Saturday, February 14, 2009

Joe Biden's Napkin

You may have heard that "smart power" is back in fashion. And that means trouble for the beneficiaries of all the "dopey power" that was being flung about in recent years. The redoubtable Pervez Musharref is gone, and it looks like the foreign policy sophisticates have had it up to here with Hamid Karzai, who had a 2008 run in with then-Senator Joe Biden:

Between platters of lamb and rice, Mr. Biden and two other American senators questioned Mr. Karzai about corruption in his government, which, by many estimates, is among the worst in the world. Mr. Karzai assured Mr. Biden and the other senators that there was no corruption at all and that, in any case, it was not his fault.

The senators gaped in astonishment. After 45 minutes, Mr. Biden threw down his napkin and stood up.

“This dinner is over,” Mr. Biden announced,

This business with the napkin seems to have impressed a lot of folks. The Daily Beast has reported:
The government in Kabul is in meltdown and the one in Islamabad adrift. Both Hamid Karzai and Zardari are as unpopular as Bush at his nadir. On his last visit, Joe Biden, then still a senator, set aside his napkin after 45 minutes during a private meal with Karzai and said, "This dinner is over."
And The Dallas Morning News reports approvingly:
it was refreshing to read over the weekend that Vice President Joe Biden cut short a dinner with Karzai, threw his napkin on the table and basically walked out after he'd heard Karzai's usual list of excuses about corruption in his government.

I think we all know how this is going to end. I hope Mr. Karzai enjoys life in exile again. Smart power practitioners love to think they can sit in Foggy Bottom or the Naval Observatory and orchestrate events in societies half a world away. But, pretty soon this will be the only way to visit the US embassy in Kabul:

And then we can sit around wondering "who lost China, er, Afghanistan?"

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