Balkinization  

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Claiming "Legitimacy" in Situations of Election Fraud

Brian Tamanaha

The Wall Street Journal editorial page tells us to stop complaining about the election fraud (which added about a million votes to Karzai's total), and to stop questioning Karzai's "legitimacy" as President:

Afghanistan's messy election ended yesterday with President Hamid Karzai securing another five-year term after his challenger withdrew and a run-off was called off....

Mr. Karzai's election should put to rest the doubts about his "legitimacy" heard in America's liberal media and in whispers from the Administration, even if it won't. He won that legitimacy by agreeing to a second round, once the official electoral commission invalidated enough of his votes to deprive him of a majority, in accordance with Afghan law.
Compare that statement with the position taken by the WSJ editorial page following allegations of election fraud surrounding the 2004 recall vote on Hugo Chavez:

Both the Bush Administration and former President Jimmy Carter were quick to bless the results of last month's Venezuelan recall vote, but it now looks like they were had.

This is no small matter. The imprimatur of Mr. Carter and his Carter Center election observers is being used by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez to claim a mandate. The anti-American strongman has been steering his country toward dictatorship and is stirring up trouble throughout Latin America. If the recall election wasn't fair, why would Americans want to endorse it?....

The last thing either [Colin Powell and Jimmy Carter] would want is for Latins to think that the U.S. is now apologizing for governments that steal elections.
Putting aside the WSJ's apparent inconsistency--consistency is for small minds anyway, when geopolitical matters are at stake, right?--the final point the WSJ made above (but recently forgot) is correct: The last thing the Obama Administration would want is for Afghans to think that the U.S. is now apologizing for governments that steal elections.

We can avoid giving this impression, perhaps, by acknowledging that Karzai is President, and pledging our support (because we need him), without making the additional claim that he is "the legitimate leader" of Afghanistan--which White House spokesman Robert Gibbs asserted without necessity or warrant.

The Afghan people are well aware that the election was tainted by fraud. Statements by the Obama Administration that Karzai is "legitimate" won't change their (currently low) perception of his legitimacy, but it may well ruin the credibility of the Obama Administration in their eyes (although our widely detested drone killings might have already damaged this credibility beyond repair).




Comments:

As to our "credibility," see also.
 

Since the last administration we know that the US simple creates the reality they want as opposed to accepting the reality they have got. (Matrix anyone?) In that light "smoke and mirrors" seem more than able to persuade the Afghan people nothing dubious has happened.

How was it regarding those barbaric terrorists? They hate us for our ability to support blatant electoral fraud? Sorry, of course, our freedom.
 

stealing elections? My stars. Thank goodness that could never happen here.
 

Brian:

Are you sure you want to compare Afghanistan and Venezuela?

In Venezuela, Chavez is shutting down the opposition press, sending his own personal militia ofter businesses and political opponents and fixing elections.

In Afghanistan, Karzai agreed to remove all fraudulent ballots from the count, submitted to a runoff, and is not engaged in widespread intimidation of political opponents. Instead, the Afghan Army was providing security against Taliban intimidation.

If Malalai Joya was a Venezuelan instead of an Afghani dissident, she would be looking for a home in the United States to escape Chavez rather than on a book tour criticizing Karzai with complete freedom to return home without prospect of Karzai persecuting her.
 

Instead, the Afghan Army was providing security against Taliban intimidation.

# posted by Bart DePalma : 2:40 PM


That is awesome news! With the Afghan Army providing security we can finally bring our army home! Oh, wait...
 

Bart,

Of course there are many differences. There is no reason to engage in a distracting debate about these two countries.

The comparison I am making relates to how U.S. officials should respond to situations involving election fraud.

On that score the answer should be the same: the U.s should not give the impression to the populace of a country that we vouch for the legitimacy of the results of a dubious election.

Brian
 

I get the sense that the federal government is not particularly relevant to many citizens of Afghanistan, much less whatever our own government might happen to say about the legitimacy of their government.
 

Professor Tamanaha should not be surprised at the inconsistency of the two WSJ enitorials.

The Wall Street Journal has been a Rupert Murdoch owned newspaper since 2007. Opponents of the deal to sell the paper to the Dirty Digger called it a dark day for journalism. Leslie Hill, a family member who opposed the deal, resigned as a Dow Jones director late Tuesday afternoon. In a letter to the board, she conceded the deal was a good one in financial terms, but said it failed to outweigh "the loss of an independent global news organization with unmatched credibility and integrity."

I'm afrain that now the WSJ must be regarded as having all the integrity and "fair and balanced" approach of other Murdoch publications, such as Fox (Faux) News and, alas and alack, the London Times which became part of the Murdoch media empire in 1987 and can really no longer be regarded as a newspaper of record.

I share Professor Tamanaha's view that press releases of the US Government could have avoided the use of the word "legitimate".

Diplomatic relations are between states and once a government of a particular state is in office according to its own procedures, however illegitimate the electoral process may have been, or even absent any democratic process, one has to deal with the people who have come to power. After all, who can honestly say that the first election of GW Bush to the office of President of the USA was not without flaws in the electoral system used?
 

Brian:

I agree. The Obama Administration should leave things well enough alone. They properly pushed the Karzai government to address the fraud. Now that that has been done, the Administration should treat Karzai as what he is - the properly elected President of Afghanistan - and stop the editorializing.
 

In relation to Bart De Palma's last post above, the Administration has insisted (and must continue to insist) that Kharzai address the corruption and other governance issues.

One must hope that US foreign policy under the Obama Administration has moved forward in that regard from the bad old days of the Kirkpatrick doctrine.
 

