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Sunday, February 20, 2011

Duplicity in International Affairs and the Eclipse of Democracy: Subterranean Deals Centered Around Afghanistan

Abdullah Abdullah withdrew on November 1, 2009 from the runoff election in Afghanistan.   Interestingly, Hilary Clinton and a spokesman for President Karzai characterized Abdullah’s withdraw in virtually identical terms—namely, as “his personal decision.”  Such a stance makes sense because both the American Government and Karzai had an interest in the Afghan electoral process being perceived as legitimate.   It is interesting, however, that the identical interpretation was instantly available to the press.   Perhaps U.S. Senator John Kerry had urged Karzai to agree to the runoff by telling him of a secret deal between the American Government and Abdullah that would have Abdullah pull out with a statement affirming the legitimacy of the electoral system.   That is, I wonder if the U.S. senator promised Abdullah something that essentially short-circuited the electoral process.  Karzai would look like a statesman without having to risk losing power, and Abdullah would get something rather than a probable election defeat.  The US would get stability in a Karzai government without having to worry about another controversial election.
As it turned out, Abdullah did not keep to the script; he denounced the continued corruption in the continued occupants of the Karzai-hired electoral commission (a blatant conflict of interest for any electoral body, to be sure).   Also, the runoff itself was cancelled.  Was this part of the deal?  If so, the deal I suspect took place was very well hidden, or subterranean in nature and intention.

What concerns me overall from this case is the extent to which such a deal would deviate from the story that we, the public, were told.  If there was such a deal, it would have been at odds with the democratic process, which really needed a fair runoff election rather than a collapse (or fait accompli).  A runoff could have served as an opportunity to fix or strengthen the democratic process while demonstrating that electoral fraud can be extinguished without resort to revolution.  Not only was the world left with no such hope; we saw the democratic process truncated ,and thus as still deeply flawed. 

This might be naive, but for many years American presidents have been giving lip service to supporting representative democracy around the world.  It would be sad were the same presidents actually thwarting it on account of political expediency (such as clearing the way for a decision on a new troop surge).   I refuse to accept that integrity in place duplicity is too much to realistically ask for.  Ironically, had the US and UN invested people and energy into building fire-walls in Afganistan’s electoral process such that the runoff would have truly been free and fair (including from threats of violence), the American goal with respect to the country would have been much closer to being realized than by sending in a surge of miltary force.   In going for the expedient route, the American elected representatives and their appointees looked corrupt or compromised themselves.  In the end, it is up to us, the citizens—of whatever republic—to say enough is enough and to resist the temptation to pull the lever in the voting booth as we did last time.  Otherwise, we are to blame—as enablers rather than as game changers.

See: http://www.cnn.com/2009/WORLD/asiapcf/11/01/afghanistan.election/index.html