Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Obama's last chance?

Gwynne Dyer thinks that the recent sham election in Afghanistan may give Obama an out:

As the evidence emerged that up to a third of the votes allegedly cast for Karzai had been fraudulent, the United States backed away from celebrating his “re-election”. Indeed, the fraud was so blatant and massive that even the Afghans began to choke on it, and various American emissaries threatened and bullied Karzai into accepting a run-off vote against his closest rival in the first round of voting, Dr Abdullah Abdullah.

That vote would have been held this Saturday (November 7), but Abdullah knew that he would lose again. He belongs to the Tajik ethnic group, and there are twice as many Pashtuns (Karzai’s ethnic group) in Afghanistan as there are Tajiks. So Abdullah complained that the election officials conducting this run-off would be exactly the same men who had rigged the first round—which was quite true—and demanded their resignation.

Karzai refused to remove them, Abdullah used that as an excuse to withdraw from the election, and last Sunday (November 1) the run-off was cancelled. Karzai was proclaimed president once again on the basis of the discredited first-round vote, and the whole sorry mess was abandoned. But there is a silver lining: if Obama wants to bail out of Afghanistan, he now has an excellent excuse for doing so.

From the Georgia Straight. The question is, will Obama take advantage of this opportunity? Dyer makes no predictions, except for what will happen if he doesn't:
If he misses this opportunity, he may never get another, for it will inevitably, inexorably become “his” war, and the Americans who are killed there from now on will have died on his orders. Once that kind of burden descends on a politician, it becomes almost impossible for him to change course and admit that those deaths were futile. In that case, the Afghanistan war will eventually destroy him.
I'm inclined to think Dyer's right. But does Obama?


cherenkov said...

I don't really agree. he has an excuse for pulling out, but it's a pretty lame one. The corruption in the karzai gov't doesn't change the primary objective of being there -- disabling the "talqaeda" terrorist machine. You can't turn your back on that because the leadership of the country, which is still a damn sight better than what used to be there, suffers from corruption.

nitroglycol said...

The goal of "disabling the 'talqaeda' terrorist machine" might be a laudable one... if it was realistic. I don't think it is though. The Soviet Union, and Britain before that, tried to subjugate Afghanistan, and it didn't go too well for them.

Consider this (Table 4 from this link):

Lethality Ratios in Afghanistan, 2006
United States 4.45
Britain 6.3 - 9.8
Canada 14.4
NATO 5.0 - 12.9
Soviets (1980s) 12.5

That's not encouraging to me. Sooner or later, the NATO forces are going to have to leave Afghanistan with their tails between their legs; we might as well do it before we waste more lives, both NATO and Afghan. Sadly, though, I expect we'll waste a lot more lives before we acknowledge defeat.