On some planet somewhere....:

[Bart]: If Malalai Joya was a Venezuelan instead of an Afghani dissident, she would be looking for a home in the United States to escape Chavez rather than on a book tour criticizing Karzai with complete freedom to return home without prospect of Karzai persecuting her.

Ms. Joya is in deathly peril from Hugo Chavez, but would be in no danger at all in Afghanistan where thousands are losing their lives in bombings and killings every year, women are frequently and brutally attacked if not killed for daring to speak, and political threats are routinely assassinated.

Meanwhile, back on planet Earth....

Cheers,
 

Meanwhile, back on planet Earth, the point wasn't which country was generally more dangerous, but which government is more dangerous to it's critics. Karzai may have stolen an election, but he's not putting his opponents six feet under.

It's not the difference between a statesman and a corrupt leader, but it IS a difference.
 

Brett:

Karzai may have stolen an election, but he's not putting his opponents six feet under.

Are you quite sure of this? There's plenty of mayhem there to go around. And I'd point out that the Taliban are, in some respects. "his opponents", and they're hardly being given political immunity.

And who's Chavez been planting? Just curious. Bart can chime in on this one, since he brought up the assertion in the first place.

Cheers.
 

Professor T:

I have a business question for you. How are the posting duties divied up? You seem to be doing more than yeoman's duty.

I'm perfectly happy about this, of course, but it just occcured to me that I keep responding to your psots.
 

Sandy Levinson sighting.
 

Mourad said...

In relation to Bart De Palma's last post above, the Administration has insisted (and must continue to insist) that Kharzai address the corruption and other governance issues. One must hope that US foreign policy under the Obama Administration has moved forward in that regard from the bad old days of the Kirkpatrick doctrine.

Behind the scenes pushing of corrupt allies to clean up their acts while publicly allying with them against the communists was part and parcel of the Reagan/Kirkpatrick doctrine. This is why Latin America was nearly entirely democratized by the time the Cold War was won.
 

Bart:

Behind the scenes pushing of corrupt allies to clean up their acts while publicly allying with them against the communists was part and parcel of the Reagan/Kirkpatrick doctrine. This is why Latin America was nearly entirely democratized by the time the Cold War was won.

What a pile'o'baloney. We propped up the dictators, giving them support, arms, and training ("School of the Americas", anyone?) They hardly became "democratized" by our doing. In general, it was the outraged people that tossed them (when they finally did). And in many cases put in leaders not to the liking of Reagan or his ilk. Which we sometime then set out to undermine.

Bart's hallucination of instilling democracy by supporting dictators is just as insane as his notion of installing democracy at the point of a gun (and in many instances, these two were one and the same).

See Stephen Kinzer's "Overthrow" for the sanguinary details.

Cheers,
 

George Will's OpEd in today's WaPo (11/4/09) titled "Unicorns in Kabul" closes with this:

"President Woodrow Wilson, looking censoriously at some nations to America's south, reportedly vowed, 'We will teach them to elect good men.' Whatever strategy Obama adopts, its success cannot depend on America teaching Afghans to do that. If he is looking for a strategy that depends on legitimacy in Kabul, he is looking for a unicorn."

Yes, George Will like our Backpacker can at times have "stopped clock" accuracy.

BTB*, is Will's "unicorn" like the pony in the pile that George W. Bush was always looking for?

*By the Bybee [:(]
 

Arne Langsetmo said...

Bart: Behind the scenes pushing of corrupt allies to clean up their acts while publicly allying with them against the communists was part and parcel of the Reagan/Kirkpatrick doctrine. This is why Latin America was nearly entirely democratized by the time the Cold War was won.

What a pile'o'baloney. We propped up the dictators, giving them support, arms, and training ("School of the Americas", anyone?) They hardly became "democratized" by our doing. In general, it was the outraged people that tossed them (when they finally did).


How precisely did the people of Latin America throw out their US supported "dictators" in elections without democratization bringing elections and governments that complied with the will of the voters and left power voluntarily?

Your world view is frozen back in the Nixon Administration.
 

Bart:

Here is your claim:

"Behind the scenes pushing of corrupt allies to clean up their acts while publicly allying with them against the communists was part and parcel of the Reagan/Kirkpatrick doctrine. This is why Latin America was nearly entirely democratized by the time the Cold War was won."

So, did this happen?

Nicaragua?
Nope. Not by a long shot
.

El Salvador? Nope.

Chile? Conceivably, but Bart offers no evidence for such. Pinochet ("elected" in 1980) did eventually get replaced in 1988, but Bart offers no evidence that this was due to Reagan (as opposed to, say, the people of Chile). And remember that Pinochet was Reagan party-mate Nixon's (and Kissinger's) bastard love child.....

Colombia? Nope.

Honduras? Nope.

Argentina? Nope.

Panama? Nope.

Guatemala? Nope.

I could go on, but there's little point.

Maybe on Bart's planet, the roster of Latin America countries (and the activities of the Sainted Sir Ronnie) is a bit different, but here on Earth, Bart's statement is clearly false.

Cheers,
 

I'd note this non sequitur/petitio principi:

[Arne]: What a pile'o'baloney. We propped up the dictators, giving them support, arms, and training ("School of the Americas", anyone?) They hardly became "democratized" by our doing. In general, it was the outraged people that tossed them (when they finally did).

[Bart]: How precisely did the people of Latin America throw out their US supported "dictators" in elections without democratization bringing elections and governments that complied with the will of the voters and left power voluntarily?


That's hardly responsive to my point. That democratization and elections are necessary to non-dictatorial/authoritarian governments is almost a tautology. The question, of course, is how such elections came to be (because this was the main thrust of Bart's initial claim). Bart doesn't answer this.

Cheers,
 

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