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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Serious confrontations

Was wondering what y’all think of what’s going on in Pakistan.

Yesterday, an attempt to destroy one of the Intelligence Agency centers in Lahore killed more than two dozen people, injured more than three hundred, and destroyed an emergency services building:

Today (28 May 2009), Pakistan the Taliban warned people to evacuate cities (scary !!!).

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Democracy and its pal capitalism

Had a thought on the way to work this morning — in a democratic country with an essentially capitalistic economy, war instincts are sublimated to other kinds of survival efforts, like making money. If this is true, democracies are healthy things.

Or to reverse it…

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Card models

Château de Belcayre on the Vézère River, by Ed Alcock for The New York Times, copyright 2008 The New York Times, all rights reservedThis pic of Chateau de Belcayre on the France’s Vezere River is the first in a slideshow from a travel article about canoeing in the lovely Dordogne Valley region of France by Christopher Shaw*, in today’s NYTimes.com (click on the pic to see it full-sized).

When I saw it, I suddenly recalled when my son and I used to assemble card models of Loire Valley chateaux in some of our scanty spare time.  We did Chamont, Chambord and Chenonceau.  My son was four or five when this started.   It’s kind of amazing that we did it.  Chenonceau was hard!

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The Umbrellas of Harlem

This past Thursday in NYC, it rained.  It was the first rainy day since last autumn that was warm enough so people weren’t bundled up.

The vernal equinox was only a day away.  The light was lovely — warm and deep, despite the wet and the dark clouds.  There was almost no wind.

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