US President Barack Obama’s reported outreach to “some of Pakistan’s most fervent Islamist and anti-American parties” should probably be seen as an attempt to identify those who, as David Milliband described in relation to Afghanistan, could be “drawn into a political process”. Obama may have declared the war in Afghanistan “a war of necessity” and “a war worth fighting”, but it’s worth remembering that “talking to the Taliban is nothing new.” Whether they can identify, and enlist, suitably inclined
capos warlords to be politicians remains to be seen.Drawing too close a parallel with The Process here would be unwise but, as threats are made of further violence, I was struck by the admission in this BBC report on tomorrow’s elections in Afghanistan – “No-one is using the age-old electoral mantra ‘free and fair’.”
“Good enough” is a phrase that slipped into conversation after the last parliamentary elections in 2005, amid disappointment over some of the candidates allowed to run and persistent allegations of vote rigging.
In a highly charged political atmosphere, pressure was exerted on irate losers to accept the results and move on. Too much was at stake.
Western officials involved in the process now admit there was “very significant fraud”. In some ballot boxes, neat piles of evenly folded ballots were evidence of stuffing.
A lot is also at stake this time, for Afghans and an international community determined to achieve success.
The question may be “good enough” for whom?
It’s a good question, and one that brings to mind Michael Goldfarb’s argument, noted in a previous post on justice, “The price of conjuring peace out of conflict is that justice is not done; most crimes go unpunished.”
How deeply any of the parties Obama is reaching out to can be enticed into a political process will also likely depend on there being verifiable benefits to those parties.
And such a process will, undoubtedly, take a considerable length of time and the intervention, at times, of more forceful individuals than the current envoys may be able to be at present – as with the intervention of Mitchell Reiss here.
Those parties identified, and enlisted into the process, may also, in time, start to exhibit familiar psychotic tendencies as they walk the political tightrope of former insurgents [or even terrorists].
But we can probably say that a known known is that the stated objective will differ from the actual destination.