AND NOW FOR A SERIOUS POST. Pat Buchanan (and no, damnit, I'm not going to apologize) raises a series of under-considered questions in his column about the consequences of the aid cutoff to the Palestinian Authority in the wake of Hamas' election win. One is simply that the actual consequences in terms of human suffering provoked by this are going to be large: "Surgeons at Gaza�s biggest hospital," he quotes the Financial Times as reporting, "have suspended non-essential surgery for lack of sutures, laboratory kits and anesthetics." Obviously, one follow-on consequence of this is going to be increasing detestation for the United States among the Palestinian population and their sympathizers throughout the Arab world. Even worse, though, are the precise circumstances of this. Palestine is being punished for having voted Hamas into power. But the election in which that took place was only organized because the American government took the line that Israel shouldn't negotiate with the Palestinian Authority until it implemented democratic reforms.

Well, they did what we asked them to do, and the governing party lost to what everyone previously understood to be the main opposition party. In consequence, we shut down their hospitals. What kind of sense does this make? Palestine is supposed to have a democracy, but it was supposed to be a democracy where the voters only elected the party we preferred, which just happened to be the party that was already in power. It's a bit odd, is it not? What, exactly, has this series of initiatives been designed to accomplish? Has American security been improved in any way by this?

What's more, this whole fiasco didn't play out in some foreign policy backwater like Ecuador -- the Israel-Palestinian conflict is at the very center of America's relationship with the Arab world and the broader Middle East.

--Matthew Yglesias

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