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Friday, September 25, 2009

The Recent Afghan Elections are a Trojan Horse

News media is citing the recent Afghan elections as the main reason why the Obama administration is taking another look at its Afghanistan policy and is considering not giving General McChrystal the troops he's about to officially ask for. As we all know, there have been widespread reports that there was mass fraud in these elections. I wasn't on the ground so I can't speak to their veracity however I will say that it wouldn't surprise me.

Yet, to change our policy based on fraudulent elections is nothing more than a trojan horse. Afghanistan has no highway system. It's one of the five poorest countries in the world. It spent nearly two decades in the midst of war prior to our arrival. Even if we are successful, it will be decades if not centuries before that country is full turned around. Corruption and fraud are trademarks of any third world country.

So, is anyone really surprised that there was widespread fraud in these elections? In fact, democratic revolutions that follow dictatorships often fail because those governments ultimately wind up corrupt and then they aren't trusted by the people. Ironically enough, Hamas largely won their election, domestically, on an anti corruption platform. Hezbollah also uses that theme in trying to get votes in Lebanon.

So, to look at the Afghan elections and be shocked by fraud is sort of like the famous line in Casablanca. One of the biggest challenges in Afghanistan all along is trying to turn around a nation that was so devastated by years of war, poverty, and corruption. The fraudulent elections are just one in many by products of a problem that we've been dealing with since we got there. It should be noted that the government in Iraq is not without its share of corruption and that corruption poses problems for our effort as well.

The Afghan elections were no turning point. It's long been known that Karzai had allied himself with several folks of dubious character, including his own brother. Yet, the administration is treating the elections as some sort of a water shed moment.

The calls to testify come as the Pentagon has asked McChrystal to delay his request for more troops while the administration rethinks strategy in the wake of last month's Afghan elections, which have been racked by allegations of fraud.

That's nothing short of a trojan horse. The elections were fraudulent as a result of several factors and dynamics that were in place when then Candidate Obama called the Afghanistan the right battlefield. If he couldn't predict then that the structure of government was prone to mass fraud in the next election, then we are all in real trouble.

That's not to say that the fraudulent elections aren't a serious problem. They are. Fraudulent elections mean a government that isn't legitimate in the eyes of the people. The key to any counter insurgency is winning the hearts and minds of the people. A corrupt south Vietnamese government was a factor in our ultimate demise in Vietnam. The point is that this should have been known all along.

Yet, the Obama administration is suddenly looking at a policy review six months after implementing its policy. Its coming when he'll have to make the politically difficult decision of putting more troops on the ground. It's clear, he'd rather not do this. If he's not committed to victory despite making victory in Afghanistan one of his foreign policy pillars, that's bad enough. To trot out this trojan horse and try and use it to excuse losing is even more shameful.

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