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Bush The Democracy Promoter

If you want to know why George W. Bush will never succeed in building a democratic Iraq, this is really all you need to read. "Afghanistan is a rising democracy." For an alternative theory, see, e.g., this or any actual source of information about Afghanistan.

August 16, 2004 | Permalink


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matthew, That link stinks. It's about thanking all the Vets, all the wives and of course, clapping. Do I need to revisit that horse manure again to find the scraps about Afghanistan's emerging democracy? I cannot do it. Please supply another link.

Posted by: calmo | Aug 16, 2004 4:42:10 PM

It's the only link I've got -- use your browser's find command.

Posted by: Matthew Yglesias | Aug 16, 2004 4:46:35 PM

10 million registered voters in Afgahnistan. 2 million more than the UN predicted. An election in October. What a complete failure.

You've let your dislike of Bush develop into an all pervading dogma.

Posted by: neil | Aug 16, 2004 4:47:19 PM

OK, Bush is insane, or lying. If he is lying, why does he think he can get away with it? That he thinks he can get away with it, as other commenters have noted, may indicate a problem bigger than G Bush.

I am not counting on GWB to make Iraq a democracy. Sistani and Iraqis will do what is possible. I am counting on George Bush, and with greater effectiveness, to prevent Iraq from becoming something other than democracy. Would those here desire a "strongman" for Iraq, as preferable to chaos? Do they think a "strongman" is actually a viable solution anymore? Darn Kurds are still a problem there, huh?

Posted by: bob mcmanus | Aug 16, 2004 4:54:02 PM

"with greater effectiveness, John Kerry" was intended above

Posted by: bob mcmanus | Aug 16, 2004 4:54:39 PM

The point isn't that Bush 43 will be able to build a democratic Iraq or Afghanistan The point it's that Bush 45 (Jeb) and Bush 49 (George P.)can finish building democracies in each.

Of course, by the time we get to Bush 49 we'll just start using Roman Numerals.

Posted by: MYGoodness! | Aug 16, 2004 4:56:12 PM

Here's what Bush said about Afghanistan:

We'll keep our commitments in Afghanistan and Iraq; we'll help them become peaceful and democratic societies. These two nations are now governed by strong leaders, they're on the path to elections. We set a clear goal, and Iraq and Afghanistan will be peaceful and democratic countries that are allies in the war on terror. We will meet that goal by helping secure their countries, to allowing a peaceful political process to develop, and by training Afghan and Iraqi forces so they can make the hard decisions, so they can defend their country against those who are preventing the spread of freedom. Our military will complete this mission as quickly as possible so our troops do not stay a day longer than necessary. (Applause.)

Now, of course, this is not contradicted in any way by the Oxblog post.

But, you know, maybe Matthew thought we'd not click through the link to Oxblog, and thus he'd fool us into thinking that there was some actual evidence that Afghanistan is not on a path towards democracy. But all I see is a minor reference to smuggling, as if every single other country on earth doesn't have smuggling going on.

Oh well, another left-wing lie.

Posted by: Al | Aug 16, 2004 5:20:47 PM

10 million registered voters in Afgahnistan. 2 million more than the UN predicted. An election in October. What a complete failure.

No democracy to see here! Please move along back to your Michael Moore movies!

Posted by: Al | Aug 16, 2004 5:22:57 PM


It's a little early to say whether Afghan democracy will succeed or fail in the long term. Let's wait until these elections happen and effective governance occurs before we vouch for its success.

Posted by: VagabondPlus | Aug 16, 2004 5:37:06 PM

Click on the link for real contemporaneous information... fighting between warlords in the west and well-grounded concerns about vote fraud.

Posted by: Real Information | Aug 16, 2004 5:53:16 PM

Let's wait until the Karzai is able to travel everywhere in Afghanistan before we start talking about success.

Posted by: Zizka | Aug 16, 2004 5:57:34 PM

Here you go. If the html works, this is from the Guardian for July 10, 2004:
"Violence forces fresh delay to Afghan elections"

I think you do need to explain one thing, though, Al: do you think the old Soviet Union was functioning democracy? Cuz they had, you know, elections. Some would say that allowing [the Red Army/thuggish warlords] de facto control of all areas outside of [the Kremlin/Kabul] would suggest that [the USSR/Afghanistan] is not a functioning democracy in any meaningful sense. But perhaps you'd disagree.

Posted by: The Navigator | Aug 16, 2004 6:00:45 PM

George Bush won't build a democracy in Iraq but the Iraqis will with a little help from their American friends. So while the we're-so-much-smarter-than-you lefities gloat at the troubles inherent in buiding a nation the folks that actually beleive that liberty is worth fighting for go about their business.

Posted by: Warthog | Aug 16, 2004 6:17:33 PM

Let's wait until the Karzai is able to travel everywhere in Afghanistan before we start talking about success.

So you're saying that it is a success right now? Or do you have evidence that Karzai can't travel to a particular place?

Posted by: Al | Aug 16, 2004 6:51:35 PM

You're more than a month old on that article, Navigator. And, no, the mere act of having elections is not sufficient. They must be free and fair.

