• Germany's news in English
 

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 :-)
Today's headlines
At last, Germany has a new Top Model
Vanessa is over the moon. Photo:DPA

At last, Germany has a new Top Model

Everyone can breath easily again. Despite a delay of two weeks due to a bomb threat, Heidi Klum has finally been able to choose Germany’s next top model - a 19-year-old from her own home town. READ  

Steinmeier: corruption poisons football
Steinmeier had harsh words for FIFA. Photo:DPA

Steinmeier: corruption poisons football

Foreign minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said on Thursday that if world football can't clear up "poisonous" corruption, state bodies need to step in, amid a graft scandal engulfing governing body FIFA. READ  

Greece eclipses G7 meeting in Dresden
G7 finance ministers in Dresden. Photo: DPA

Greece eclipses G7 meeting in Dresden

Debt-wracked Greece's battle to hammer out a deal with its creditors dominated a meeting of finance ministers from the Group of Seven leading industrialized nations in Dresden on Thursday, with officials insisting much work still lay ahead. READ  

EU investigates Germany over airport security
Photo: DPA

EU investigates Germany over airport security

The European Commission said on Thursday that it had referred Germany to the EU Court of Justice for failing to regularly check up on its airport security measures at some airports. READ  

Germans want to keep their hands on cash
Germans still trust cash over other forms of payment. Photo: DPA

Germans want to keep their hands on cash

Confirming conservative stereotypes, Germans have come out strongly in favour of sticking to hard cash in conducting transactions, a survey published on Thursday showed. READ  

This week in history
Fassbinder: New German Film's Enfant Terrible
Rainer Fassbinder on set in 1977. Photo: DPA

Fassbinder: New German Film's Enfant Terrible

On Sunday May 31st, Rainer Weiner Fassbinder, one of the most influential German film directors, would have turned 70 - had it not been for his death at the age of 37 in 1982. The Local takes a look back at the life and work of the enfant terrible of New German Cinema. READ  

Cool caps reduce hair loss during chemo
Photo: DPA

Cool caps reduce hair loss during chemo

German scientists are trialling a special scalp-cooling cap which helps reduce hair loss for cancer patients going through chemotherapy. READ  

Industry: 'doped' growth boosting economy
A man assembling food processors in a Wuppertal factory. Photo: DPA

Industry: 'doped' growth boosting economy

The German Chambers of Commerce and Industry (DIHK) warned on Thursday that a fresh burst of economic confidence might be unfounded, even as they raised their growth projections for 2015. READ  

Slow-moving fighter jet blocks Autobahn traffic
A Eurofighter jet stopped up traffic on Thursday because it was so wide. Photo: DPA.

Slow-moving fighter jet blocks Autobahn traffic

A damaged Eurofighter plane being pulled by a truck along the autobahn was so wide that it blocked three lanes of traffic on its way to being repaired in Bavaria on Thursday, drawing the ire of fellow drivers. READ  

Right-wing leader suffers restaurant attack
AfD co-leader Frauke Petry. Photo: DPA

Right-wing leader suffers restaurant attack

Frauke Petry, co-leader of Alternative for Germany (AfD), was attacked by masked assailants while eating in a restaurant on Wednesday evening. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Travel
Why the train strike is bad for passengers and workers
National
Meet Germany's Eurovision hope
Business & Money
Is 2015 a new moment for jobsharing?
Features
How the LGBT rights movement was born in Germany
National
Why you don't make bomb jokes at the airport
National
Why Germany needs a little less tipple
National
Who Germans and Americans trust... and don't
Politics
What the UK election means for Germany
National
Why Germany is great for mums
Features
The Germans with GI dads
Five ways Germany falls short on gay rights
Travel
Giant tortoise found riding Munich rail
National
FCK CPS? A-OK with court
Politics
Opinion: Brexit's dangers for Germany
Features
Smart kids all want to work for BMW
National
Minister shows off top Denglisch
National
Germany's 'other genocide' in Africa
National
Arms firms get a 'must do better' mark on ethics
Sport
Bayern's anticlimactic 25th Bundesliga win
Politics
A Greek learning politics in Germany
Features
The battle of the "Gates of Berlin"
National
Germany's 'very poor' lobbying record
National
Germany's favourite baby names of 2014
Politics
Merkel's 15 years at the top of German politics
Travel
Lowest of the low: how woman exploited Germanwings crash
Features
Spice up asparagus season with The Local's serving suggestions
Sport
Football and the €30,000 firework
Technology
Why scientists oppose killer robots
National
'Cannibal cop' gets 8 years
National
Which city is Germany's worst for drivers?
Technology
Electrifying 'Ostalgia'
National
Cologne Cathedral returns from space
Pupils mourn lost classmates
National
Freed after 25 years on death row
Shutterstock
Sponsored Article
10 things you didn’t know about Zagreb (and why you should go)
Is your workload 'out of control'? You're not alone...
Sponsored Article
What expat parents should ask before choosing a school
Features
Paddy's Day, Berlin style
National
Why east Germans are happy to get it on on camera
National
Uplifting thoughts to get you through the last week of winter
National
What would you do with a 250-year-old pretzel?
National
Who wants the Olympics more - Hamburg or Berlin?
Features
Just why is the German flag Schwarz, Rot, Gold?
Business & Money
Getting German workers and bosses thinking positive
Latest news from The Local in Austria

More news from Austria at thelocal.at

Latest news from The Local in Switzerland

More news from Switzerland at thelocal.ch

Latest news from The Local in Denmark

More news from Denmark at thelocal.dk

Latest news from The Local in Spain

More news from Spain at thelocal.es

Latest news from The Local in France

More news from France at thelocal.fr

Latest news from The Local in Italy

More news from Italy at thelocal.it

Latest news from The Local in Norway

More news from Norway at thelocal.no

Latest news from The Local in Sweden

More news from Sweden at thelocal.se

6,698
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd