First Cheney yesterday:
Afghan President Karzai, whose support we need if we are going to succeed in Afghanistan, is being treated to an especially dangerous and juvenile display from this White House. They dress him down publicly almost daily and refuse to even say that he is an ally. There is a saying in the Arab world: “It is more dangerous to be America’s friend than to be her enemy.” In the age of Obama, that is proving true.
And then Palin today:
Meanwhile, this administration alienates our friends. They treated Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai poorly and acted surprised when he reacted in kind.
DrewM argues that they essentially have no choice but to defend Karzai since he’s the only game in town in Afghanistan. The thing is, they do have a choice. Several choices, actually. They can do what they’re doing, politely ignoring Karzai’s sins and putting all the blame on Obama; they can offer a more measured critique, blaming Obama for unhelpfully chastising Karzai publicly while acknowledging Karzai’s own “dangerous and juvenile” sins of corruption and flirtation with jihadist elements; or they can simply omit Karzai and Afghanistan from their litany of foreign-policy criticisms. There’s no shortage of other things to criticize Obama for, as Palin reminded us today. In fact, if Karzai agreed with Liz Cheney’s assessment that it’s more dangerous to be America’s friend than its enemy, there was an easy way for him to prove it. He could have rejected Obama’s decision to add 30,000 troops, requested that the remainder in the field be withdrawn, and gone it alone in Afghanistan. My hunch is that the Taliban would have ended up playing buzkashi with his empty skull, unless of course he made good on his recent threat to join forces with them first. But I digress. The point, simply, is that I don’t understand why The One doesn’t get a bit of leeway in the one foreign policy arena where he actually did the right thing, much to the chagrin of his base. Yes, granted, his troop surge came with a timetable for withdrawal, but it’s an exceedingly weak timetable and posed no barrier to Dick Cheney later calling himself a “complete supporter” of the escalation.
And still, he gets slammed for publicly feuding with Karzai. A question: How, if he’s weakened our hand in the region by doing that, does it strengthen our hand to call him out this way? Righties used to knock the Democrats for tearing into Bush on Iraq on the theory that media coverage of a divided America gave encouragement to the enemy. That argument’s a loser — when the president deserves criticism, he should have it — but that doesn’t answer (a) why he “deserves” it in Karzai’s case, given that there’s plenty of fault on the Afghan side too and (b) whether criticizing him for this ends up doing more harm than good. In fact, I think the worst part of the criticism is how facile it is: If the chief worry is that Obama will be assessed as weak by our enemies, then it’s far less important whether he’s chastising Karzai publicly or privately than it is whether Karzai’s actually changing his behavior. That’s what Iran’s looking at. If corruption skyrockets in Kabul despite America’s many warnings to rein it in, the mullahs will take that as a sign that Obama has no leverage and that the U.S. won’t draw down no matter how brazenly its demands are ignored, etc. We’d be seen as pushovers. And of course if The One did exert leverage by threatening Karzai with a drawdown — even privately — wouldn’t Palin and Cheney rip him for that, i.e. “abandoning an ally in need”? He can’t win. Exit question: Forget how “poorly” poor widdle Hamid Karzai has supposedly been treated. How do we get him to clean up his act? That should be the chief point of any Republican foreign policy critique.
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