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Guttenberg: Afghan democracy impossible

Published: 26 Dec 2009 13:40 GMT+01:00

Defence Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg told the Sunday edition of the tabloid Bild newspaper that Afghanistan was simply not suited to democracy, and that any realistic government in the country had to include the Taliban.

"I have long since become convinced that because of its history and its cultural orientation Afghanistan is not suited to being a model democracy, measured by our standards," said Guttenberg, who has come under intense pressure over his ministry's public relations disaster following a deadly air strike in Kunduz in which up to 142 people were killed.

The minister added that in order to achieve a lasting peace in the country, including moderate Taliban in the government should not be ruled out. "In a country with so much regional diversity, we cannot exclude an entire people like the Pashtuns if we want a sustainable solution in the future," he said.

Guttenberg admitted that this represents a u-turn in his position on the Taliban.

"We have to ask ourselves which of the insurgents represent a serious threat to the international community, and which are concerned with Afghan questions," Guttenberg said. "The question of human rights has to be addressed here, without ignoring the cultures that have developed in Afghanistan."

But he warned, "Negotiations and the inclusion of the Taliban should of course not be started without conditions. It would be unacceptable if universally acknowledged human rights were simply suspended."

DDP/The Local (news@thelocal.de)

Your comments about this article

14:00 December 26, 2009 by Frenemy
@Guttenberg:

"...Afghanistan was simply not suited to democracy"

Really? What was your first clue?! (and since we're on the subject, let me just throw this out there: neither is Germany or the US!!)

...for the love of god, people, how long is it gonna take to figure out that deposing iron-fisted dictators is not always a good thing?!!
17:54 December 26, 2009 by Henckel
@Frenemy: Why be surprised by Guttenberg's naivite? Westerners have a tendency to think in terms of their own societal norms. But it only takes a brief look at the history of Afghanistan (wars of 1838-42, 1878-80, 1919,; coups of 1928-29, 1973 and 1979, and war of 1979-89) to see that the country is hardly suited to having a central government, much less democracy. They've always had tribal loyalties and strongmen as leaders. If the NATO troops pull out, Karzai will meet the same fate as the British-supported client king in 1842 -- put to death by his countrymen.
18:13 December 26, 2009 by Wabit
May I suggest that perhaps we are missing the point here?

It is relatively unimportant if Afghanistan aquires democracy or not, for in that unhappy country it can only be a sham at the very best and a joke at the very least!! What is important though is to accept that a country like Afghanistan which is completely unstable was and indeed will be again the breeding ground for Osama Bin Laden and his misguided followers. And it is this which dictates that NATO forces remain in that country as and until this evil culture is once and for ll time destroyed. Oh I am aware that some who post comments here will say that once this evil has been irradicated, that others just as bad will follow.. It is after all part of modern society that this will happen. I agree with this sentiment and fully accept that more will follow in the footsteps of these criminals. But let us unite and deal with first things first and then later as other groups emerge from under their rocks and caves we can face them one by one for this is a problem that will never go away or one that can be swept under the carpet, and indeed nor must we decide to go away!!!! This is unfortunately an ongoing battle without end...... Welcome to our world!
19:17 December 26, 2009 by wood artist
Democracy will never function if it is simply given as a gift. In countries which have never had a functional democracy, the knowledge and will to make it function are lacking, and it is easy to look at post-war (West) Germany as a good example. I'm not being critical, but it took a good while for people and the leadership to understand what it truly is and how it could/should function.

Even in the US today, after more than 200 years, we're still learning how to deal with the opportunities and problems true democracy presents. As Wabit observed, Afghanistan is a country that has never had a functional central government of any kind, and Karzai isn't going to be able to create one either. He may be the wrong man for the job, assuming it could be done in the first place.

The tribal culture, the fractured structure of society, the traditional feuds, and the lack of apparent need for a government make it nearly impossible. Then add in the issues within the religious communities and you have a formula that is destined to fail.

In Vietnam the US "discovered" that the local people just didn't much care about most of the issues that drove the war. They wanted to be left alone to pursue the traditional lifestyle that they knew...subsistence farming and raising a family to carry on. Their place on the world stage, or even within the Asian community just wasn't important to the masses. It appears the same sort of feelings are at work here, and they accept the central power, whatever it is, quietly, simply so they can move on.
23:12 December 26, 2009 by Fredfeldman
Whether Afghanistan can sustain a democracy is unimportant in the vast scheme of things. The important concept to grasp is that the country should not be left ungoverned and in a vacuum that supports terrorists.
01:14 December 27, 2009 by John Beck
Sometimes the west must be either blind or stupid when it tries to dictate its so called democracy, enlightenment and way of life. Sometime the best thing to do in such cases is do nothing and get the f**k out of there. Nature has a tendency to correct itself so let it do its job.
03:35 December 27, 2009 by Davey-jo
I say pull troops out of what is a local civil war and the little bleeders get on with it. It's hardly a NATO issue is it? Who cares in NATO who the mayor of Kabul is?

Leave now and let them get on with it. Then make a deal with the winner.
03:58 December 27, 2009 by Fredfeldman
Ha! You think the Taliban and Al Queda are a pain in the ass now with the occassional attempt to blow up an airliner? Wait till they have secured a whole country to operate from. The US and NATO aren't in Afghanistan just as a hobby, they know how much harder the war will be if Afghanistan is lost to the enemy. Some of you guys should try thinking before you write.
06:35 December 27, 2009 by John Beck
Unless you are willing to stay there for hundreds of years, generations after generation or maybe if you do an complete ethnic cleansing by eradicating every afghan person then I do not see a way for you to win. The problem is: you are not fighting people but rather an idealogy that has been egraved in the social, ethnic and clutural fabric of the afgan nation for years. Guess what, you should learn from your own history...
12:58 December 27, 2009 by Fredfeldman
Of course we'll all be there for generations just as we have been in Europe and Japan, where despite the bushido and samari culture they're become rather civilized, doncha think? The Afghans will learn, they just need to be told the facts of modern life in a way their primitive culture understands for a few years until they catch on as even Obama understood despite campaign claims to the contrary.
13:41 December 27, 2009 by Hagen
If the Russians couldn't subdue them, then nobody can.

