Just visiting: Afghanistan edition

Afghanistan appears to have made great strides in its pursuit of Western democracy.

Ghani came back to Afghanistan after the fall of the Taliban having co-written a book called Fixing Failed States and having co-founded an institute to study them. His reputation as an academic, technocrat, and reformer is close to sterling, but his international appeal plays to a narrative Afghans are programmed to reject. In a country that has been a stepping stone for empires and a chessboard for foreign interests, politicians with external ties are to be watched closely. On the streets of Kabul, I have variously heard Ghani dismissed as “not Afghan”; “a foreigner”; and, most charitably, “an intellectual, yes, but not presidential.”

… Unlike other exiled politicians who have returned to their native lands and been greeted by welcoming crowds, Ghani wasn’t forced out of Afghanistan, so he doesn’t have the hero’s privilege of a public that either obligingly forgets the reason he left or celebrates it. Ghani’s campaign must constantly prove that his loyalties lie with Afghanistan—Afghans expect him to leave if things really heat up. Ghani represents everything Afghanistan needs, but he’s also precisely what its people can’t stomach. A vote for Ghani is a concession of pride.

… it plays to Karzai’s strengths. His Afghan-ness is harder to question, and that’s critical to an electorate whose most frequent expression of nationalism is collective resentment for other countries’ meddling. Karzai has convinced most of the Afghans I’ve talked to that he has rebuked the West when they’ve overstepped their boundaries, but Ghani has no record to prove that he has or will.