What is state failure? See my conceptualisation of state failure on the right flank below.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Dawn Black vs. Hamid Karzai

Here is the latest on developments on the Canadian information battlefield. The leftist Canadian NDP party's voice on defence matters, Dawn Black (what a name!) got hold of documents on the basis of the Canadian Access to Information Act, and started voicing that Hamid Karzai's speech addressing the Canadian parliament in September, 2006, was in effect written by Canadian advisors. The Dust My Broom blog, in quite a useful post, published both the parts of the relevant documents currently highlighted in the news, as well as Karzai's speech from last year.
Here's the most interesting excerpt from one of those "access to information and domestic politics" documents:
As you see, it certainly doesn't say that Karzai's speech in its final form was written by Canadian advisors, even though those advisors were of course there. It might still seem interesting to take up the ethical and political issues of how an advisor is supposed to influence another country's head of state in a direction that will aid in maintaining public support for keeping one's troops in the country of the head of state concerned. I mean, if you suppose that there should be major differences in interests between the two countries that is.
But then I'm not at all sure if there really should be such major differences between Canada's and Afghanistan's interests. Those who argue on a daily basis for leaving every troublespot of the world alone to lock ourselves up in non-existent hard shell-states as though that could shield us from the interconnectedness of today's world, ignoring humanitarian arguments against that sort of instinct even, those might of course see this differently than I do.
That explains also why I have a much more simplistic reading of this advisor affair. If somebody is honestly worried about effectively how sovereign a country like Afghanistan is allowed to be, there are issues more worthy of attention than the case of a speech that would have always been highly instrumental regardless of actually who wrote it. The way I see it, Karzai needed to win Canadian hearts and minds, and for the sake of effective communication he took use of the help on offer by local advisors who know more about the right way to influence the natives into helping him with the challenges he faces. I can't see how that would be something that had to be forced on him. Critics, I believe, are rather worried about the Canadian public's sovereignty here.
Therefore it is perhaps more important to emphasise that the interpretation of the released document according to which the whole of Karzai's speech was simply written for him by Canadians, is obviously an exaggeration. Keeping that absurd assumption in mind I found this paragraph of Karzai's speech, on how Afghanistan was ignored before 9/11, particularly remarkable:
"Both our sufferings and our warnings were ignored as if Afghanistan did not exist. Perhaps by the standards of today’s world we did not exist, for we had nothing to sell to the world or nothing to buy from the world, so we did not matter."
See? Canadian communications advisors, as soon as they get the chance to write a speech for a developing country's head of state, just can't resist the temptation to turn into critics of the consumerism and the self-obsession of Western societies. If by chance this really is a part of the speech that came from the Canadians, Marx will have to get out of the grave and take a fresh look at these communications advisors as the new revolutionary class!
But I wouldn't want to end up with a one-sided take on this for the sake of irony. What I cited above could also be looked at, in fact, as an instrumentally rational way to address the Western public's conscience, and something so rational could definitely be coming from cynical communications advisors, couldn't it? The seeds of doubt are sown, and so Dawn Black certainly got at least in part what was wished for by the NDP. Working on switching off the public's conscience that is. (I mean, they are effectively suggesting that if Canadian advisors wrote such stuff into Karzai's speech, then in fact it's somehow fine not to care about Afghanistan.)
Meanwhile the domestic political battle in Canada roars on, and if this article has it right (in spite of the fact that it does include some IO-implanted references to Chechens in Kandahar), Pakistani websites have developments closely monitored.

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