Afghanistan, Karzai, and the easy-chair critics

Elizabeth Rubin has a new NY Times article about Hamid Karzai, Afghanistan‘s President:

Karzai in His Labyrinth

She offers a gentle-but-tough, compassionate, and honest view of the incredibly complex nature of Afghani politics, and Karzai’s nature.  As excellent as this article is, words just touch the surface of the realities.  And it’s the realities that have my head spinning.

The mixture of old and new culture, the tremendous forces of social connection that far exceed those active in the West, tear the fabric of Afghanistan a thousand ways, a thousand times, every day, in every corner of that difficult and beautiful country.   I wonder how anyone could think of running Afghanistan with any kind of permanent success.

Karzai’s biggest fault has been to stick too closely to the non-institutional format of traditional politics in Afghanistan.  This has stymied his ability to fund the work he needs to do to reach his goals.

Karzai’s strongest virtues are his deeply sincere intent for the well-being of all of Afghanistan, an almost unbelievably resilient and patient perseverance, and a penetrating, intelligent mind.   Using these strengths, Karzai has survived —  not a small feat —  and continues to lead his country, and keep faith with his hopes and goals, on behalf of its peoples.

Although his leadership has been almost universally criticized, I wonder if there’s anyone in Afghanistan who could a do better job than Karzai has done.  Every time I read in Rubin’s article of one of his so-called allies, or his enemies, saying what other choices Karzai could have made, my instincts rebelled.  It’s a hell of a lot harder to do the work than it is to get comfy in the easy-chair called “hindsight” and criticize someone else’s mistakes. If these people really really wanted Karzai to succeed, they knew Afghanistan as well as he did, and they could have supported and advised him, instead of catering to his weaknesses, glossing over his blind spots, or playing a double, or sometimes a triple, game on him.  That Karzai has survived is amazing enough.  That he’s still sane, compassionate and able to work is even more surprising, and heartening.

Karzai is as crazy as Obama, in wanting to lead his country in such difficult times, and for attempting to turn around a very big ship indeed.  My prayers are with both Presidents. Karzai is said to be very edgy and have an eye tic.  He needs some magnesium and vitamin B12, as these are being depleted by stress.  I hope someone figures this out and tells him.  Afghanistan’s first President doesn’t have the medical resources that America’s Presidents have.

Follow Elizabeth Rubin on Twitter.

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