2010.05.11: George Packer writes: Wars that hinge on an unstable, highly personalized relationship seldom come to a satisfying end

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Afghanistan: Peace Corps Afghanistan: Peace Corps Afghanistan: Newest Stories: 2010.05.11: George Packer writes: Wars that hinge on an unstable, highly personalized relationship seldom come to a satisfying end

By Admin1 (admin) (98.188.147.225) on Wednesday, May 19, 2010 - 11:41 pm: Edit Post

George Packer writes: Wars that hinge on an unstable, highly personalized relationship seldom come to a satisfying end

George Packer writes: Wars that hinge on an unstable, highly personalized relationship seldom come to a satisfying end

Last summer, Holbrooke described the problem this way: "It's a constant tension in relationships like this one between what the Americans want and what the local officials want. And we're not always right about our goals-what we want-and the government we're supporting is not always right." Another American official, Ambassador Tim Carney, put it less delicately: "We get into relationships that give the leaders of countries the strength of their weakness." In other words, the weak, corrupt, erratic rulers of countries where the U.S. is at war can simply dare the Americans to end their support. "We can collapse the whole thing, but that's all we can do," Carney said. "What other leverage do we have?" In other words, we're stuck with Karzai. Journalist George Packer served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Togo.

George Packer writes: Wars that hinge on an unstable, highly personalized relationship seldom come to a satisfying end

Statecraft as Psychiatry
from Interesting Times by George Packer
3 people liked this

Last summer, I sat at the corner of a very long banquet table in the presidential palace in Kabul and ate lunch with Hamid Karzai. He was seated in the middle of one side, flanked by assorted ministers and aides; directly across from him was Richard Holbrooke, flanked by assorted diplomats and aides. My notes show that the small talk didn't last long.

HOLBROOKE: Wherever our troops have driven out the Taliban in Helmand over the last few weeks, there has been no effort to bring in administrative structures of your government.

KARZAI: Has this been done in coŲrdination with our government?

HOLBROOKE: This is a huge issue for you. I urge you to sit down with NATO and the Embassy to work on a quick-reaction administrative effort to bring to the districts health, schools, and, above all, justice.

Silence from Karzai.

The Afghan President had a way of speaking as if for effect-the President is shocked! the President is resolved!-like an inexperienced actor trying out for Richard II. Holbrooke, all business, tried to wade through the theatrics and keep the discussion focussed on what diplomats call the Afghan government's "challenges." It did not seem like what diplomats call a productive exchange. (After lunch, I was told by one of Holbrooke's aides that the banquet room was the scene of the murder of a previous Afghan head of state during a palace coup, a detail that somehow seemed relevant to the situation of Hamid Karzai.)

A few weeks later, on August 20th, Karzai claimed reŽlection amid evidence of massive fraud. He and Holbrooke had an even less productive exchange, and relations between the two governments turned sour. Over the following months, the U.S. demanded that Karzai clean up corruption, fire crooked officials, show that he was a reliable partner. After Karzai tried to put the election complaints commission under his total control, President Obama visited Kabul and apparently delivered some stern advice. Karzai responded by giving a series of rambling, paranoid-sounding, televised speeches, in which he blamed all his troubles on Western governments and news organizations (singling out the Times), and threatened to join the Taliban if it didn't stop.

The Americans began to rethink their approach.

And now Karzai is in Washington for a weeklong visit. He will be feted and toasted by the highest officials in the land, enjoying what reporters call a "charm offensive." Obama will give Karzai a full day of his time, and Vice-President Biden (who, two years ago, walked out of a different Kabul lunch in disgust with the Afghan President) will host the kind of private dinner visiting heads of state crave. No more tense lunchtime exchanges, no more private blowups, no more unhinged speeches. Instead there will be a series of productive meetings between old friends. And we will hear that America has a reliable partner in Kabul.

By August, Karzai will be blaming Washington and the Times for all his troubles, and American envoys will be sent to deliver tough messages.

Wars that hinge on an unstable, highly personalized relationship seldom come to a satisfying end. This relationship in particular has come to resemble that of an exhausted mental health professional and a beleaguered patient who suffers from chronic delusions. The shrink doesn't know whether to work with the delusions or puncture them, and he keeps switching between one approach and the other because neither shows any sign of succeeding. For the moment, the Obama Administration has decided to indulge Karzai by bringing out the expensive china, in the slender hope that he can be coaxed into changing his behavior. Unfortunately, this was roughly the approach of the Bush Administration for seven years, and it helped lead to the stunning resurgence of the Taliban in Afghanistan.

Last summer, Holbrooke described the problem this way: "It's a constant tension in relationships like this one between what the Americans want and what the local officials want. And we're not always right about our goals-what we want-and the government we're supporting is not always right." Another American official, Ambassador Tim Carney, put it less delicately: "We get into relationships that give the leaders of countries the strength of their weakness." In other words, the weak, corrupt, erratic rulers of countries where the U.S. is at war can simply dare the Americans to end their support. "We can collapse the whole thing, but that's all we can do," Carney said. "What other leverage do we have?" In other words, we're stuck with Karzai.





