Monday, May 23, 2005

On true democracy in Afghanistan

Okay, so back in January, when Iraq was having its elections and Republicans were wandering around with purple fingers and pretending that they'd made those historical votes themselves, President Bush said that he was prepared to pull out of Iraq should the new government so request. Now, the Iraqi government hasn't actually made that request, which would be a foolish thing to do considering the current unrest (she says mildly). But someone else has.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai didn't even ask Bush to pull US troops out of Afghanistan; he just wants more authority over the troops currently occupying his ostensibly democratic country. Bush said no.

In his defense, Bush did make the point that "of course, our troops will respond to US commanders." And it makes sense that they should. The US military comes as a complete package with chains of command established; they're not mercenaries ready to be parcelled out one by one to whomever needs them next. And also in Bush's defense, recent riots over desecration of the Quran as reported by Newsweek indicate that Afghanistan might not be the most stable of nations. But it's a sovereign nation and a democratic nation.

President Bush's favorite words are liberty and freedom. He loves talking about spreading democracy to nations newly freed from tyranny. The democratic elections in Afghanistan and Iraq were claimed as triumphs for the Bush administration. Now it's time for Bush to show how much he really loves democracy. If he really loves it, if he's all about freedom and liberty, he'll let the democratically elected Afghan government take control of its country. If he doesn't like the way they run the country, if he thinks it puts US troops in danger, he can pull them out, but he can't threaten Afghanistan's sovereignty. It's one thing to invade a country under the tyrannical rule of a dictator or theocratic government (and whether or not that's okay is another debate for another time); it's another thing entirely to keep unseating democratically elected governments until you find one you like, or to play shadow president with a country that has a president of its very own. If Bush is really confident that he did the right thing in bringing freedom and democracy to Afghanistan, then he needs to back off and let them use it.

Cross-posted at Hey Jenny Slater.

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