Clegg asks the right questions but gives the wrong answers on Afghanistan….
So, nobody will be that surprised that Hamid Karzai, President of Afghanistan, has been stripped-of his electoral victory. The Electoral Complaints Commission slashed his majority from the required 55% to 48.3%. With Karzai’s electoral legitimacy any notion that the exercise in Afghanistan is anything other than one in futility should vanish. Nick Clegg was right to ask Gordon Brown about this at the first Prime Minister’s Questions but, as usual, his proposed alternative to Brown’s obvious lack of vision and direction in leading this ‘mission’ was found wanting.
Clegg rightly pointed to the corruption of the Afghan government under Karzai but, rather bafflingly, thought the solution was for the person who has just fraudulently stolen an election to ‘form a government of national unity’. Maybe Clegg failed to call for a run-off or would advocate it on the same basis that Gordon Brown does;
The prime minister made his third call to the Afghanistan president within a week, telling Karzai that he should accept a run-off because he was likely to win it.
Maybe Gordon offered British troops services in more than securing the ballot but also ensuring the required vote this time around with some liberal ballot-box stuffing. He also rightly pointed to the worrying presence of warlords in the Karzai government but his solution would likely lead to the inclusion of more of the same being included. Maybe Clegg thinks that this would be a veritable ‘poster-government’ for the ‘liberal interventionist’ ideal but I think it is nothing of the kind. I certainly don’t think it is worth the lives of another British (or any other nationality for that matter) soldier.
He also totally failed to address the legislative programme of the government which is far from liberal or democratic. Clegg is caught in the same paradox Western governments now are; faced with the failure of their mission, which hasn’t built a viable Afghan nation and has merely exported the problem of terrorism to the tribal areas of Pakistan. Clegg has sometimes shone through when it comes to making a principled stand (Gurkha rights, arms to Israel etc) but in truth does more when there is a media headline to be grabbed (calling for the Speaker to go, Legg, etc) which is a shame because he could help develop a strong narrative. Instead, the narrative, is weak and wibble-wobbles all over the show and his vacillations on this issue merely illustrate the point with added force.