Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Our Corrupt Allies

Pat Buchanan is upset that the media is paying so much attention to the corruption and ineptitude of Hamad Karzai. He argues that when we're involved in military action in a state or region, and depict a leader as corrupt, it means we're about to abandon our support for him.
When Chiang Kai-shek, who fought the Japanese for four years before Pearl Harbor, began losing to Mao’s Communists, we did not blame ourselves for being a faithless ally, we blamed him. He was incompetent; he was corrupt.

We did not lose China. He did.
Let's take a look at that allegation:
Mao Zedong’s communists eventually came to power in 1949. A year earlier, in June 1948, Chiang wrote in his diary that the Kuomintang had failed, not because of external enemies but because of disintegration and rot from within.
You see, sometimes when a foreign leader or his administration is depicted as corrupt and incompetent, the depiction is accurate.

Buchanan similarly complains that South Vietnam's President Diem was depicted as "a dictator... who had lost touch with his people", something he fails to demonstrate is in any way false. He similarly whines that Cambodia's Lon Nol "got the same treatment", again failing to demonstrate that the treatment was undeserved. For some reason, he neglects to mention such illustrious leaders once supported by the United States, including the Shah of Iran, Manuel Noriega... the laundry list of thugs and despots the U.S. has at times supported in South and Central America.... Should we include Saddam Hussein?

Yes, when it's convenient we have historically dropped support for such "allies", and it's no coincidence that the public narrative goes from their being "important allies to the U.S." to "corrupt and incompetent, an impediment to our goals in the region", but the convenient timing of the admission of corruption doesn't make it any less true. It instead highlights how we care more about advancing our interests in a given region than we do about whether that region enjoys honest, scrupulous governance. Buchanan was an assistant to Richard Nixon - yet he claims to know nothing of realpolitik?

Buchanan's memory cannot be so short that he has forgotten his time in the Reagan Administration. Perhaps he remembers a guy named Pol Pot - an incompetent, genocidal leader responsible for the deaths of probably millions of Cambodians. What did Ronald Reagan do after Vietnam toppled Pot's regime?
Rollback was the American end of the proxy war fought between the two superpowers for power and influence in the developing world. The basis was childishly simple: my enemy's enemy is my friend.

To that end the Reagan administration insisted on recognising the deposed Khmer Rouge government in exile at the UN, mostly because it was the pro-Soviet Vietnamese that had done the deposing. This recognition helped maintain a civil war in which many Cambodians were killed and many thousands of landmines were laid.
What defense does Buchanan now offer for Rios Montt, whom Reagan described as "a man of great personal integrity"? Reagan's high praise for Jonas Savimbi? Is it problematic that those leaders are now judged based upon the facts, not upon Reagan's (I would hope knowingly) fabricated songs of praise?

No, fundamentally, Buchanan knows the charges are true. The problem is that the truth is becoming known:
That there are warlords who are war criminals, allied with the Afghan regime and us, that drug-traffickers are abetted by high officials, that Karzai stole the election, no one denies.

That the Pakistani intelligence services are shot through with elements loyal to a Taliban they helped bring to power in Kabul, that there are Pakistani army officers who believe they should be defending their country against India, not fighting America’s war in Waziristan, is also undeniable.

But what does it avail us to insult these people who have cast their lot with us, many of whom will, with famines and friends, pay a far more terrible price than we if we lose these wars.
I'm sorry, but I don't feel any great sympathy for people who "cast their lot with us", enrich themselves, their families and their clans at the expense of their countries and countrymen, undermine U.S. political goals and military efforts, and ultimately lose our support due to true allegations of their greed, corruption and incompetence. I can't feel sorry for somebody who thought that "casting his lot" with the U.S. meant "winning the lottery", and who if deposed will most likely live out his life in a billionaire's exile, supported by the money he has stolen from his (and our) country.

Does Buchanan really believe it's too much to ask of somebody like Karzai to steal a little bit less, or to accept a small risk of losing an election he probably could have won honestly, in order to help us achieve our goals of improving and stabilizing the country he claims to lead? Well, yeah, I guess he does. Because they "trusted us", apparently, to not care if they demolished the foundation of our efforts.

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