In early 2005, President Bush and Secretary of State Rice both espoused what some call the "pothole theory of democracy," the idea that having to govern would absorb the energies of Hamas and thereby defang it. I documented their predictions and expressed my doubts at "Can Hezbollah and Hamas Be Democratic?" Now, in an interview with Newsweek International, a founder of Hamas named Mahmoud al-Zahar confirms my argument:
Newsweek: Some Western officials have talked about President George W. Bush's "theory of redemption"—the belief that engaging groups like Hamas could moderate them. Do you get the sense that the United States is trying to engage you?
Zahar: [Laughs] It's not the United States. It's the whole European [community]. But containment will not succeed with Hamas. I don't trust the term "moderate." We are already moderate. But if people believe we will be moderate in the Western style, or a pro-Israeli style—that's not moderate. That's corruption.
(September 5, 2005)
Jan. 25, 2006 update: The Associated Press has proffered the most amazing example of pothole theorizing I have seen to date. Steven Gutkin, its bureau chief in Jerusalem, finds in "Hamas' Showing May Improve Peace" that the Islamists' strong electoral showing is actually good for Jewish-Muslim relations because it will keep the hotheads busy with governing: "if the elections pull the Islamic militants off the streets and into the corridors of power - shifting their focus from terror to governance - prospects for peace could be improved," he writes. Daoud Kuttab of Al-Quds University confirms this bit of wisdom: "If this sharing of power will satisfy Hamas, then they will have less of a need to use military means to be heard and that could possibly be good for the peace process."