Monday, April 5, 2010

Afghanistan FUBAR

For the last eight years, Afghanistan has been contrasted in the liberal imagination with Iraq, as 'the good war'. After all, Al Quaeda had a base there. And women had it really really bad under the Taliban. If only the president would direct his attention away from Iraq and towards Afghanistan...

It should not come as any surprise that this naive imperialist mentality was not an accurate guide to the situation. Eight years in, all the US cares about is trying to keep an ally in control of the country, and it is not getting that. Karzai realizes he actually has some options, and that the US is not the only game in town. He has moved closer to China and Iran. He has threatened to move closer to the Taliban. It's not emphasized in American news reports, but it seems likely that his distancing himself from the West plays well given the numerous Afghan civilian deaths that are coming with the 'surge' in troops. This has led to predictable condescending fulminations from the neoconservative/neoliberal/whatever New York Times editorial board. The generally astute M K Badrakumar suggests that Obama intuits sympathy for Karzai against the alignment with Pakistan promoted by Richard Holbrooke et al. The problem is that, as with Iran, where Obama also showed some decent instincts at times, it is easy to get outflanked by the reactionary foreign policy wing, both in various entrenched wings of the US state and in the mainstream media.

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