The U.N’s Cowering Show Against Karzai

After the Rains Came

Peter Galbraith’s hasty removal from office as the Deputy U.N Special Representative in Afghanistan seems the more unbecoming given the stature and import of the position he held, and the U.N,’s recent, apparent, moves to reflects its own supposition that it is an organization that commands the respect of petty tyrants the world over.

Galbraith is a modern hero for liberals and humanitarians, alike.  He argued the case that Saddam Hussein was committing genocide against the Kurdish people of Iraq.  He has even gone so far as to recommend that Iraq be partitioned to reflect the majority status of ethnic groups within the country, as it now stands.  This is gutsy talk; this is ferocious action.

Whether it is the case that he was removed because he had personality clashes with his boss, he certainly seemed to be more aggressive in his stance against Hamid Karzai and his cronies– or, from a different angle, superlords.(However one wishes to view politics in Afghanistan is one’s business, I suppose, just  as long as it does not contravene the facts on the ground)  I’d think there was plenty of room for the U.N. team in Afghanistan to play good cop, bad cop.  It would be a shame, after all, if modern  public diplomacy required that diplomats and advocates stand behind the two-way mirror and size up the alleged criminals, without having a single opportunity to set the criminals against one another in a modern showing of the prisoner’s dilemma.

I understand that Karzai is our ally and that he has tried to show that he stands against the Taliban.  I’m just not sure that he’s quite successfully made that the case that he’s the most reliable man for the job.  This, now, more than ever.

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~ by Faheem Haider on September 30, 2009.

4 Responses to “The U.N’s Cowering Show Against Karzai”

  1. Totally agree with the assesment on Karzai, and the gutsiness of Galbraith. However, don´t you think that the way he has agressively attacked the UN has unfairly damaged its already flimsy legitimacy. Especially given the fact that all they were trying to do was to give the young Afghani electoral institutions and tribunals some breathing space, from international pressure tohat is, to deal with the fraud by themselves. Fair and efficients local institutions need time and challenges to grow strong in an organic way. Perhaps the UN was right in choosing to leave them alone, at least on election day, and the first following days.

    • Mario, I agree that Galbraith was (and, perhaps, is) too forceful. Maybe public diplomacy isn’t his forte; perhaps he’s a better advocate. In fact, I had a conversation with a very good friend of mine and argued about whether he was effective in his role. I’d say that he was screened by Clinton and Holbrooke because he they thought he was effective as an advocate.

      But I do think that taking the UN to task on the ghost polling stations was the right thing, in so far as Galbraith was occupying the role of an advocate. I’d argue that everyone thought that the Afghani electoral institutions were weak and hence susceptible to intervention. Its just that the real case of intervention blows away even the most fanciful projections of electoral tomfoolery. In this one circumstance, the UN should have spoken up a bit louder.

  2. I guess that also makes sense. I guess there are strong arguments for demanding more guts from the UN. But what is still clear to me is that nobody is winning from the media scandal: not the UN, not Afghani stability, perhaps Karzai a little bit but not really, certanly not democracy beyond the pure symbolic. Perhaps Galbraith is the biggest winner of his self-created scandal. Good rightoeous advocate indeed, I hope he uses his well gained spotlights and legitimacy for something subtantially good for Afghanistan´s near future. Something more gutsy not only in the word but in the consequence.

    • Agreed. But wouldn’t it have been great if Galbraith was the Riggs to the Norwegian chap’s Murtaugh. Just imagine Galbraith walking in to negotiations and holding a gun to his own head and slapping himself around Lethal Weapon style. On a related note, I was watching the Newshour yesterday and Mark Shields said something that I found quite interesting. He argued that we’ve just handed legitimacy to Ahmedinejad, through our negotiations with his regime. Now, of course, as a matter of course, it was important that the US finally talk to Iran, but Shields was implying that the negotiation would have carried on better had it taken place before the election. The same thing applies to Afghanistan I think. Before the elections, we weren’t sure of Karzai and co. In fact we were deeply skeptical about his choice of a running mate who has been implicated in the assassination of Ahmed Shah Masoud. But after the election, we know for a fact that if this cadre of war lords are our partners, then we are in deep doo-doo.

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