Posted on 23-10-2009
Filed Under (Foreign Policy) by Rashtrakut

Pakistani journalist Ahmad Rashid has an interesting blog on how the United States forced a recalcitrant Karzai to accept a runoff.   However, as Matt Yglesias notes that the ethnic tinderbox in Afghanistan likely forces the United States to root for a victory by the inept Karzai.  The lack of a Pashtun alternative with support from his own community and who would be acceptable to Afghanistan’s other minorities has left the United States with little room to maneuver and hopefully the runoff will not saddle the United States with a partner of dubious legitimacy.

Yglesias’s article also raises another point that has not always been addressed recently.   Is the Presidential system really suited for an ethically diverse country like Afghanistan?  While a Parliamentary system runs the risk of executive gridlock, it also gives a voice to minority groups from elected representatives instead of warlords and self appointed community leaders.  It is also a reason why even Iraq adopted a parliamentary system.  Such a system would also prevent Afghanistan from being saddled with a leader out of his depth for a fixed term of the next four years.

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Posted on 23-10-2009
Filed Under (Current Affairs) by Rashtrakut

The New York Times has a profile on Mehdi Karroubi, one of the 4 presidential candidates in the rigged elections this summer.  Since I have been following the news coverage he has also been the most vocal critic of the torture and repression that followed the quasi coup.  While a lot of hopes were placed in former President Hashemi Rafsanjani’s behind the scenes machinations, the Green Revolution confirms a depressing truth on the underpinnings of power originally articulated in the deathbed advice of the Roman Emperor Septimius Severus to his sons.  “Be harmonious, enrich the soldiers, and scorn all other men.”

When the soldiers stay neutral or switch sides tyrants like Marcos, Ceausescu and Milosevic fall.  When the regime buys their loyalty the result is what was displayed at Tiananmen, on the streets of Rangoon and in the student dorms of Iran’s universities this summer.

Just how long the iron fist can control Iran’s youth remains to be seen.  China purchased political stability with an economic boon.  Burma’s junta got it though sheer repression and a willful disregard for the condition of its people.  Iran lies somewhere in the middle.  Its economy is a mess and over dependent on its oil industry.  But it is far too culturally integrated with the world to lapse into a North Korea or Burma like isolation.  Time is not on the regime’s side.

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