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Thursday, August 20, 2009

Some Thoughts on the Afghan Elections

Greg Palkot reported from Afghanistan with an interesting report in anticipation of the election. Palkot walked the streets of Kabul asking potential voters what Ronald Reagan asked in 1980 "are you better off than you were 5 years ago".

To gauge public opinion, we paraphrased the old Ronald Reagan campaign slogan and asked the folks here "are you better off now than you were five years ago?" when President Karzai was first elected?

(voice-over): The reaction was decidedly mixed -- some positive.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have had more improvements in Afghanistan in education parts and every kind of development.

PALKOT: But this man says, "The security here is not very good at all. It's getting worse every day." And while this woman complains about high prices, she does admit, "It's better now, because I can come out without a burqa."

All this is making prospects for tomorrow's vote unclear. Deal making with unsavory warlords might get Karzai the blocks of votes he needs, as against those (INAUDIBLE) home base of southern Afghanistan might cost him. With the streets of election day in Kabul emptying for security reasons, Afghan officials are simply hoping there will only be political casualties tomorrow.

In Kabul, Greg Palkot, FOX News.

This report shows the dichotomy and irony of where we are at in Afghanistan. On the one hand, it is a remarkable achievement that an American news caster would have the opportunity to ask such a question. It's even more remarkable that people would answer freely. It's even more remarkable still that one of those people would be a woman. In less than eight years, we've gone from a government that terrorized and ruled over the people to one that is answerable to the people.

On the other hand, Afghanistan continues to be a place with absolutely no security.

There is no freedom without security. So, while it's remarkable that a woman can feel free to criticize her government in Afghanistan, that's of little comfort with car bombs going off daily.

Afghanistan is both the hope and the challenge of the GWOT. I believe that terrorism dies in any free society because terrorists have no chance in a place where their propaganda is allowed to be challenged freely. In fact, terrorists thrive only where they are free to intimidate anyone that challenges them.

At the same time, many a historic empire have seen their fates ended in Afghanistan including the Soviet Empire most recently. The elections are only a starting point, and ultimately, Afghanistan is deteriorating in a way that we saw Iraq in 2003-2007. Still, Afghans braved threats that their fingers would get cut off and estimates have between 40-50% voter turnout. Iraq turned around and so there is hope for Afghanistan. Hope, of course, is not enough. There needs to be a plan. There needs to be a leader committed to victory. Those on the ground I have no doubt are committed to victory. Those in D.C. I am not so certain about.

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