Democracy Arsenal

« Katulis responds to Kahl | Main | Lawless Oil »

November 16, 2007

The Worst Answer of Last Night's Debate
Posted by Shadi Hamid

I like Chris Dodd. I think he brings something to the table, and I was happy to hear him get fired up on education last night. Which is why it saddens me that Dodd also gave what was, in my view, the worst answer of last night's debate. I haven't seen anyone pick up on it yet, unfortunately. Here's what Dodd said:

Be careful what you wish for. If there were totally free elections in many of the countries we're talking about today, the Islamic Jihad or the Islamic Brotherhood would win 85 percent of the vote. That's not a great outcome for us at this point either.

Where to begin. First of all, Islamic Jihad doesn't participate in elections, and never has. They're a terrorist group with no interest in politics. Dodd apparently isn't aware of this pretty basic fact. Second, there is no group that goes by the name "Islamic Brotherhood." It's called the "Muslim Brotherhood." Maybe I'm being a bit nitpicky, but it's a bit worrying that someone who's spent three decades in Congress doesn't even know the correct name of the most influential opposition movement in the Middle East today, one that spans not one but several countries, including Egypt and Jordan, two of our closest regional allies. Thirdly, this is the first time I've ever heard someone predict that the Brotherhood would win 85% in free elections. This number is so wildly off the mark that Dodd may as well have picked the number out of a hat. Conservative estimates are 20-25%. The most they could probably get is 40-45% of the vote, and even that's pushing it.

Those are factual problems. What's worse, though, is the broader point Dodd is trying to make: We shouldn't encourage free and fair elections in the Middle East, because it won't be good for our interests. Sound familiar? Be careful what you wish for. Someone should have pushed Dodd and asked him if five decades of supporting brutal Arab dictators has been in our interest.

Lastly, Dodd does something which I find really annoying. Republicans tend to do it quite a bit, but Democrats occasionally fall into the trap as well. This is the habit of listing all Islamist groups as part of one monolithic threat and failing to make the any distinctions. To refer to Islamic Jihad and the Muslim Brotherhood in the same sentence is mindboggling. The former is a fringe terrorist organization that has a relatively small following in Gaza. The latter is the strongest opposition party in Egypt with perhaps millions of members, supporters, and sympathizers. It is a group which renounced violence in the 1970s and has since committed itself to working within the democratic process. It currently has 88 members in parliament, by far the largest opposition bloc.

It's really quite amazing, but in two short sentences, Dodd managed to get so many things wrong, and displayed a lack of even the most basic understanding about what is arguably the most important region in the world. Can we please have a president who understands the Middle East and the Muslim world?


TrackBack URL for this entry:

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference The Worst Answer of Last Night's Debate:

» Zolpidem abuse. from Zolpidem.
Zolpidem eszopiclone indications. Zolpidem. [Read More]


Excellent analysis, Shadi, right down your alley and well said. I smell a major media piece on the subject--go for it. If Dodd is this misinformed (he's just one notch shy of the right's popular 'Islamo-fascism') just think about how other Americans need to be educated. In other words, we need more than a president who understands the ME and the Muslim world.

Yikes, I normally expect better from Senator Dodd. It can't be fun to have to keep calling people on this point, but I'm glad you're doing it.

I know no moslem country where a free and fair election will result in a above 80% vote of Muslim brotherhood or Islamists! There is simply no evidence to suggest this!!

Umm, perhaps it's just me, but what's to say Dodd just misspoke? Isn't it assuming a lot to say that he sincerely believed it to be Islamic Brotherhood as opposed to Muslim?

They are not voting. They are leaving. In the Philippines they are getting their own country. Dodd should wonder if he should grant more Section 508 waivers for countries that have had military coups, which were supported by US military and NGO(PC) aid before, during , and after the coups. Fiji is having the same problem. Thailand is having the same problem. In Asia Georgia is having the same problem, butit's really the Russians, not the Islamists. The countries Dodd has required Bush to grant wiavers for NGO(PC) and military aid because of coups, military coups and juntas are having their countries divided and new countries forming inside the coup country. Will Dodd force Bush to recognize these new countries inside the coup countries with the same US aid(PC) and military aid? Dodd can't, because revolutions are only good for democratic coups and not 'Islamist or Russian' countries forming inside US sponsored 'revolutions and coups.'

Dodd policy(PC, NGO and US military aide) is failing as the countries he sponsored for wiavers fall and new coutnries developinside them and they are all 'Islamist or Russian.'

keep defending radical Muslims. You are an idiot

I don't know Arabic, but it's quite possible that "Islamic" and "Muslim" are not even two separate words. It looks like "Islamic" is a purely English formation, adding our suffix to the Arabic borrowing "Islam." So give the man a break, seriously.

I more or less support you broader point that the choice between fair elections that result in terrorist victories and stable dictatorial regimes is a false dichotomy.

Islamic (Islamii or Islamia) and Muslim are two distinct words in Arabic. This is a fairly common problem amongst English speakers, people don't seem to know how to use Islamic as opposed to Muslim, or for that matter Arab as opposed to Arabic. Senator Dodd probably wasn't alone on that stage in this regard.

In defense of the Senator, Ayman al-Zawahiri is/was the head of the organization formerly known in English as Egyptian Islamic Jihad (They have since "merged" with al-Qaeda). So, while his answer was reductive and inaccurate, it does seem to be coming from somewhere other than pure ignorance.


The Jews were chosen to make the Gentiles accept the G-d of the Old Testament. For the most part, they failed to do this. As a result; converting the Gentiles became the Messiah's job.

The problem with having a modern Israel is that it represents the idea that the Hebrew G-d belongs to only one people.

If it weren't for Zionism, the false religion of Islam wouldn't even be necessary.

The comments to this entry are closed.

Sign-up to receive a weekly digest of the latest posts from Democracy Arsenal.
Powered by TypePad


The opinions voiced on Democracy Arsenal are those of the individual authors and do not represent the views of any other organization or institution with which any author may be affiliated.
Read Terms of Use