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The New Republic: Is Obama Karzai's Fiddle?

Afghan President Hamid Karzai i

Afghan President Hamid Karzai listens to questions during a press conference at the presidential palace in Kabul, Afghanistan, Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2009. Musadeq Sadeq/AP hide caption

toggle caption Musadeq Sadeq/AP
Afghan President Hamid Karzai

Afghan President Hamid Karzai listens to questions during a press conference at the presidential palace in Kabul, Afghanistan, Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2009.

Musadeq Sadeq/AP

When John Kerry persuaded Hamid Karzai to agree to a run-off election, the New York Times correctly described this victory as "little more than a catastrophe averted." So how do you describe the situation as it exists now, with the run-off called off due to Abdullah Abdullah's withdrawal? I'd say it's a pretty big victory for Karzai, and not just because he's won himself another term. By agreeing to the run-off (and satisfying the U.S.) but then refusing to take the steps necessary to make that run-off fair (and thus failing to satisfy Abdullah), Karzai bought himself some precious time. Remember, until Karzai gave in to Kerry's cajoling, he was on the verge of losing international support, most crucially from the United States. Now, his "victory" is being welcomed by the Obama administration — with David Axelrod going so far as to say that Abdullah "was likely to be defeated anyway."

So what's next? Obama administration officials are saying they'll judge Karzai on his appointments and whether he finally cracks down on drugs and corruption. But, of course, it's going to take at least several months before they can make any judgments about those things. And, by that time, it's a good bet that Obama will have already decided to send least some of the additional American troops Karzai so desperately needs and wants. And who knows? Karzai was pretty good at getting out of this jam. If Obama isn't satisfied with Karzai's performance several months from now, Karzai may well be able to get out of that jam, as well.

Today at TNR (11/03/09)

Was Creigh Deeds's Fatal Error Being Himself? by Jason Zengerle

Karzai vs. Abdullah: A Twisted Saga of Alliance and Betrayal, 30 Years in the Making by Jean MacKenzie

Why Nuclear Power Has a Magical Place in the Conservative Heart by Bradford Plumer

Should The World Only Speak One Language? by John McWhorter

Will the Democrats Be Forced to Back Away From the Public Option? by Suzy Khimm

Enough With the Collapsing Bridges and Clogged Highways: Here's The Best Way to Fund Our Crumbling Infrastructure by Christopher Leinberger

Why Obama Shouldn't Rely on the Memory of Yitzchak Rabin by Marty Peretz

What Ford's Profits Tell Us About the Recovery by Noam Scheiber

Is Lieberman Really Willing to Torpedo Health Care Reform If He Doesn't Get His Way? by Suzy Khimm

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