Secretary of State John Kerry just made trips to Afghanistan and Iraq, the Bush administration’s two trophy states, in an attempt to shore up rapidly declining American influence in the two.
In Afghanistan, the mood is turning against a US troop presence after 2014. In the last couple of weeks, President Hamid Karzai successfully insisted that US special forces and their Afghan auxiliaries cease operating in Wardak Province just west of the capital. The US military resisted, on the grounds that Wardak is a Taliban hot spot and, well, close to the capital. But in the end they had to give in to Karzai’s demand. Today the US handed over the Bagram base and prison to Karzai, after years of dragging its feet, fearful that Karzai will do a mass pardon in order to curry favor with the Taliban. Afghanistan increasingly is showing independence on a range of domestic and international issues. Aljazeera English reports:
Kerry also visited Iraq, where he scolded Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki for being lax in inspecting Iranian aircraft for weapons intended to be smuggled into Syria.
Al-Maliki is de facto supporting the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, after for years blaming al-Assad for every bombing in Iraq. The change has occured because al-Maliki’s ally Iran is supporting Bashar, and because one of the more effective elements in the resistance is Jabhat al-Nusra, and radical fundamentalist offshoot in some ways of the ‘Islamic State of Iraq’ terrorist group. Al-Maliki is afraid that a Jabhat al-Nusra win in Syria will give aid and comfort to those Sunnis in northern Iraq who want to bring him and his Shiite-majority government down.
In 2002 when Dick Cheney was planning the Iraq War and talking about democratization, I pointed out that a democratized Afghanistan and Iraq would be unlikely to do America’s bidding. I.e., democratization (even if phony) as a policy has the stark internal contradiction that Cheney was doing it for the purposes of American dominance, and that is exactly what it could not hope to deliver.
Karzai will bargain for the best deal for his government in Afghanistan. Iraq’s al-Maliki will support the Baath regime because that is what is in its interests.
Bush’s moment in the sun as conqueror of poor weak countries has long since passed. But the damage he did lives on.