In a story titled "Gaza Bombshell," this week, Vanity Fair reported that the Palestinian civil war that killed dozens last summer was, in fact, the failed product of an American-backed attempt to oust the democratically-elected Hamas. News that the U.S. had backed such a plan, of course, isn't really news (reports of the U.S. arming Fatah have long circulated), but it should be. If American faith in democracy is that malleable, it's certainly too tenuous to be staking our reputation on abroad.
A press conference Bush held the day following the election said it all. The mood was awkward: after beating the drums for a Palestinian election for years and grooming Fatah with $2 million in the run-up to the election, when Hamas swept the vote with resounding turnout in a contest certified free and fair, Bush was stuck. So naturally, he hedged.
"I like the competition of ideas," said Bush. "There's something healthy about a system that does that. And so the elections yesterday were very interesting."
That about sums up the historical U.S. attitude toward elections in the Middle East: a refreshing, even entertaining exercise to indulge in. But not when results don't fit the script.