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From Stalwarts to Scapegoats: America's Foreign Clients

June 27, 2014 in Economics

By Ted Galen Carpenter

Ted Galen Carpenter

As forces of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) conquer major chunks of Sunni-inhabited areas in Iraq and advance on Baghdad, it has become fashionable among U.S. politicians and pundits to place the blame for the latest debacle at the feet of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. Just a few years ago, though, those same opinion leaders hailed him as the symbol of a new, democratic Iraq. Maliki’s journey from Washington-backed national savior to scapegoat is a familiar one.

Time and time again, U.S. leaders and their media allies have anointed a Third World political figure as the latest Great Pro-Western Democratic Hope, only to become disillusioned when that leader fails to live up to Washington’s unrealistic expectations. Then, that leader becomes the cause of everything that has gone wrong in his country, combined with the implicit assumption that a change of leadership would make the troubling developments go away. It is a lazy, naïve style of foreign policy that ignores far deeper causes of instability in many of Washington’s client states.

We must stop portraying foreign political figures in heroic terms, only to repudiate those same figures when they predictably fail to live up to our fantasies.[/pullquote[

The transformation of Maliki’s image from one of a democratic statesman to a divisive and inept sectarian political hack is similar to what has occurred in Afghanistan, another arena of dashed U.S. nation-building aspirations. In the years immediately following Washington’s ouster of the Taliban regime in Kabul, U.S. officials portrayed Hamid Karzai as someone who was committed to forging a modern, democratic Afghanistan. A few critics in the United States derided him as little more than the mayor of greater Kabul, and argued that his ability to stay in power at all was heavily dependent on the continued backing of U.S. occupation forces. American enthusiasts of Karzai’s rule, however, summarily dismissed such cynical observations.

Evidence gradually mounted, though, about the growing corruption (both financial scandals and indications of stolen elections) surrounding Karzai and his cohorts. Washington’s criticism of Karzai’s performance in office spiked, and calls for new leadership to save Afghanistan from sliding back into chaos have steadily grown. But placing the blame for Afghanistan’s woes solely, or even primarily, on Karzai ignores the deep political and ethnic fissures in that country. Examining those factors would require admitting that perhaps America’s nation-building hopes there were unrealistic from the outset, …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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