The United States has a long, ignominious history of backing the wrong guy when governments fail or change. It is a policy rooted in the neo-con belief that freedom and democracy just blooms if given the chance…but it sure does help if we prod it along with the tip of a gun and buy off the dictator/thief du jour.
Our latest “wrong guy” is Hamid Karzai…the fashion plate of Kabul. The U.S. ostensibly invaded Afghanistan to crush the Taliban. But conquering is never quite enough, so we embarked on an open-ended program to cobble together a “country” from a tribal hodgepodge that outsiders have unsuccessfully tried to turn national for centuries.
We needed a strong, capable leader/diplomat to soothe the dozens of war lords and make peace with neighboring Pakistan (where we were busily backing another wrong guy, Pervez Musharraf). What we got was a wavering, incompetent, empty suit wearing a trippy goat skin cap and fashionable cape.
According to Afghan Finance Minister Omar Zakhiwal, Karzai is, “an extremely weak man who did not listen to facts but instead” chooses to believe “even the most bizarre stories and plots against him.” Yeah, that sounds like your average neo-con puppet.
The Afghans don’t hate him, they ignore him. The Pakistanis, they hate him…with a passion. The Americans lick his ass as he steals them blind, while “expressing confidence” he’ll turn the corner and become the neo-con’s neo-con, a veritable Johnny Democracy Seed saving a feudal land from itself.
The U.S. has propped him up for 13 years so his government can control about 6 blocks of Kabul. We have an entire army there waiting for him to get his shit together as his army picks off Americans by the dozen. The Military Nation-Building Complex got $100 billion to rebuild a place that was a shambles before we conducted urban renewal with extreme prejudice.Yet, we’ll still be waiting 13 more years if Karzai has anything to do with it.
Karzai Steals, Boy Does He Steal
Karzai claimed the U.S. owed him $70 million in customs fees to “export” our own equipment home. He finally backed down under intense pressure. No one knows exactly how much graft has gone down the hole, but we measure it in airplane loads. Karzai is a dog, one which has bitten the hand that has fed him for 13 years.
Yet, he continues to harangue the U.S. at every turn. According to ambassadors and military officials Karzai thinks the U.S. has it out for HIM. Our goal according to Hamid is to, “divide Pakistan and weaken Afghanistan” to pursue terrorists. If that’s the case, our “plan” is a spectacular failure.
His division and weakening looks different to Americans and rightfully so. According to Karl Eikenberry, the U.S. Ambassador to Kabul, “Karzai continues to shun responsibility for any sovereign burden, whether defense, governance, or development.” In addition, Karzai’s brother, Wali, “is widely understood to be corrupt and a narcotics trafficker.” And that’s the stuff we pay him handsomely to do.
We’re slowly catching on. Our boys are coming home, but we still don’t call the crapweasel out on what he does. We quietly suck it up and pay the extortion. There is talk of expediting things, bringing everyone home (including the “residual” support intended to guard his capes) earlier and refusing to pay exorbitant customs on equipment we lent him. It’s about time, but that isn’t enough.
The U.S. must break its dependency on whatever grafthound or dictator pops up in the aftermath of trouble. We need to make it clear that if you stand with us, you stand with us. We don’t buy your support with no terms, you have a choice. If you want the largess of being our friend, don’t steal and don’t complain what a raw deal you are getting as we build hospitals and schools. If you, Mr. Potentate, can’t keep your arguments behind closed doors where we can both handle them and if you can’t keep your hands out of the kitty, we’ll pull our Army back and let your people come after your cowardly, hidey hole ass and rip you assunder…and we sure as hell won’t pay customs on our own equipment while they do it. And when it is time to leave, it is time to leave.
Kick Karzai’s Ass and Take Names
Of course that requires sorely lacking backbone on our part. It also requires us to stop buying off every jackal of opportunity to do our bidding and then turn and bite us. It requires us to put the would-be “leaders” of client countries on notice that we will do one of the few things we are still good at, kick ass and take names if they keep their ungrateful and disgraceful behavior in play.
But more importantly, we need to give up the neo-con fantasy that lands that have never governed themselves since history began, except for short periods when a vicious dictator holds them in line, will go all democratic because they dip their pinkies in purple ink. They wouldn’t know democracy if it bit them on the ass because they’ve never seen it. When the Stasi comes to beat you the finer points of democratic theory don’t mean much. Keeping the lights on? Now there is an accomplishment.
We should back the right men and interestingly that sometimes means backing no one in particular. Accept that places like Afghanistan are hot-firing line messes. There is no way to buy them peace. If our national interest dictates, and only after careful consideration and a solid extraction strategy, stop worrying about which douchebag we put in charge. We can’t put a person in charge of something inherently uncontrollable. We should simply go in, do what we need to do, leave, and let whatever scum rises to the top get eaten alive by their own people without our help.
Some people will experience human suffering, violence, and thievery. The simplest tenets of democracy will die on the vine before they catch hold. If the U.S. has shown anything in its history, it is that democracy comes neither easily or cheaply. It comes because people want it and make it. No one else can do it for them.
Let’s make an example of Karzai. Let’s let countries do on their own that which we can’t reasonably do for them.