- By Peter Feaver
The New York Times has two stories today that neatly illustrate the challenges President Obama and his team face in working with our allies, Afghanistan and Pakistan.
The Afghanistan story reveals that there may well have been a serious discussion about “doing a Diem to Karzai” — that is, discussion about whether to try to replace Karzai with a more pliant leader. The proponent of this idea was Peter Galbraith, an American who worked on the United Nations team trying to help the Afghan government transition to full, stable democracy. Galbraith is an interesting figure; he was the original author of what became known as the Biden Plan to divide Iraq into 3-parts, and he gained notoriety in recent months for not having revealed an alleged conflict of interest (he stood to make millions of dollars from oil deals in autonomous Kurdish region of Iraq).
In the story, Galbraith emphasizes that he never actually implemented the plan, though he did apparently try to reach out to Biden’s office to persuade the vice president on the matter. The problem, however, was that Galbraith’s U.N. bosses were appalled at the proposal, and Karzai got wind of the plan. In short order the United States had to climb down. Karzai is (understandably) angry and suspicious about what he doubtless views to be arrogant and perhaps even imperialist behavior on the part of the Americans. And, as a consequence, our influence over the Kabul government is arguably less than it might otherwise have been.
The Pakistan story has a different lede, but perhaps is of a piece with Afghan story. The stated lede is: Pakistani harassment of U.S. contractors and junior diplomats is undermining the war effort. The implicit link to the other story is: our Pakistani allies believe the United States has been acting in an arrogant, imperialist fashion and, as a consequence, our leverage over them is less than it might otherwise be.
It may strike some as odd that an administration that has taken such pains to present itself as more reasonable and less prone to cowboy diplomacy than its predecessors would find itself in this predicament. The truth is that the Obama and Bush teams held to very different theories about how best to cajole our war allies into more constructive cooperation. The Bush team, belying the cowboy image, believed that we got better results when we pressured beleaguered allies like Karzai or Musharraf in private and offered assurances in public. The Obama team believes that they will get better results if they pressure in private and in public. Moreover, the Obama team feels the need to demonstrate to domestic critics that it really is getting tough on both the Afghan and the Pakistani government.
It is very hard, however, to do that kind of public pressuring without antagonizing the government you are trying to cajole. In the same way, it is very hard to engage in various regime-change plotting without generating similar antagonisms.
That has been part of the AfPak story over the last year and it is part of the reason that the policy results have been mixed.
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Colum Lynch is Foreign Policy's award-winning U.N.-based senior diplomatic reporter. Lynch previously wrote Foreign Policy's Turtle Bay blog, for which he was awarded the 2011 National Magazine Award for best reporting in digital media. He is also a recipient of the 2013 Elizabeth Neuffer Memorial Silver Prize for his coverage of the United Nations.
Before moving to Foreign Policy, Lynch reported on diplomacy and national security for the Washington Post for more than a decade. As the Washington Post's United Nations reporter, Lynch had been involved in the paper's diplomatic coverage of crises in Afghanistan, Iraq, Lebanon, Sudan, and Somalia, as well as the nuclear standoffs with Iran and North Korea. He also played a key part in the Post's diplomatic reporting on the Iraq war, the International Criminal Court, the spread of weapons of mass destruction, and U.S. counterterrorism strategy. Lynch's enterprise reporting has explored the underside of international diplomacy. His investigations have uncovered a U.S. spying operation in Iraq, Dick Cheney's former company's financial links to Saddam Hussein, and documented numerous sexual misconduct and corruption scandals.
Lynch has appeared frequently on the Lehrer News Hour, MSNBC, NPR radio, and the BBC. He has also moderated public discussions on foreign policy, including interviews with Susan E. Rice, the U.S. National Security Advisor, Gerard Araud, France's U.N. ambassador, and other senior diplomatic leaders.
Born in Los Angeles, California, Lynch received a bachelor's degree from the University of California, Berkeley, in 1985 and a master's degree from Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism in 1987. He previously worked for the Boston Globe.| Turtle Bay |
Josh Rogin covers national security and foreign policy and writes the daily Web column The Cable. His column appears bi-weekly in the print edition of The Washington Post. He can be reached for comments or tips at email@example.com.
Previously, Josh covered defense and foreign policy as a staff writer for Congressional Quarterly, writing extensively on Iraq, Afghanistan, Guantánamo Bay, U.S.-Asia relations, defense budgeting and appropriations, and the defense lobbying and contracting industries. Prior to that, he covered military modernization, cyber warfare, space, and missile defense for Federal Computer Week Magazine. He has also served as Pentagon Staff Reporter for the Asahi Shimbun, Japan's leading daily newspaper, in its Washington, D.C., bureau, where he reported on U.S.-Japan relations, Chinese military modernization, the North Korean nuclear crisis, and more.
A graduate of George Washington University's Elliott School of International Affairs, Josh lived in Yokohama, Japan, and studied at Tokyo's Sophia University. He speaks conversational Japanese and has reported from the region. He has also worked at the House International Relations Committee, the Embassy of Japan, and the Brookings Institution.
Josh's reporting has been featured on CNN, MSNBC, C-Span, CBS, ABC, NPR, WTOP, and several other outlets. He was a 2008-2009 National Press Foundation's Paul Miller Washington Reporting Fellow, 2009 military reporting fellow with the Knight Center for Specialized Journalism and the 2011 recipient of the InterAction Award for Excellence in International Reporting. He hails from Philadelphia and lives in Washington, D.C.| The Cable |