It’s turning into a comic book war. Curiously, the White House hardly seems to be pretending otherwise.
Ridiculous allies are usually treated with great, if mock, respect. But the White House is pretty open about Afghan President Hamid Karzai being a psychopath or child, as well as a crook.
He’s become one of the more fabulous characters of the terror wars, up there in mercurial nuttiness with Osama and Saddam—except Karzai is on our side.
Equivocally anyway. A few weeks ago, Karzai was threatening to join the Taliban.
He stole an election—without much trying to cover his tracks. His is a reign of corruption unrivaled in a place of historic and endemic corruption. Once an amiable American pawn, he gets more grandiose by the interview. And now he’s become openly hostile and belligerent to American efforts to nurture even the appearance of reform and competence.
"Erratic" is the way the administration is describing him, which is the diplomatic term for totally off the wall.
And he’s coming to meet with the president next month.
American presidents have often entertained the deranged and despicable; it is part of the realpolitik of the job. But somehow this is always cloaked in outward respectability and formality. Affairs of state transcended individual personalities; that’s how government works.
But not this time. They’re basically saying Karzai is a nutter, fool, and treacherous bastard. The White House in fact has publicly threatened to call off the meeting if Karzai can’t quickly get his act together.
Richard Holbrooke, the administration’s man in charge of the Afghan mess, seems to be openly rolling his eyes about his recent meeting with Karzai and efforts to get the White House meeting back on track.
It’s hard to read this as anything other than the White House wanting to get rid of this guy—possibly wanting to get rid of Afghanistan entirely. If they can’t win it or stabilize it—which so far, they can’t—then the second front is to acknowledge what an unsympathetic bunch of criminals and egomaniacs we’ve got on our hands. It’s a nice jujitsu move against the Republicans. If the White House decides to cut its losses in Afghanistan, which, likely, it will decide to do, that leaves the Republicans with having to defend an indefensible and potty Karzai in order to argue for the defense of Afghanistan.
More of Newser founder Michael Wolff's articles and commentary can be found at VanityFair.com, where he writes a regular column. He can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also follow him on Twitter: @MichaelWolffNYC.