Afghanistan, Logic, and Corruption.
Juan Cole has the best response to Mullen’s meeting with the Senate Armed Services Committee yesterday:
The tendency to make analogies from Iraq to Afghanistan is disturbing. They are not similar. Iraq is an oil state with substantial resources. It used to have a high literacy rate before US/UN sanctions of the 1990s, and even now probably the rate is 76%– so the troops can most often read and write. In contrast, Afghanistan is dirt poor and the literacy rate of its troops is only 10%.
IRAQ AND AFGHANISTAN ARE NOT THE SAME COUNTRY, THE SAME WAR, OR THE SAME CHALLENGES.
You’d think that would be easier knowledge to retain, but apparently it’s not.
Joseph Kearns Goodwin (son of Doris Kearns Goodwin, a fascinating US Presidential historian) has an op-ed in the NYT today indicating that election fraud is one of many issues Afghanis have with their government’s influence on their lives:
Yet this electoral chicanery pales in comparison to the systemic, day-to-day corruption within the administration of President Hamid Karzai, who has claimed victory in the election. Without a concerted campaign to fight this pervasive venality, all our efforts there, including the sending of additional troops, will be in vain.
This goes hand in hand with Ajmal Samadi’s suggestion of an Afghani Transitional Authority to oversee the management of the country and stem the tide of corruption until the election process itself has been declared accurate and lawful.
In order to lift Afghanistan from its current political crisis and most effectively address the growing accusations of election fraud, the international community should pressure Karzai to transfer power to a transitional administration that would run the government until the election controversy is resolved and a new president is sworn in. [Radio Free Europe; Radio Liberty]
Let’s be honest: the credibility of the Afghani government and in particular its presidential governance is low, to say the least. Given that NATO/ISAF forces are the security backing Karzai needs to maintain his position of power, it does not seem unreasonable that that same international security force could implement a transitional authority to achieve the goals of 1) insuring a fair and accurate election; and 2) working towards eradicating corruption in the civil government itself. But from the rhetoric, it seems that NATO is more inclined to play to the farce of democracy taking place than to deal with the realities of a failed democratic governance itself; implementing such a transitional authority would clearly undermine the image of that government, though one could successfully argue that the calls of fraud has essentially done that already.
I think, though, that such a transitional authority would probably last much longer than it was intended to, while it’s extra-lawfulness could more effectively deal with governmental corruption than an already corrupt President could.
On the heels of this, Joanna Nathan’s article from Af-Pak Channel addressing the idea that bribing tribal leaders to push forward NATO goals is a good one does better to answer Fareed Zakaria’s surprisingly stupid call for exactly that better than I could.
Rented allies are not reliable allies. Simply buying or bribing more commanders of whatever ilk will mean more instability in an environment where entrenched interests in a war economy are already playing the international community — not the other way around. Money is leverage and the populations of both Afghanistan and the U.S. need to be involved in debating how it is spent, rather than grubby backhanders. This must include clearly agreed public standards and measures — and sanctions if they are not met.
Not to mention that there is clearly no way to further corruption by bribing tribal leaders into doing something. Obviously. Yeah.