Via California Yankee’s post earlier today, we learn that the commander of US forces in Afghanistan, Lt. Gen. Karl Eikenberry, predicted on Saturday:
This statement borders on comical. Afghanistan had a few elections under semi-liberal conditions between the 1964 modernizing constitution and the 1973 coup. Since then, it has experienced a decade of Soviet military assault, about five years of unstable Taliban rule, and has been under civil war more or les continously since 1978.
Does democracy not have to have a record before it can have “record turnout”?
Now, I wish for successful, high-turnout elections as much as anyone. But, in addition to the violence and the failure to bring war criminals to justice, I would still point out that these elections are seriously undermined as an instrument for the expression of popular will by the very rules under which they are being held.
Given that Afghanistan’s constitutional form is also presidential, and that Hamid Karzai has already been president for a while without an elected legislature, and that the newly elected legislature is going to be utterly fragmented (atomized might be a better word), the best that can be expected is a semi-autocratic regime in which the president buys support with patronage and continues to ignore most of the war criminals who will have manipulated their way (or that of friends and family) into office.
And this is even before we get into the problems of just how weak the state is in Afghanistanâ€”something I may get into at a later time.
I wish I could be more optimistic, but this exercise in “democracy-building” makes Iraq look almost easy.