Let us pull out but let us also ensure that no weapons are allowed to get into the country.

Let them work out their own way to go forward, these people hate being told what to do and they hate corrupt governments which they have now got.

There are enough people from Afghanistan living all over the world, send them all back to bring civilization to their own people, it's the only way !!
15:34 December 27, 2009 by Fredfeldman
>>If the Russians couldn't subdue them, then nobody can.Let us pull out but let us also ensure that no weapons are allowed to get into the country.

>Let them work out their own way to go forward, these people hate being told what to do and they hate corrupt governments which they have now got.
16:01 December 27, 2009 by Patriot001
The solution for Afganistan lies to the south in Pakistan. As long as Taliban can recruit, organise and plan in Pakistan, there won't be any permanent peace in Afganistan or for that matter anywhere in that region. Islamic fundamentalism has been used for decades by Pakistani military as a strategic weapon and millitants a strategic asset to counteract India after their disastrous defeat by Indians in 70s. The 'West' tapped into these pakistani assets in 80s in their war against Soviets. The whole mess in that area was much aggravated after US started funding and training the extremists, radicalising whole generations to fight the 'god less communists'. The long term solution for this problem may lie in offering special security arrangements to Pakistan to alleviate their fear against Indians and in return forcing them to destroy its 'militancy' assets. As long as rich Sheiks in Saudi have money to spend for Jihad and elements in ISI directly or indirectly provide training, and muslims feel they are treated unjust (like Palestine) there is no end for this war.
16:39 December 27, 2009 by mixxim
Can he defime democracy. The British have a PM who was not elected. The other European countries find their governments acting in an arbitrary manner, where is this wonderful but elusive ninerva?
17:08 December 27, 2009 by tlwinslow
He's right that Afghanistan's backward Muslim pop. is still mired in Quran-thumping fundamentalism and its commands to all govts. to submit to horrible Sharia. Instead of trying to create a suburb of Washington D.C. in Afghanistan complete with a statue of infidel George Washington, the U.S. should limit its occupation to its original goal of neutralizing al-Qaida, starting by negotiating with the Taliban to hand them over in return for a multi-billion-dollar reward and an immediate pullout. It would be nice to create a secular pro-Western govt. in Afghanistan, but Walt Disney is dead, so let's concentrate on fighting the war on terror. As 2010 dawns, it's sad that so many Westerners are still history ignoramuses when it comes to Islam, lulling them to sleep over the real threat that resurgent Islam is. Study it free online with the Historyscoper and do your mind a favor, http://go.to/islamhistory
17:59 December 27, 2009 by abemarch
Gutenberg is right. Finally someone has the courage to say what needs to be said, but that's the easy part. Making it happen is the hard part.

Russia was not the only country that failed in Afghanistan, the British failed also.
06:01 December 28, 2009 by Mike Logan
As an American, I find it very disturbing that some people like Fredfeldman say that we have stayed in Europe and Japan to make them civilized. Does that mean that before The Omaha beach days, Germany and Japan were uncivilized? Some people on this forum might find that a bit insulting. We (the so called west) all need to stop our arrogant policies toward the third world and start focusing on engaging the world on some equal and respectful grounds. Remember that if you think you win by killing one alleged terrorist in Afghanistan or anywhere else, another one, just as stubborn and even more radical, rises up from the ashes on our bombing. Let¦#39;s all, for our own sake, stop alienating the Muslim world and stop treating them like second class citizens and start talking to them like human beings. What goes around always comes around. Peace all…. And yes, let's get out of Afghanistan.
02:36 December 29, 2009 by wenddiver
Democracy's are always works in progress, they are never perfect. Afganistan is no more impossible than Germany or Japan was in 1945. In the end Democracy will prevail.
14:42 December 29, 2009 by Thames
Democracy? In the west it has become really another word for Plutocracy.

It is astounding that the so called democracies always know what is best for other people. The great democracies have been constantly at war for over two hundreed years "civilizing" the rest of the world. If we had not meddled so much in Afganistan maybe those people might at least have so sort of stable government now. Stable enough to at least bring the basics of life's necessities to that war torn land. The countrys currently civilizing Afganistan are so civilized that they plunged the world into two catotrosphic wars in just the last century killing more people than the Taliban could ever hope to. These great democratic statesman can't solve the problems in their own countries but arrogantly believe they can solve the problems in someone elses. I can say I know the answer for that country but what occupying them for the next 100 years is not the answer. And what has been done the last 150 years or so has not worked.
15:45 December 29, 2009 by pinnacle
Mr. Guttenberg has got it right. Little Rock, Arkansas
11:26 December 30, 2009 by Fredfeldman
Yes Mike Logan, facism whether in Europe, Japan or the middle east is a very uncivilized way to behave. ;-)
00:34 January 1, 2010 by danamcmahon
in the aqe where the most advanced science is air defense

and the pilot helmets are a cool million dollars each

we all seem not to understand the laws which are made to undo the civilized world.
16:18 January 2, 2010 by Frenemy
@danamcmahon:

now, now... a Formula 1 steering-wheel costs about the same :-)
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