Monday, August 09, 2004

Is this what a democracy looks like? The Times reports on the state of Afghanistan,

...the real decision about who will be elected president in October, and elected to Parliament next spring, will probably be made at meetings taking place right now in guest houses around town, where heavily armed guards idle outside near S.U.V.'s with tinted glass.

Inside, men who command thousands in their own private armies, some of them veterans from the wars against the Soviet Union and the Taliban, are deep in discussion.

Will they back Mr. Karzai, who has vowed, with American and international backing, to disarm them and build a unified national defense corps? Or will they form new alliances in opposition? Whichever way they choose, their soldiers, or mujahedeen, and their local communities are likely to follow their instructions at the polls.

That means that Mr. Karzai may not be the shoo-in he was thought to be, unless he works out a deal with the regional commanders and governors who have become his single biggest challenge as he tries to maintain power and build democratic institutions.
If the goal really was, as President Bush is fond of intimating these days, the creation of a free democratic state in the Middle East, clearly we would have been better off working to create a democracy in Afghanistan; instead we had rushed headlong into Iraq and ended up with two parallel uphill battles to fight. If thats what passes for "leadership" these days we are truly living in an age of low expectations.


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