SO WHY IS THE RIGHT SIDING WITH KARZAI?…. We talked yesterday about an odd phenomenon. As Afghan President Hamid Karzai becomes increasingly erratic — he reportedly began threatening to hook up with the Taliban this week — and causes consternation within the White House, leading right-wing voices are taking Karzai’s side.
Here’s Liz Cheney, speaking this week to the Southern Republican Leadership Conference:
“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.”
Putting aside the fact that Afghanistan is not, in fact, Arab — try to keep up, Liz, you used to cover the Middle East at the State Department — the fact that Cheney is siding with Karzai instead of the U.S. leadership strikes me as peculiar. That she and others are publicly backing Karzai, even while he’s appearing less sympathetic and less reliable to the West, makes it that much more confounding.
I reached out to a few foreign policy types yesterday, hoping to get a better sense of why the far-right would do this, especially now. I received some interesting responses and a range of possibilities.
* Knee-jerk partisanship: The Obama administration and much of the West is looking at the Afghan leadership with increasing suspicion. For Cheney, Palin, and their cohorts, if U.S. leaders don’t trust a foreign government, there’s a reflexive, child-like temptation to take the opposite position.
* The Bush/Cheney legacy: No matter what Karzai does, no matter how corrupt he seems, no matter how little legitimacy his government is perceived to have, Bush/Cheney installed him. For the far-right, that necessarily means he’s worth defending.
* A campaign theme needs cultivating: The GOP wants to characterize President Obama as being antagonistic towards U.S. allies, despite, ironically enough, Bush/Cheney having been antagonistic towards U.S. allies. This is, not incidentally, related to policy towards Israel.
* Sending a signal of U.S. division: The White House is taking active steps to hold the Afghan government more accountable on combating corruption, establishing legitimacy, improving inefficiencies in the Afghan system, etc. If Cheney and her ilk can send a signal that U.S. officials are divided, and that Afghan accountability isn’t necessarily a priority, the far-right can undermine the Obama administration’s credibility. This would adversely affect U.S. interests, but for Cheney & Co., that’s an acceptable price for sabotaging the president.
It’s hard to say with certainty which of these possibilities is right. They might all be. But it’s a development that’s worth keeping an eye on. If tensions are straining the ties between U.S. leaders and the Karzai government, the far-right is siding with Karzai.
I suppose, then, that today’s right-wing voices will urge President Obama to apologize? Oh wait, they’re down on that, too….