Thomas Friedman proves again he’s no dummy. His NY Times column today on the President’s surprise visit to Afghanistan on Monday is a must read. Pointing out that the President’s trip was mainly to show to Afghan President Hamid Karzai “we’re serious about the corruption,” Friedman pulls not punches on the harsh realities and the road ahead. Key quotes:
If we want good governance in Afghanistan more than Karzai, he will sell us that carpet over and over. How many U.S. officials have flown to Kabul — the latest being President Obama himself — to lecture Karzai on the need to root out corruption in his administration? Do we think he has a hearing problem? Or do we think he believes he has us over a barrel and, in the end, he can and will do whatever serves his personal power needs because he believes that we believe that he is indispensable for confronting Al Qaeda?
In the Middle East, what leaders tell you in private in English is irrelevant. All that matters is what they will defend in public in their own language.
When Karzai believes that the way to punish America for snubbing him is by inviting Iran’s president to Kabul — who delivered a virulently anti-U.S. speech from inside the presidential palace — you have to pay close attention to that. It means Karzai must think that anti-Americanism plays well on the streets of Afghanistan and that by dabbling in it himself — as he did during his presidential campaign — he will strengthen himself politically. That is not a good sign.