Commentary Magazine


Gates Agrees with Cheney and Palin

Last week both Liz Cheney and Sarah Palin suggested it might be a good idea not to publicly antagonize President Hamid Karzai. On This Week, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates seemed to agree:

Well I think, you know, this is a — a man who’s first of all a political leader. He has domestic audiences as well as foreign audiences. What I can tell you is that General McChrystal continues to meet with him regularly. They have a very positive relationship. He gets very good cooperation out of President Karzai. I think that the — the Afghans are very concerned about their sovereignty. And they are very concerned that — that it be clear who — who is the president of Afghanistan.

And — and that he be treated with respect, because he is the representative of the people of Afghanistan and their sovereignty. And I think that — I think that that kind of cooperative relationship, certainly that he has with — I can only speak for General McChrystal’s side of it. But I think General McChrystal feels that this is a man he can work easily with. And — and he has taken him to Kandahar. He has indicated he’s willing to go to Kandahar repeatedly for the Shuras as the Kandahar campaign gets underway. … And I think — I think we frankly have to be sensitive in our own comments about President Karzai in terms of being mindful that he is the embodiment of sovereignty for Afghanistan also in the way we treat him.

Jake Tapper didn’t follow up, but the obvious question is: why have we been bashing and snubbing the “embodiment of sovereignty for Afghanistan”? It’s sometimes hard to discern whether this administration operates by design or out of pique. It’s been accustomed to rolling over the opposition, sneering and shoving back (whether it’s Republicans, the Supreme Court, or Fox News), and it often appears to conduct its foreign policy in much the same way as a political campaign.  But hitting back, instantaneous responses, and ad hominem attacks rarely work to bring allies around. Instead, such behavior widens divisions and alerts our foes that the relationships are less than … what’s the term? … “rock solid.” We await the introduction of some smart diplomacy.