Beyond the Polls
Hawks often tout the Afghan election — and rightfully so, in my opinion. But, of course, one political contest does not a democracy make. Elected leaders must eventually govern, tackle major public priorities, and help create an atmosphere of accountability. If we want to be serious about democracy promotion, then we’ll need to be supportive in this governance phase as much as we’re supportive in the election phase.
I raise the issue because of the following article from BBC News. We all know about Afghanistan’s notorious opium and heroin problem, but it’s still staggering to see the numbers:
Afghanistan accounts for almost 90% of the world’s consumption of heroin and opium.
It is a natural location for growing poppy, which needs little water and can survive in rough terrain.
And, with some poppy growers earning around $1,500 a month, compared to the $100 or so they would get cultivating conventional crops, it is easy to see why they turn to it.
To build on the success of the election and put democracy on a more stable footing, Hamid Karzai will need to overcome that financial gap and win his “holy war against drugs.” The coalition, in turn, will need to provide the assistance to ensure such victory. I don’t know enough about Afghan policy to propose a detailed recommendation — e.g., would development aid be effective? But I can urge fellow hawks to pay as much attention to these sorts of issues as to the election. The work is far from done.