Fred Kaplan writes:
It’s tempting to skip over the recent news stories about fighting corruption in Afghanistan. (“Of course there’s corruption,” you might have muttered while turning the page.) But resist the urge; go back and read them. They’re just as important as the stories about fighting the Taliban in Kandahar — maybe more so.
In a counterinsurgency war, such as the one we’re waging in Afghanistan, the legitimacy of the host government, in the eyes of its own people, is key to the prospects for success. And legitimacy is nearly unachievable if the government is blatantly corrupt.
Kaplan is right in suggesting that the topic of corruption in Afghanistan is one that does not evoke much intense interest, but I think we look at it from the wrong perspective when considering it as a local problem and a problem that should only concern Americans in as much as it impacts an American war.
The problem of corruption is in many ways, the political problem of this era — the corruption in Afghanistan merely happens to be one of the worst manifestations.
In as much as we think of the issue in terms of ballot rigging, involvement in the drugs trade, the exchange of bribes and so forth, we tend to overlook the fundamental nature of corruption. Whether or not it involves cash in brown paper bags, what political corruption is all about is misrepresentation.
A politician presents himself as serving one set of interests when in reality he serving a different set of interests.
Washington and Kabul are much more alike than we care to see. The difference is in the degree to which the victims of misrepresentation feel aggrieved.
In our obsessive focus on counter-terrorism and counter-insurgency, we give nearly all our attention to the ways in which people react to their grievances and amazingly little to the origins of their grievances.
From Cairo to Kabul, the United States props up corrupt governments and the people ruled by those governments think we bear some of the responsibility for the misery in their lives.
And yet somehow a fiction still has currency — that the source of most of the problems in the Middle East is people who hate freedom.