The United States has long engaged in a policy of non-collaboration and refusal of interaction with members of the international community that it finds to be disagreeable. This is exemplified in former President Bush’s declaration, “We don’t negotiate with terrorists.”
Seen as a patriotic move by most, the policy has come under fire from not only Democrats but also by diplomats all over the world. Without speaking with one’s opponent, even if they engage in fiery, anti-U.S. rhetoric, little can be accomplished except a demonstration of rote intimidation.
However, one scholar, Fareed Zakaria, editor of Newsweek International, has even more ambitious plans of the inverted type: those of recognizing the nearly all-but-confirmed illegitimate president elect of Afghanistan, Hamid Karzai, and supporting his interaction with harbored Taliban and Al-Qaeda operatives in the region.
He warns particularly that while the U.S. lingers expectantly, awaiting the country to straighten itself out, such a resolution is far in the future. Afghanistan itself has a poor extension of its central power. The northern and rural areas are controlled by more powerful local figures and thus are more apt to be used as safe houses for those engaged in terrorist activities. Zakaria argues that because of this lack of continuity, that stability currently depends on the presence of the United States. Unfortunately, the recent election, which yielded more votes than constituents in certain provinces, has been implicitly deemed fraudulent by most of the international community.
This is where the unorthodox approach comes in. Zakaria believes that by acknowledging the rightful election of Karzai, a certain amount of stability will be reinforced. Through this legitimacy, other internal issues of the state, including the discussions with these rebel leaders, can continue with perhaps an agreement being reached to limit violent action. Afghanistan, one of the poorest countries in the world that has an astounding illiteracy rate of nearly 70 percent, is certainly in need of some help. Zakaria asserts that a sudden absence of U.S. military or officials would result in a power vacuum, creating a maelstrom of forces vying for a position of influence. Thus, the U.S. needs to remain involved in a direct manner. This would include an open association or dialogue with those members of the Taliban who wield any sort of influence in the region. The author firmly states that by presenting itself as a communicator, the U.S. inserts itself into a leadership role, disallowing the position from being occupied by another corrupt faction, or some less desirable group.
Zakaria does seem to make a good case in at least his intention. The imminent threat of terrorist attacks has turned into a post-apocalyptic sneering scorn toward these groups in which the U.S. hoped to elevate itself into a position above negotiation. But, as death tolls continue to rise and these rebel forces refuse to be eliminated, another solution beside refusal to engage in dialogue must be used. However, direct communication does not necessarily mean reinforcing a government that lacks universal support in order to support our own international interests. The U.S. needs to realize that the internal affairs of a country are to be decried against or supported, but not directly influenced for some peripheral purpose. Hopefully, a compromise between these two extreme points of view can be reached and the goals of each nation finally realized.
Matt Boaz is a senior political science major from Edmond, Okla.