Writing in Foreign Policy Paul Miller offers the most realistic portrait of Afghan President Hamid Karzai.
But Karzai is acting fairly rationally given the constraints and pressures he faces. He is head of a government that for most intents and purposes does not function, no matter what he decides. He faces an insurgency that seems to have staying power and an international force that does not. He faces a parliament that is unwieldy at best, openly hostile at worst. He "appoints" governors who likely still have their own private armies (which he lacks), who often wield more effective power than he does, and who only recently took sides in a ruinous civil war -- the renewal of which is always a tacit threat hanging like a Damocles Sword over Karzai's head. Karzai faces an impossible balancing act.
Afghanistan probably can not be ruled by any group other than a bunch of Muslim clerics - and even they would rule only weakly. Afghanistan's people have loyalties to extended family and tribe (due to consanguineous marriage) that are so strong that there's little loyalty remaining to give to a central government. So Western attempts to conceptualize Karzai as a Western leader and analyze his moves and failures (and corruption) by Western standards totally miss the boat.
But in response, Karzai does not have many options. His "decisions" don't actually change reality so much as they express intent or exhibit symbols. In the face of his many challenges, almost the only tools he has are words. If he wants to protest air strikes or home raids, he makes dramatic statements about a "foreign occupation." If he feels threatened by conservatives and warlords, he starts to burnish his Islamic credentials and sound populist rhetoric. If he believes the Taliban are winning and the international community is withdrawing, he threatens to switch sides. None of these words stem from real beliefs so much as they simply reflect whichever pressure Karzai feels most urgently at the moment.
Read the whole post. It underscores how little the United States can hope to accomplish in Afghanistan other than waste blood and money.
|Share |||By Randall Parker at 2011 January 07 08:31 PM MidEast Afghanistan|