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I understand the sentiment in an anti-Karzai campaign, but I find it kind of creepy, reminding me of turning on President Diem, which turned out to be a bad move.
Btw, can you guess what Abdullah Abdullah's favorite band is?
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12:55 PM ET
October 23, 2009
The US sponsoring a coup to
The US sponsoring a coup to get rid of Diem - especially one run by Nhu - an even more murderous klepocrat than Diem - was a bad idea. The Vietnamese getting rid of Diem was not such a bad idea.
Tom - why are you in the habit of making blithe, incomplete, tweet-like posts? It makes your opinions seem trite and unknowledgeable when they really aren't.
So - what's your point? That Diem was a good guy who deserved to remain in power, or that the US shouldn't engage in imperialistic campaigns to get rid of the rulers of allied - or in the case of South Vietnam - client states? Or, to paraphrase you and Monty earlier, something completely different? I would agree with the later, but not the former.
9:53 PM ET
I dunno. I said what I had to say. Sometimes that takes a few hundred words, sometimes less. I try to be brief.
1:01 PM ET
De Je Vu
Our CIA station chief has said that while he is respected and moral himself, people around him, especially his brother, are ruining his reputation and creating tragedy. He has surrounded himself with corrupt friends and family and has failed to cultivate relations with local leaders.
In addition, our own President has seen that hearts and minds are part of the struggle, and in the face of failure he's described the battle as needing to be won by that country's population themselves, not by Americans.
Though this president has been described as out of touch with the people, it's felt that the government might regain popular support with changes in policy and perhaps in personnel - however, time is running out.
At 3 a.m., one of Diem's aides betrays his location to the generals. The hunt for Diem and his brother Nhu now begins. Realizing the situation is hopeless, Diem and Nhu offer to surrender from inside a Catholic church. Diem and Nhu are then taken into custody by officers involved in the coup, and placed in the back of an armored personnel carrier. While traveling to Saigon, the vehicle stops and Diem and Nhu are assassinated (but not beheaded).
Wow! Sorry, this Afghanistan election mess triggered a flashback about Diem's fraudulent election result of 605,025 votes tallied in Saigon, but only 450,000 voters having been registered in that capital - better the devil you know? Remember, what came after Diem wasn't much better.
Anyway, back to reality. I'm glad everything's ok now and Karzai's off the hook; lucky for him Sen. John Kerry wasn't Henry Cabot Lodge Jr, and everything's back on track... now what's this about Gen. Westmoreland wanting more troops? : )
8:57 PM ET
One minor difference . . .
Diem was Catholic. Roman Catholics constituted, if I remember correctly, only about 15% of the South Vietnam population and were widely associated with the French colonial past. For what it’s worth (which is probably not much given that he’s associated with the West), Karzai at least is Pashtun. It’s going to be interesting to see how this election turns out. What happens if there’s only a 10% turnout with a heavy vote in the minority ethnic areas for Abdullah (isn’t he Tajik)? Then, at best, you’ve got a Tajik President elected by a tiny minority of the voters. Does that make him “legitimate” in the eyes of the Pashtuns? I think not.
3:28 PM ET
October 24, 2009
The President's Art Czar says . . .
. . . no links to Duran Duran without EXPLICIT warnings. Please make a note of that. You could be inciting folk to suicide out there . . .
9:29 PM ET
Scylla and Charybdis
I can understand your concern about the US turning away from Karzai as we had done with Diem and I share them. The chaos which ensued his departure guaranteed little progress for the next three years and the need for US troop deployments to stabilize the situation.
Truthfully, we are in a worse situation than we were in the early 1960s. Then, we had only the pending conflict with North Vietnam, a poor, backward, impoverished state in southeast Asia. Now, we've got awkward comparisons between the election results in Afghanistan and Iran, a populous, important, reasonably wealthy, technically sophisticated state on the most important global supply line, and we must make sure the Afghan election results don't appear as corrupt as those in Iran. Our host state is even weaker than Saigon (although it boggles the mind to even consider that being true), which at least had inherited some of the military organization from the departing French.
If the Afghan election outcome is as rancid as that in Iran, we can't continue to support Kabul without clearly throwing away any pretense that we're not just your typical, "run of the mill", imperial power. That path destroys any effort to utilize what little soft power we have left in the region. The world has changed since the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s when that tango could be danced. While we might want to support Karzai, perhaps the best thing would be to remove those certifiably corrupt individuals from around Karzai. It sounds like any or all of them could be arrested for a variety of international charges and dispatched to various courts for justice.
11:52 PM ET
It doesn't seem very likely
It doesn't seem very likely that he would die, at least not with the backing of the United States. Something of that sort would destroy any backing for involvement in Afghanistan for at least ten years (barring another 9/11 attack). Of course that doesn't preclude the possibility of the warlords/councils/generals etc deciding he needs to go, but so long as there is a sizable foreign military presence he has at least some security.
2:49 AM ET
October 25, 2009
Payback is a ....
The brevity of the post makes it's main point rest on an all too common and silly analogy that Afghanistan is now Vietnam. I suppose your tweet differs from the daft fair on cable news by not calling it "Obama's Vietnam"...
Perhaps what would be more interesting would be to gain an understanding of what leverage the US has over Karzai going forward, and, what Karzai could actually deliver to both AFG citizens and US foreign policy goals should he win the election?
Frankly, after so much blood, treasure and political capital spent I'm not sure I'd term "our campaign" against Karzai as "anti", so much as an effort to get our money's worth on an investment.
7:50 PM ET
The shadow of Vietnam still hangs over US thinking on Afghanistan. Richard Holbrooke in particular seems to be treating his latest assignment as some sort of therapy to exorcise the demons of South East Asia.
Some people are seeing parallels where none exist in particular old Vietnam hacks and imperialists who want to show that the policies being followed in the early 70's there would have worked if they'd been given a little more time.
Any foreign military presence in Afghanistan will cause trouble especially if it is extended into previously untouched areas like Southern Helmand. Of course there's still the problem of ensuring that Al Queda don't re establish themselves if the US leaves. The simplest solution is bribery.
Give whoever is in power in Kabul and the tribal leaders around the country a guaranteed and substantial stipend if they keep Al Queda out. It will be expensive but at worst would only cost 5% of the outlay the US is making at the moment. Agree to buy whatever surplus crops the locals grow (including opium) at a fixed price for a fixed amount for 10 years to allow some degree of economic stability.
Put pressure on the Saudis and other Gulf Arabs to stop giving money to Deobandi madrassas in Pakistan. Give every refugee Afghan family in Pakistan and Iran generous funds to resettle back home and give the local thugs, warlords or tribal leaders that control the areas they go to a bribe to keep them safe. Again purchase whatever they can grow at a fixed price for a fixed period of time.
Legally no one can force them to go home but you can offer incentives. Emptying the refugee camps removes a recruitment base from the Taliban.
Maintain a vigorous intelligence operation in the region. Use human assets and intelligence from countries with established presences in the region, Russia, India etc.
These are some of the political measures that could be taken as an alternative to getting drawn into a futile conflict with Afghan villagers for the next twenty years.
Also don't forget that the world still turns while US forces are bogged down in Helmand and Mosul, when, not if, a genuine crisis erupts somewhere whether it's on the Korean peninsula or somewhere closer to home the US won't have the option of using ground forces, It will be restricted to air and naval power which may not be adeqquate or appropriate. Incidentally pursuing a policy like this would give Dick Cheney a coronary and if that's not a good thing them I don't know what is.
Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military for the Washington Post from 2000 through 2008.
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