Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Thinking about Afghanistan

I spent today at a workshop organized by Rights & Democracy, an organization funded by Canada "to promote democratic development and defend human rights."  I cannot say what others said since it was held under Chatham House rules or their equivalent.  But I think I can repeat what I said.

I was asked what I thought about the implications of the election, and I realized that what the election truly demonstrated was the weakness of external leverage upon the Karzai government and on governance in Afghanistan in general. 

Relatedly, I argued that while there are many meanings to elections, one purpose of them is to enforce accountability.  That is, an election is an event where a politician is held to account for their decisions, and the incumbent can be defeated for poor performance.  But in the Afghanistan case, Karzai competed by avoiding accountability.  He ran essentially against NATO and ISAF by focusing attention on collateral damage--to show that he was not a tool of the international community.  He stacked his government with all kinds of nasty folks to build a winning coalition. And he didn't mind too much when significant fraud was executed on his behalf.  And then rather than having a runoff, which would have been costly but would have reinforced the rules, Karzai gets to keep his job without being held accountable for the fraud.


I was definitely one of the most pessimistic people in the room, which perhaps contradicts my past and present support for the Obama surge.  Hmmm.  Will need to think about this some more

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