I have wondered since my visit to Afghanistan nearly two years ago (Dec 2007) whether this is an optimal level or form of corruption that would allow the government to be semi-self-sustaining and legitimate enough. I realized that we could not eliminate all corruption there (or anywhere), and changing all of the norms of the political and the economic system seemed a bit ambitious.
Asking that question of the CIDA [Canadian International Development Agency] rep in Kandahar caused her head to spin. The military guys did see the value of the question, but they never changed their polling to determine which kinds of activities that we call corrupt were more or less likely to alienate the community.
Anyway, Fred Kaplan reviews the Senate committee hearing on the renewal of the Chairman of the Joint Staff. Afghanistan came up and the failure to develop governance was a focal point of the discussion--that more troops will not lead to more legitimate government. So, Kaplan goes to the extreme of suggesting that we rent some warlords and perhaps buy support throughout the society. Well, at least for a while. An interesting although problematic thought.
For the opposite perspective, arguing that corruption is THE problem to fight and how to fight it, see here.