How the U.S. Is Destroying, Not Helping, Democracy in Afghanistan

A couple weeks back, Barack Obama found himself tangled in a sort of political half-Nelson: In order to maintain the illusion that Afghanistan’s government was operating effectively, he had to thank Hamid Karzai (the Afghan president responsible for rigging the country’s initial elections) for agreeing to a run-off. But by thanking Karzai, he drew attention to just how fractured the political scene in Afghanistan was.

"We have seen the candidates expressing a willingness to abide by constitutional law, and there is a path forward in order to complete this election process," Obama said, adding that he was appreciative of Karzai’s “constructive efforts.”

This was of course a farcical move -- a lot like thanking a thief for returning your car stereo. But it was also necessary, given that the alternative would be admitting eight years of U.S. presence has done nothing to stabilize Afghanistan’s political climate. Obama, fully aware of his statement’s empty pomp, was performing some old-fashioned damage control.

Such ceremonial lip service could possibly have been excused as political necessity, were it not now the central tenet of the White House’s Afghanistan policy. Indeed, after Karzai’s main challenger, Abdullah Abdullah, withdrew from the run-off elections Sunday, Obama adviser David Axelrod had this to say:

“Every poll that had been taken there suggested that he was likely to be defeated anyway, so we are going to deal with the government that is there.”

Never mind the corruption, Axelrod suggests; Abdullah would not have won anyway. Abdullah, by the way, had been “under intense pressure from Western officials to avoid confrontation and end a two-month dispute over the election results,” according to the New York Times.

All this adds up to yet another huge ideological problem for Obama’s “good war:” the U.S., despite its attempts to spread democracy to Afghanistan, is actually opting for a sort of cardboard cut-out equivalent -- a false version meant to survive only as long as is politically convenient. By indicating that it’s in Abdullah’s interest to go quietly, the Obama administration is actively (and rather openly) contradicting the principles it supposedly espouses.

Basically, the White House is cementing an absurd precedent that Obama established when he congratulated Karzai in October. A sort of cotton-candy policy on Afghanistan -- one composed of saccharine rhetorical gestures, and devoid of any real substance.


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