(Now, I'm sure, some ingenious leftie will point out that the Afghan elections will not be quite as free or fair as, say, Belgium's. As if that were proof that Bush has failed. Well, you can take your goalposts and Teresa Heinz-Kerry them. No one expects the elections to be as free or fair as Belgium's. Hell, we didn't have blacks or women voting in this country for more than a century after independence. Doesn't mean that this wasn't a democracy until 1964.)

Posted by: Al | Aug 16, 2004 6:56:36 PM

al - you are quite an idiot and nasty

Posted by: jennifer | Aug 16, 2004 7:09:11 PM

He's not appreicated at Political Animal anymore(sniff, sniff).

Posted by: The Dark Avenger | Aug 16, 2004 7:41:59 PM

10 million registered voters in Afgahnistan. 2 million more than the UN predicted. An election in October. What a complete failure.

I just love these rubes who think a little bit of election paperwork equals a democracy.

Posted by: Robert McClelland | Aug 16, 2004 7:53:04 PM

There's no sign whatsoever that Allawi is at all interested in a government run by popular consent. To be fair, most Iraqis seem to be willing to trade in the immediate prospect of representative government for the immediate prospect of electricity, security, a job, and a moderation or enhancement of theocratic rule, depending on one's particular piety. We've made chaos of a tyranny and called it democracy, which is hardly a way to promote it as a system of government. For both Iraq and Afghanistan, an excercise in electing a government bereft of power seems more a public relations effort aimed at gullible Americans than anything else. Good to see it's working.

Of course, if George W. Bush was truly such a big fan of democracy, he'd have never taken the oath of office having won fewer votes than Albert Gore. The fact that, if the United States were a democracy, he'd never have gotten close to the White House is probably the best sales pitch that majority rule has, globally, right now.

Posted by: Brian C.B. | Aug 16, 2004 10:27:54 PM

There is a big difference between Iraq and Afghanistan. The UN and NATO are heavily involved with Afghanistan and they are completely absent in Iraq. I think some real progress is being made in Afghanistan. The problem is that it's limited to Kabul. The rest of the country was essentially bought off to keep the peace at the price of placing it in warlord control. So Kabul as a sort of UN protectorate may very well become a thriving democracy. But the provinces seem little different from the pre-Taliban days of warlord rule. Is this success regardless? To some extent yes. Some democracy is better than no democracy. Democracy in Kabul alone is better than no democracy anywhere in Afghanistan. But let's not start celebrating this as some mighty victory, and certainly not for an Administration that tried its best to shortchange the whole operation in its rush to war in Iraq. Perhaps, ironically, Afghanistan is succeeding precisely because the US isn't meddling as imperiously as it is in Iraq. Either way, the chances of reading whatever successes there are in Afghanistan into Iraq are dubious to say the least.

Posted by: Elrod | Aug 17, 2004 1:27:10 AM

While it's certainly possible that democracy (i.e., pro-American democracy) might take root in Afghanistan, and we should hope it does, it is by no means pre-ordained, as Warthog and Al seem to think.

Lest anyone think democracy is pre-ordained for Afghanistan, it is useful to look at the "Seven Pillars of Truth about Afghanistan," courtesy of Michael Sheuer's Imperial Hubris (interspersed with my summaries):

I. Minorities Can Rule in Kabul, but Not for Long

Hamid Karzai's government is dominated by Tajiks, in a country with a majority Pashtun population. Karzai is unlikely, whether by the will of the people or of the U.S. Army, to gain legitimacy, and that because of the second pillar:

II. The Afghans Who Matter Are Muslim Tribal Xenophobes

The U.S. spent 10 years and billions of dollars supporting the mujahideen against the Soviets; that did not abate the Afghans's anti-American xenophobia, which found its principal expression in the Taliban. Karzai, a former exile, with tenuous ties to Islam and tribalism, has little in common with the Afghan people -- and the Afghan people have little in common with Westerners.

III. Afghans Cannot Be Bought

As with the previous pillar, the U.S. might fund the Afghans's 10-year insurgency, and it might spend billions reconstructing the country after the fall of the Taliban, and it might promise fat rewards for imformation leading to the capture of Usama bin Ladin or other high-value targets, but that does not mean the Afghans will do anything as we would like.

IV. Strong Governments in Kabul Cause War

As Scheuer puts it: "Afghanistan preeminently is a country of regions, subregions within regions, and subdivisions within subregions.... In this complex web of interrelationsships, the central government in Kabul historically played a limited role, one primarily focused on foreign affairs and running a national military orginization of sorts." If the xenophobic tribes run most of the country, as per Pillar II, and if the main forces for Westernization reside in Karzai's Kabul, as per Pillar I, then Karzai's U.S.-backed attempt to bring democracy to the Afghan people may well be met with resistance, nine million registered voters (in a country of about 25 million) notwithstanding.

