Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Grant Kippen Comes Through, The Rule Of Law Prevails. Afghans Return To Polls Nov. 7.

While scores of greasy diplomats, would-be power brokers and other such backroom characters have been slinking in and out of the presidential palace in Kabul in recent weeks, a quiet Canadian has been doing his job as the head of Afghanistan's Election Complaints Commission. The result of the commission's work is today's news that Afghan law has been upheld, the Afghan constitution has prevailed, and the Afghan people will be returning to the polls November 7.

Several weeks ago, I noticed that Grant Kippen's name was about to go down in the annals of Afghan history. This has now happened, although you can bet that everyone from John Kerry to Peter Galbraith will be claiming credit that is rightfully due to Kippen and his Afghan colleagues. While everyone else has been throwing hissy fits, setting their hair on fire or otherwise trying to meddle their way to some pact that would please the Afghan elites - ditch the recount, engineer some deal between Karzai and Abdullah, impose a caretaker government, anything - the Election Complaints Commission has kept its eyes on the prize and kept the Afghan electorate first and foremost in its deliberations.

If all these slippery characters who usually appear in the press as unnamed "western diplomats" had gotten their way, there wouldn't have been an election in the first place.

It is commonplace to read the ECC described as an "internationally-appointed" body, but this is misleading, at best. The ECC is a function of Afghan law. Three of its five commissioners are appointed by the UN, according to Afghan law. All but a handful of its staff of about 300 are Afghans.

The Afghan people are winning, slow and steady. As always, what is less certain is whether they can count on their avowed friends, and these days, with such shifty characters as Joe Biden to contend with, you can't blame Afghans for worrying. The latest meme making the rounds - it has now outpaced "blood and treasure" - is whether Americans can count on securing a "reliable partner" in Kabul. The more important question, one that's being largely ignored, is whether the Afghan people have a reliable partner in the White House.

Wazhma Frogh is sick of it: "Afghans understand the need for international assistance, both for the country's development and for the strengthening of its military. This is especially evident now that the insurgency and the violence are less their own creation than an unwanted gift from the other side of the border with Pakistan. We see some of NATO's allies rapidly losing interest in Afghanistan, even though they admit that if the country is left to the insurgents, the consequence will be many more incidents like the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. They are being persuaded by a propaganda war on the part of insurgents who seem to have convinced much of the world that they are winning the war. But in fact the enemy will win only if the international community allows itself to be influenced by this propaganda campaign."

It isn't helping that Afghanistan is threatening to become merely an American project, with everyone else just expected to go along with whatever the White House decides. The Europeans are already beginning to doubt whether Barack Obama even counts the Taliban among his enemies.

If this isn't an international effort, it's doomed. As Anne Applebaum sensibly observes: "NATO has been in charge of that coalition since 2003. Yet to read the British press, one would think the British are there almost alone, fighting a war in which they have no national interest. The same is true in France and in the Netherlands. The American press hardly notes the participation of other countries, even though some—Britain and Canada—have borne casualties at a higher rate than the United States relative to the size of their contingents on the ground. There is almost no sense anywhere that this is an international operation, or that there are international goals at stake, or that the soldiers on the ground represent anything other than their own national flags and national armed forces: Most of the European critics of the Afghan war want to know why their boys are fighting 'for the Americans,' not for NATO."

In this way, the "European critics" are right. If it's just about fighting for the Yanks, then to hell with it. It doesn't matter if the new American president is a nice man. What matters is whether this is still an international project. If it's about fighting for the Afghan people, and working for the Afghan people, then grand, all in.

Slow and steady wins the race.


Blogger Louise said...

This is extremely good news on so many, many levels.

I hope our politicians take note.

11:47 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Excellent post. As Louise said this is good news. To promote freedom and democracy we need to respect freedom and democracy and the true will of the electorate. To back room engineer some caretaker government would go against the very principles we are trying to secure and encourage.

12:36 PM  
Blogger David M said...

The Thunder Run has linked to this post in the blog post From the Front: 10/21/2009 News and Personal dispatches from the front and the home front.

8:03 AM  

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