Let’s see if I have this timeline correct:
1. Afghanistan had a vote for President in which there was such massive ballot fraud that it was impossible to tell whether Hamid Karzai had gotten over the 50% threshold to win outright.
2. The “Independent Election Commission,” which consists of Hamid Karzai’s appointees, finally bowed to pressure from the U.S. and other donors, admitted that a first-round winner couldn’t be determined, and agreed to do a runoff.
3. Great rejoicing in Washington about the vindication of democracy in Afghanistan.
4. The commission then decided to expand the number of polling places in areas where voting couldn’t actually take place, thus paving the way for even more fraud the second time around.
5. The commission chair openly predicted another Karzai victory in the runoff.
6. Abdullah Abdullah, the second-place finisher, withdrew from an obviously fixed contest.
7. The commission announced that the runoff would take place just the same.
8. Hillary Rodham Clinton announced that the withdrawal didn’t reduce the legitimacy of the runoff. (Which was true enough: the legitimacy of the runoff was already at zero.)
9. The commission then changed its mind and proclaimed Karzai the winner. (Thank Heaven for small mercies.)
10. The U.S. government congratulated President Karzai on his victory.
I’m still looking for an example of a successful counterinsurgency campaign mounted on behalf of a government as weak, corrupt, and unpopular as Karzai’s. That doesn’t mean I think I know what to do in Afghanistan; I don’t. But despite all the yapping from McCain, Boehner, Kristol, Lieberman & Co. about having to hurry up to double down on Karzai, I’m glad to see a deliberate and deliberative decision-making process on this one. Insofar as we have any leverage at all over the Karzai regime, we will have less once he has the commitment for more American troops.