We're in for a wild ride. Exponentially accelerating technological, cultural, and socioeconomic evolution means that every year will see more developments than the previous one. More change will happen between now and 2050 than during all of humanity's past. Let's explore the 21st century and ride this historic wave of planetary transition with a confident open mind.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Afghanistan Election: Does Obama Want a New Puppet?

Hamid Karzai finds himself under the same scrutiny usually reserved for allies of China and Russia. Afghanistan as an American protectorate may soon see change in management as has historically occurred when puppets didn't perform

In the eyes of the new reform minded regime in the White House, the Indian educated CIA man Hamid Karzai may have outlived his usefulness. Even as Karzai's vote total is inching closer to 50%+ needed to avoid a runoff, he finds himself in the same situation as Babrak Karmal in 1986. That means that just like the Soviet backed mayor of Kabul in the 80s, the new American backed mayor of Kabul has grown too comfortable in his expectation that a foreign force will prop his rule indefinitely. Sure, he tries to be a political middleman between various factions by not sticking his head out too much in siding with any one of them. That tactic of survival through doing nothing has historically worked only for a time. Eventually, somebody gets frustrated.

In this case it appears to be the American generals who saw soldier casualties rise every year since 2001 invasion. NATO's very existence is at stake in a mission that was supposed to give the obsolete alliance some relevancy. The rising casualties and disgruntled protests from alliance countries make the issue more urgent for the preservation of American power in Western Europe. Their recent insistence that the Afghan army get expanded and start pulling its weight is analogous to Soviet command's desire to expand Afghan army in mid 1980s after 6 years of escalating casualties among occupying troops.

What does it mean for a puppet army to do more work? It means creating conditions where the occupying power can delegate killing to others. In Soviet Union's case, it was pressured replacement of Babrak Karmal with Mohammad Najibullah. Najibullah has shown himself to be energetic, efficient, and very willing to crack skulls and use Afghans against other Afghans. Besides being a more aggressive and more capable puppet, he also had potential to gain more legitimacy among Afghanistan's population by also being very supportive of extended modernization efforts to raise quality of life.

Abdullah Abdullah, Karzai's snappy "Western leaning" (usual catchphrase to refer to actual and potential American puppets as shown by the colored revolutions in Ukraine and Georgia) reformer challenger fits the role of a replacement puppet perfectly. For an occupied country (where corruption and election censorship is a lot worse than Iran), Abdullah has been getting unusually large amounts of American media coverage before and during election process. United States media does not usually focus on challengers taking on corrupt incumbents trying to influence election results in their favor unless these incumbents have become obstacles for American geopolitical strategy. US and its intelligence organs and NATO allies have been creating public relations victories and force multiplier effects for pro-Washington friendlies for decades. They recently had great success by dislodging Yanukovich, Shevardnadze, and Milosevich (with a possible attempt against Ahmadinejad in Iran this summer) by promoting "pro-Western" opposition to power through rapid creation of negative international media perception (character assassinating incumbents as corrupt and needing to go for the good of all). Even the Northern Alliance side in the 1996-2001 civil war was elevated to be a knight in shining armor with relatively great success.

Karzai has recently found himself under the same public relations attack that is usually reserved for allies of Russia or China. He has:

1) been warned by a US envoy to prepare for a recount. Although he is supposedly 2% away from reaching 50% to clinch the nomination, this week saw nullification of entire ballot districts, a process that can be modified to create whatever result is needed.

2) been object of major negative attention from key national propaganda papers like New York Times and Washington Post (that have some influence on wealthy American citizens).

3) has not been supplied with enough weaponry for more independent functioning in last 2 years even after personal requests. He subsequently threatened to acquire weaponry from "the other place" (presumably a non-NATO regional power)

Karzai and his family also have relatively strong ties to the previous regime in DC as their connections to Bush family and CIA go back 20 years. As India and Pakistan intelligence services begin to position themselves to end their conflict over who will have influence in Afghanistan, United States may very well decide to back Abdullah Abdullah as new puppet (his base of political support is in northern non-Pashtun Afghanistan). As we saw in the second phase of the Afghan civil war in the late 1990s, non-Pashtun northeners will have no problem slaughtering Pashtun Taliban even without an international Western force in the country. The spectacle of the Afghan election and the low turn out has shown that even the illusion of a democratic mask on a puppet regime is unworkable. Insurgency continues regardless of whether the leader is Pashtun and whether the leader is willing to not exert himself too much.

It is thus logical for an occupying force to leave a smaller ethnic group (or in Afghan case, an alliance of ethnic groups) that resorts to a lot more forceful and independent pacification methods to remain in power after the imperial withdrawal. It has been done like that throughout history. Getting members of a new leadership from the former Northern Alliance region is also more acceptable to European Union (whose members have more responsibility, connections, and personal hearts and minds contact there) and Russia (which wants a friendly Tajik/Uzbek buffer between Central Asia and fundamentalist Islam in southern Afghanistan. They already had spillover from Afghanistan once during the civil war in Tajikistan).

This week brought the additional criticism of the current occupational arrangement from Western European NATO members after the fuel tanker bombardment. Although the German command ordered the bombing, the Anglo-American tactics of long distant bombardment is what's criticized here. Clearly Europeans want to accelerate the process of passing their duties to their connections in northern half of the country (who will then have a more intimate violent contact in pacifying the south while aided by generous donations of cash and weapons). Even Russia jumped on the bandwagon this week by asking to help NATO plan the process that it has so much experience with.

Dealing with Karzai will not be a matter of creating another orange revolution since he has managed to make a lot of connections in central and southern parts of the country (even if he has no control over them). He can't be simply assassinated either was the South Vietnamese puppet in the old days. It remains to be seen whether Obama administration can be creatively proactive in restructuring the regime of this American protectorate by itself (and thus show leadership and get respect to preserve its status as first among equals in NATO) or if it will defer to designs of other NATO members.

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