Look, obviously we’re meddling in Afghan governance. We have invested tens of billions of dollars, 1000 lives and will soon have 100,000 troops in Afghanistan. We bolster subnational governance and ministerial performance; seek to influence agricultural production; and we’re building a security infrastructure. Call it appropriate or inappropriate. It exists. So just because Hamid Karzai throws a juvenile and self-serving temper tantrum is no excuse for this perpetual-innocent crap:
On Monday, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said the accusation of U.S. meddling was “genuinely troubling” and “obviously not true.” Gibbs said he doesn’t think the remarks should jeopardize Afghan war funding.
The trouble is that Karzai is defining “meddling” as “insisting on action against corruption” and “dissatisfaction with a blatant attempt at controlling a parliamentary-elections monitor.” He is not engaging in assertive nationalism. He is engaging in demagoguery. He is, in short, on some Benjamin Netanyahu shit.
But there’s no Afghanistan AIPAC. No politician in this country will ever lose an election by telling the president of Afghanistan not to steal an election. There is no penalty in this country for keeping the Afghanistan debate above a sixth-grade level.
In a post I mostly agree with, for real, Max Boot writes:
Pulling U.S. troops out because we’re unhappy with him isn’t an option; our forces aren’t there as a favor to Karzai but to prevent a Taliban takeover that would be far worse for our interests than anything Karzai is likely to do in office. There is also no realistic chance of getting a new Afghan president anytime soon because Karzai was just elected to a five-year term. So we have to make the best of the current situation and try to soothe the sensitive Karzai rather than getting his back up with high-handed reprimands, especially in public.
Like Bon Jovi, I’m halfway there. We’re not in Afghanistan to do Karzai a favor, but if you look at his experience over the past nine years, we treated him like he could do no wrong for about seven and a half years’ worth of his tenure. It’s natural, I suppose, that he should behave so petulantly when his meal ticket ends. And Boot is right that in public, all this is less than constructive.
But the U.S. isn’t the one that started this. No one in the Obama administration slighted him, insulted him, or gave him cause for his grievance. He’s the one attempting to exploit a grievance to bolster his political standing. You see P.J. Crowley and others doing precisely what Boot advises. But a guy who stole an election isn’t going to stop when he feels like he’s winning just because he’s making a tendentious argument. He needs someone to sit him down and tell him that while we respect the outcome of the Afghan “election,” Afghanistan is Beyonce Knowles and we consider him LaTavia Roberson.