V. An International Cockpit, Not Insular Backwater

Again, Scheuer: "While each of Afghanistan's neighbors pubicly speak of a desire and support for a united, stable Afghanistan, none of them share the same definition of unity and stability, and none will tolerate a stable Afghanistan unless it protects their interests." While a Karzai or Karzai-like government might please India (and, to an extent, Russia, Turkey, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan), it will not please Pakistan, Iran, or Saudi Arabia. Then again, they're already pissed off at us, or at least their people are, yes?

VI. Pakistan Must Have an Islamist, Pashtun-dominated Afghan Regime

Related to the last Pillar, Pakistan's number one concern is protecting itself from India; to address this, it has developed a nuclear program, and, in the 90s, backed the Pashtun-dominated Taliban in order to appease the rebellious Pashtun tribes in northern Pakistan. Needless to say, Karzai's Tajik-dominated government is not in favor in Pakistan, Pervez Musharraf's professions of support notwithstanding. If the Taliban is gaining ground in Afghanistan, you can thank the good people of Islamabad.

VII. There Will Be An Islamist Regime in Kabul

As Scheuer notes many times, we in the West constantly underestimate the power of Islam, especially militant Islam, in Afghanistan and elsewhere. The U.S. might have bankrolled the Afghan War in the 1980s, but it was militant Islamists like Usama bin Ladin who did the fighting on behalf of the Afghan people. It was militant Islamic clerics and NGOs who educated and cared for the Afghan refugees during the war and after, when the West forgot about them.

My aim is not to discourage us from hoping for pro-American democracy in Afghanistan, but merely to point out the real difficulties such a regime will face.

Karzai may be an able administrator, but if the elections come, he is as likely to receive a mandate from the people as an avowed atheist would in the U.S. (Sad, but true.)

What is more likely, should elections come, is that a Taliban-lite party will gain power, one that won't oppress women quite so much, but will be just as unresponsive to America's wishes. It would certainly be a disappointing outcome to our Afghanistan adventure, but hey, at least we got the terrorists... some of them, anyway...

Posted by: Dogberry | Aug 17, 2004 2:28:45 AM

I thought it was pretty interesting when, on one of the Sunday morning shows, one of the guests referred to Allawi as the Iraqi Putin.

Posted by: Jeff | Aug 17, 2004 5:55:18 AM

Without going into a further description a timely piece from today's Toronto Star, which suggests Afghanistan is well on its way to being the kind of democracy that only a Bush (or a Katherine Harris) could love:

KABUL—With evidence mounting of plans for widespread vote-rigging in Afghanistan's upcoming elections, U.S. experts say the controversy could emerge as a serious liability for U.S. President George W. Bush's re-election campaign.

After voter registration centres closed across Afghanistan on the weekend, election officials acknowledged the number of voting cards issued far exceeded the estimated number of eligible voters — and that the illegal practice of multiple registrations is widespread.

"An Afghan election marred by allegations of fraud would be bad for President Bush's overall claim of promoting democracy in the Muslim world," said Husain Haqqani, an Afghanistan expert at the Washington-based Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. "In the absence of good news from Iraq, the Bush administration needs Afghanistan as its success story."

For months, Bush has staked his claims on a successful democratic Afghanistan, saying it would serve as an example of how America can bring democracy, and free and fair elections to the developing world.

"The rise of democratic institutions in Afghanistan and Iraq is a great step toward a goal of lasting importance to the world," Bush said in a speech in Washington last March. "We have set out to encourage reform and democracy."

But with seven weeks to go before the Oct. 9 poll, the Star has found the practice of multiple registrations is rife.

Observers also claim the ground work necessary for a free and fair election — security, reconstruction and political stability — has not been established in Afghanistan and that the U.S. hurriedly pushed the country into elections to further its own agenda.

"The United States wants, before the November elections, to showcase a victory of the Bush administration by proving it is possible to bring democracy to an Islamic Third World country," said Assem Akram, an Afghan historian and author based in Washington. "And if American voters grant George Bush a new mandate, his administration will reproduce the same successful model in Iraq. That is why there is so much hurry."

With scarce funds and hasty plans for rebuilding Afghanistan, some critics aren't surprised the elections are starting to unravel in advance of polling day. Although it will take at least a week to report the final tally of registered voters, United Nations officials overseeing the elections admit that more than 10 million voting cards have been issued — surpassing the estimated 9.8 million eligible voters.

"Probably there is a lot of multiple registering," U.N. spokesperson Manoel de Almeida e Silva said yesterday.

"This is not perfect. There will be problems. In many countries, they have lots of problems during their first elections."

In a country where the average income is $2 a day, some Afghans who heard that political parties and presidential candidates would pay up to $150 for voting cards, gladly lined up at registration centres several times to get multiple voting cards.

Posted by: Brian C.B. | Aug 17, 2004 8:56:43 AM

Al, last I heard, only Kabul was under government control and Karzai was barely able to protect himself, much less rule the country.

Posted by: Zizka | Aug 17, 2004 10:21:16 AM


Posted by: Brian Ulrich | Aug 17, 2004 10:48:56 AM

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