Links to Related Topics (Tags):

Headlines: May, 2010; RPCV George Packer (Togo); Peace Corps Afghanistan; Directory of Afghanistan RPCVs; Messages and Announcements for Afghanistan RPCVs; Peace Corps Togo; Directory of Togo RPCVs; Messages and Announcements for Togo RPCVs; Writing - Togo; Journalism





When this story was posted in May 2010, this was on the front page of PCOL:




Peace Corps Online The Independent News Forum serving Returned Peace Corps Volunteers RSS Feed

 Site Index Search PCOL with Google Contact PCOL Recent Posts Bulletin Board Open Discussion RPCV Directory Register

May 12, 2010: PC Returns to Colombia Date: May 12 2010 No: 1434 May 12, 2010: PC Returns to Colombia
Colombia Program restarts after 30 Year Absence 11 May
Karen Smith works in Afghanistan and Sudan 24 Apr
Kevin Bubriski began photographing Nepal in 1975 24 Apr
Mark Lenzi writes: Can Poland get past the 'curse'? 14 Apr
Aaron Williams visits Jordan 13 Apr
Committee passes Dodd's Peace Corps Bill 13 Apr
NPCA's Africa Rural Connect wins Award 13 Apr
Brian Kuhn among Scientists on Ancestor Find 12 Apr
Melanie Edwards gathers data on "invisible poor" 12 Apr
Johnnie Carson writes: Africa Policy Under Obama 7 Apr
Be Part Of New Film About The Peace Corps 30 Mar
Chief of Staff encourages PCVs to serve third year 29 Mar
Williams Testifies on Vision for Future of Peace Corps 18 Mar
Heath Lowry teaches Turkish Studies at Princeton 14 Mar
Torkin Wakefield created "Bead for Life" in Uganda 14 Mar
Parents of Murdered PCV Speak Out 12 Mar
Village in Kenya Erects Monument to Megan DaPisa 10 Mar
Frank Swoboda at World Food Prize HQ 10 Mar
Ashley Bates reports from Gaza 4 Mar
Joe Zenisek started Share the Love 10 years ago 28 Feb
Peter Hessler publishes "Country Driving" 25 Feb
Stacia and Kristof Nordin call Malawi home 22 Feb

Feb 10, 2010: Senator Dodd to Retire Date: February 19 2010 No: 1433 Feb 10, 2010: Senator Dodd to Retire
Dodd retires from Senate 6 Jan
Cameron Hume named US Ambassador to Pakistan 8 Feb
Florida RPCVs sponsor Everglades Experience 6 Feb
Jeff Hall brings aid to Sierra Leone 1 Feb
Peace Corps to reach 11,000 PCVs in 2016 1 Feb
Hugh Pickens writes: Standing Bear Looks to the Future 27 Jan
Ann Varghese survives 55 hours in Haiti rubble 26 Jan
John Guy LaPlante at 80 was oldest PCV 17 Jan
Steve Radelet to advise Hilary Clinton on Development 15 Jan
Obituary for Co-Author of ĎThe Ugly American' 14 Jan
Peace Corps Establishes Program in Indonesia 11 Dec
What Happened to Obama's Promise? 3 Dec
George Packer writes: Obama's Troubles 24 Nov
PC Mourns Loss of Morocco PCV So-Youn Kim 17 Nov
Peace Corps volunteers return to Madagascar 16 Nov
PC to grow by several thousand over next 2 years 15 Nov
Former Hostage John Limbert named to Iran Bureau 11 Nov
Carrie Hessler Radelet named PC Deputy Director 9 Nov
Garamendi Sworn into Congress 9 Nov
Jesse Lonergan writes graphic novel "Joe and Azat" 4 Nov
David Macaray writes: Hearts and Minds in Afghanistan 29 Oct
Dustin Hogenson writes: Sauna in Kazakstan 26 Oct


Memo to Incoming Director Williams Date: August 24 2009 No: 1419 Memo to Incoming Director Williams
PCOL has asked five prominent RPCVs and Staff to write a memo on the most important issues facing the Peace Corps today. Issues raised include the independence of the Peace Corps, political appointments at the agency, revitalizing the five-year rule, lowering the ET rate, empowering volunteers, removing financial barriers to service, increasing the agency's budget, reducing costs, and making the Peace Corps bureaucracy more efficient and responsive. Latest: Greetings from Director Williams

Join Us Mr. President! Date: June 26 2009 No: 1380 Join Us Mr. President!
"We will double the size of the Peace Corps by its 50th anniversary in 2011. And we'll reach out to other nations to engage their young people in similar programs, so that we work side by side to take on the common challenges that confront all humanity," said Barack Obama during his campaign. Returned Volunteers rally and and march to the White House to support a bold new Peace Corps for a new age. Latest: Senator Dodd introduces Peace Corps Improvement and Expansion Act of 2009 .



Read the stories and leave your comments.








Some postings on Peace Corps Online are provided to the individual members of this group without permission of the copyright owner for the non-profit purposes of criticism, comment, education, scholarship, and research under the "Fair Use" provisions of U.S. Government copyright laws and they may not be distributed further without permission of the copyright owner. Peace Corps Online does not vouch for the accuracy of the content of the postings, which is the sole responsibility of the copyright holder.

Story Source: The Atlantic

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - Afghanistan; COS - Togo; Writing - Togo; Journalism

PCOL45637
84


Add a Message


This is a public posting area. Enter your username and password if you have an account. Otherwise, enter your full name as your username and leave the password blank. Your e-mail address is optional.
Username:  
Password:
E-mail: