Tag: Peter Galbraith

Evaluating Galbraith’s dissent

Peter Galbraith is now officially out as Kai Eide’s deputy in Kabul. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon announced Galbraith’s recall/firing this afternoon after he received a letter of dissent from Galbraith about Eide’s performance in investigating allegations of fraud. Here’s a portion of the letter from tonight’s NYTimes:

“For a long time after the elections, Kai denied that significant fraud had taken place, even going to the extreme of ordering U.N. staff not to discuss the matter,” Mr. Galbraith wrote in the letter, a copy of which was obtained by The New York Times.

“And, at critical stages in the process,” he wrote, “he blocked me and other U.N.A.M.A. professional staff from taking effective action that might have limited the fraud or enabled the Afghan electoral institutions to address it more effectively.” U.N.A.M.A. refers to the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan.

… “Given our mandate to support ‘free, fair and transparent elections, I felt U.N.A.M.A. could not overlook the fraud without compromising our neutrality and becoming complicit in a cover-up,” Mr. Galbraith wrote.


Peter has long been a pain to much of the US foreign policy establishment and I have always liked and respected him — even when I’ve disagreed with him. He is impassioned and principled and refuses to back down when he sees injustices — characteristics that don’t always play so well at Foggy Bottom. He pressed harder and more aggressively than anyone in the late 1980s for a robust response to Saddam Hussein’s systematic attacks on the Kurds. He directly challenged Croatian President Franjo Tudjman about Zagreb’s role in both the Bosnian conflict and the purging of Serbs from Krajina region of Croatia in 1995. He was a very vocal critic of the Bush administration’s handling of the war in Iraq — especially the constraints he saw being placed on Kurdish autonomy after Saddam’s removal.

So, his outrage over the election fraud and Eide’s handling of it are not much of a surprise.

But, I am really curious about what happens next on this story. This type of policy dissent often gets quite a bit of attention with all kinds of speculation about how it does, or does not, influence policy considerations. I have long wondered whether or not there are any credible methods or measures to assess the independent effects of this type of policy dissent (This would make for an interesting dissertation for some aspiring grad student). So here are a few questions I have:

1) What will Galbraith do now? Will he go on the talk show circuit to challenge the United Nations and Karzai? Would that have any discernible effect public opinion and elite opinion?

2) Dissenters almost always become the darlings of the media and a wide range of policy critics. My hunch (and experience) is that dissent can have some limited influence on policy considerations but its role in effecting events on the ground is almost always more limited than is, or will be, portrayed by the media and by policy critics. So, how will his dissent and his removal affect events on the ground in Afghanistan — i.e., how will Afghan citizens and elites respond — and what evidence should we be looking for to make judgments on this?

3) I’ll wager that we’ll see several stories that assert Galbraith’s dissent and firing will “completely undermine the legitimacy” of both the elections and the United Nations in Afghanistan. But, is this really what we are likely to see and how would we measure it in this context?

4) And, finally, how does this influence the internal discussions within the Obama administration? Galbraith is known to be close to Holbrooke — what does this do, if anything, to Holbrooke’s position vis-a-vis the McChrystal recommendations?

Thoughts?

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Afghan Statebuilding

I’m generally sympathetic to the letter from the IR scholars on Afghanistan discussed below — though I am most certainly not a realist and I am not averse to statebuilding as a concept or as an occasional practice in foreign policy. I supported the effort in Bosnia (notwithstanding the impression given in George Will’s Washington Post column tomorrow morning — I’ll respond to that later). For me, I have long been persuaded by Tony Smith from Tufts who argues that the question should not be simply: is one for, or against, the enterprise of state building. It is whether or not there is a credible strategy and set of conditions conducive to success.

In Afghanistan, it has been almost eight years since the Taliban were ousted from power, and on the issue of governance, functionality of state institutions, and civil society development there are very few positive indicators. The recent elections and the UN’s handling of them have been a disaster. The sudden departure this week of Peter Galbraith from his position as the number two UN official in the country after a not-so-private feud with his Norwegian boss, Kai Eide, who heads the UN mission in Kabul reveals the train wreck. From the Times Online:

Mr Galbraith, a close friend of the US special envoy Richard Holbrooke, left for Boston on Sunday after a heated meeting with Afghan election officials. His “pointed” questions to the Independent Election Commission (IEC) were evidence of a much tougher line towards the Afghan authorities than the “softly-softly” approach of Mr Eide, who heads the UN mission to Kabul.

“The relationship between Kai and Peter has completely broken down,” said a diplomat in Kabul. “Peter has left the country. The official line is that he’s on a three-week mission to New York. But Kai just turned round to Peter and said, ‘I want you out’.”

The apparent row illustrates the deepening divisions within the international community on whether to allow President Karzai to claim re-election in the flawed presidential poll.

Mr Galbraith wants the IEC to annul results from 1,000 of the total of about 6,500 polling stations and to recount results from another 5,000, diplomatic sources said. Mr Eide, a former UN envoy in Bosnia, seeks only a face-saving recount of some 1,000 polling places, the sources said.

Mr Galbraith’s wholesale recount would virtually ensure a second round in the election, denying Mr Karzai his claimed first-round victory. Harsh winter weather means that the second round could not be held before May, leaving Afghanistan in political limbo.

Mr Eide’s solution would probably enable Mr Karzai to claim victory, although with a reduced margin.

There just isn’t anything good to say about this….

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