Charles Krauthammer

WASHINGTON -- ``Miracle begets yawn'' has been the American reaction to the inauguration of Hamid Karzai as president of Afghanistan. Before our astonishing success in Afghanistan goes completely down the memory hole, let's recall some very recent history.

     For almost a decade before 9/11, we did absolutely nothing about Afghanistan. A few cruise missiles hurled into empty tents, followed by expressions of satisfaction about the ``message'' we had sent. It was, in fact, a message of utter passivity and unseriousness.

     Then comes our Pearl Harbor and the sleeping giant awakes. Within 100 days, al Qaeda is routed and the Taliban overthrown. Then the first election in Afghanistan's history. Now the inauguration of a deeply respected democrat who, upon being sworn in as legitimate president of his country, thanks America for its liberation.

     This, in Afghanistan, just three years ago not just hostile but untouchable. What do liberals have to say about this singular achievement by the Bush administration? That Afghanistan is growing poppies.

     Good grief. This is news? ``Afghanistan grows poppies'' is the sun rising in the east. ``Afghanistan inaugurates democratically elected president'' is the sun rising in the west. Afghanistan has always grown poppies. What is Bush supposed to do? Send 100,000 GIs to eradicate the crop and incite a popular rebellion?

     The other complaint is that Karzai really does not rule the whole country. Again the sun rises in the east. Afghanistan has never had a government that controlled the whole country. It has always had a central government weak by Western standards.

     But Afghanistan's decentralized system works. Karzai controls Kabul, most of the major cities, and much in between. And he is successfully leveraging his power to gradually extend his authority as he creates entirely new federal institutions and an entirely new military.

     Again, what should Bush have done? Send another 100,000 GIs to put down warlords with local roots, local legitimacy and a ton of firepower?

     What has happened in Afghanistan is nothing short of a miracle. Who is responsible for it? The New York Times gives the major credit to ``the Afghan people'' with their ``courage and commitment.'' Courage and commitment there was, but that courage and commitment was curiously imperceptible until this administration conceived a radical war plan, executed it brilliantly, liberated the country and created from scratch the structures of democracy.


Charles Krauthammer

Charles Krauthammer is a 1987 Pulitzer Prize winner, 1984 National Magazine Award winner, and a columnist for The Washington Post since 1985.

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