities…”

    http://www.govtrack.us/congress/bill.xpd?bill=hr109-921&tab=summary




    0



    0
  14. Bithead says:

    Let’s not forget, though, that until the election of Hamas, the United States provided a substantial amount of money to the Palestinian Authority, too. Things are often more complicated than they appear

    I didn’t suggest they were simple, particularly, Alex. But I do dare to suggest that our intentions, are, shall we say, more secular than those of Iran.




    0



    0
  15. Bruce Moomaw says:

    The trouble with McCain is that he thinks dumb, cornball language is the solution to EVERY problem. (Remember his suggestion that he’d stop all that fighting between factions in Iraq by “getting them all in a room together and telling them to stop the bullshit”? THAT’LL show ’em, by gum! Or his initial determination to call the Vietnamese “gooks” during his 2000 campaign?)

    But then — as conservative Andrew Ferguson pointed out correctly in a Weekly Standard article back during his 2000 campaign — McCain is even fonder than Bush of intellectual laziness and emotionalizing rather than thinking. Emotionalizing, after all, is so much more fun. It is by no means impossible that he might manage to be a worse, more destructive president than Bush on balance, even if he isn’t as fond of torture (except, apparently, when it’s carried out by the CIA rather than by the regular Army).

    As for a total in-advance refusal on our part to even try to negotiate with Hamas: that way lies madness. It was a good three decades ago that Bill Buckley, talking about the desirability of negotiating with Arafat IF he was willing to negotiate, made the same point as James by pointing out that “today’s terrorists are tomorrow’s government leaders” (and specifically mentioning Menachem Begin’s role in Irgun in this connection). Notwithstanding the fact that they’re currently fanatical slimebags, we need to at least keep the phone line open if they ever DO show any signs of softening. I really think we’ve had more than enough Foreign Policy As G.I. Joe Cartoon, thank you. (Although I do note that Obama and, more seriously, Hillary are also willing to succumb to that temptation when trying to show that they’d be Tougher Than Bush on something — specifically, carrying out bombing raids on Pakistan’s territory without its government’s permission, despite the little facts that it’s both highly unstable and nuclear-armed.)




    0



    0
  16. floyd says:

    “”Well at least McCain is moving up from coming up with ideas based on kids cartoons (i.e. League of Democracies).””

    Triumph;
    It must be a trend since OBAMA stole his campaign slogan from Builder Bob![lol]




    0



    0
  17. Bithead says:

    Alex; Got an interesting note from Chuck Simmins this morning, which perhaps puts additional light on what you’d asked me about, here…

    AP reports, in a little noticed two paragraphs of a much longer story, that the Mahdi Army folks admitted to them that they just got loads of goodies from Iran. You know, just in time for the fighting.

    And I detail the 109 terrorists reported killed by US troops in the Sadr Revolt so far.

    http://northshorejournal.org/index.php/2008/03/iran-backing-sadr-revolt-in-iraq




    0



    0
  18. Bithead says:

    Oops. Hit the button early.
    I post that link because it seems clear to me Iran is at or near the bottom of every conflict across the region… and it seems rather silly to exclude them from Hamas, particularly given their stated desires about Israel.




    0



    0