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Afghanistan: Bad policy was good politics | TheHill – The Hill

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The Taliban are once again in control of Afghanistan. The U.S. has little to show for nearly 20 years of military involvement, trillions of dollars spent and over 2000 American lives lost.

The U.S. gave the Afghan government all the resources it needed to defeat the Taliban. The tragedy is that the U.S.’s willingness to give so much incentivized ousted Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and his predecessor, Hamid Karzai, to do so little. For them good politics meant bad policy. Insecurity and dependence on the U.S. gave them ample cash with which to buy political support. For Afghan leaders it was better to wager that no U.S. President would being willing to pull the plug on their watch. That gamble paid handsomely for 20 years and many in Washington argue that the cycle of dependence should have continued. 

The U.S. pumped over $116 billions of aid into Afghanistan since 2002. The $88 billion spent to train and equip the Afghan army that failed to stabilize the security situation. These numbers clearly support President BidenJoe BidenHenri downgraded to tropical depression as it dumps rain on northeast Britain to urge G7 leaders to consider adopting sanctions against Taliban: report Five lawmakers to watch ahead of key House budget vote MORE’s recent statement, : “We gave them every tool they could need. … We gave them every chance to determine their own future. What we could not provide them was the will to fight for that future.” 

The sad reality is that, in providing the means to make Afghanistan succeed, the U.S. took away all incentive to produce good policy. Rather than security and prosperity, the U.S. wealth allowed corruption to flourish and political elites to grow rich. Transparency International ranked Afghanistan as 165th worst of 180 nations in terms of corruption. With so much money flowing in and the international community providing so many services and so few checks on how our money was spent, the Ghani government could buy political loyalty through graft and corruption.  

Fixing Afghanistan’s security situation would have vastly improved the life of the average Afghan citizen, but it would have been a path to political ruin for its president. If the Ghani government had decisively defeated the Taliban, then the U.S. would have withdrawn its presence — and, with it, the money that made it so easy to buy domestic support at home. 

That’s what the U.S. gradually did in Egypt following the Camp David Agreement and in Pakistan after Osama Bin Laden was killed. Without foreign governments to pay their bills, the Afghan government would have had to breach the gap between tax revenue (8 percent of GDP) and government spending (24 percent of GDP). Balancing the books would mean cutting the bloated spending that bought the support of political cronies.

Ghani made himself dependent on the U.S. and that gave him leverage. If the U.S. tried to get Afghanistan to stand on its own two feet, then the Afghan government could be expected to allow the Taliban to get stronger. The U.S. response would then be more support. The U.S. put itself in a no-win situation where its partner could, but never would, deliver what it sought.

The U.S. went through the same dance with Pakistan in the hunt for Osama Bin Laden. The U.S. paid billions and Pakistan pretended to search but was careful never to actually find him. Bin Laden was of course eventually found by U.S. forces. He was living in a compound less than a mile from a military academy.

The rapidity with which the Afghan government collapsed should come as no surprise. In addition to military withdrawal the U.S. had sharply reduced aid: from $4.7 billions in 2019 to only $1.1 billion in 2020 and less than $200 million in 2021. With Ghani no longer a reliable source of graft, supporters had no reason to back him. Army commanders were then more interested in looking for their next meal ticket than fighting those likely to be in charge in the near future.

A similar desertion took place a decade ago in Egypt. With U.S. aid on the decline, other revenues dwindling and Mubarak ailing, staying loyal looked like a poor gamble. When protestors took to the streets the army chose to let the Arab Spring succeed. Afghan military commanders are no doubt hoping their futures will turn out as well as those of their compatriots in Egypt.  

Through its willingness to pump vast resources into Afghanistan, the U.S. put itself in an unwinnable situation. The Afghan government had no incentive to reform or defeat the Taliban. Such good policies would have been bad politics. Ghani lasted seven years, significantly longer than most political terms in office, and he left with a vast fortune. Allegedly the helicopter was not large enough to take all the cash!

For nearly 20 years, U.S. leaders maintained the fiction that victory was just around the corner rather than let the collapse occur on their watch. Biden called it correctly, “there is no chance that one year — one more year, five more years, or 20 more years of U.S. military boots on the ground would’ve made any difference.”

Policies such as U.S. support for Afghanistan or paying Pakistan to pretend to look for Bin Laden will continue to fail because U.S. policy is formulated in terms of what is best for a nation in trouble. We need to discard the rose-tinted glasses and recognize that giving assistance provides leaders with an incentive to perpetuate problems, not fix them.

Suppose instead the U.S. escrowed funds to be delivered only upon policy success. Afghan leaders might have focused more on security and less on graft. Likewise, Pakistani leaders might have handed over Bin Laden. Many leaders might still be reluctant to pursue good policies, but at least the U.S. won’t be rewarding them for bad behavior.

Alastair Smith, Ph.D., is the Bernhardt Denmark chair of International Politics are New York University and author of “The Dictator’s Handbook.”

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Politics Briefing: Quebec introduces legislation to ban pandemic-related protests near hospitals, other facilities – The Globe and Mail

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Hello,

Quebec’s Premier says he is taking a cautious approach to proceeding with legislation to outlaw COVID-19-related protests within 50 metres of hospitals, vaccination sites and testing centres, among other facilities.

“It’s never easy to say you cannot go on the street,” Premier François Legault told a news conference on Thursday, responding to a media question about why he had decided to proceed now with Bill 105.

The legislation, with details on prospective fines, was tabled Thursday by the province’s Public Security Minister Geneviève Guilbault in response to recent anti-vaccine protests outside such facilities.

“It’s not something that you can do every day. You have to be careful. We want to make sure that people will not win, trying to say that the law is unacceptable, and we cannot enforce it,” said Mr. Legault.

“We wanted to do it correctly and I think that also we need to have the support of all the other parties, and I think that it’s the right time.”

Provisions of the bill will cease to have effect when the public health emergency declared in March, 2020, ends.

More details on the legislation here.

This is the daily Politics Briefing newsletter, written by Ian Bailey. It is available exclusively to our digital subscribers. If you’re reading this on the web, subscribers can sign up for the Politics newsletter and more than 20 others on our newsletter signup page. Have any feedback? Let us know what you think.

ELECTION AFTERMATH:

TRUDEAU FACES CABINET CHALLENGES – Justin Trudeau will have to contend with the defeat of three female cabinet ministers as he crafts his senior leadership team in what’s expected to be a quick return to governing. Two senior government officials told The Globe and Mail Mr. Trudeau will outline his government’s next steps once Elections Canada has finalized the seat counts, which could be as early as Thursday. Story here.

QUESTIONS RAISED ABOUT O’TOOLE LEADERSHIP – In the first public challenge to Erin O’Toole from within his own ranks, a member of the Conservative Party’s national council says the Tory Leader should face an accelerated leadership review for “betraying” members during the election campaign.

LIMITED DIVERSITY IN TORY CAUCUS – CBC has crunched the the numbers, and concluded that the vast majority of the MPs making up the new Conservative caucus — nearly 95 per cent — are white, even as the country’s racial makeup is diversifying. Before this election, 9 per cent of Tory MPs were BIPOC. Story here,

LPC CANDIDATE ACCUSED OF TAKING RIVAL PAMPHLET – A Calgary resident says he has doorbell security camera footage showing Liberal candidate George Chahal, the night before the election, approach his house in the Calgary Skyview riding and remove an opponent’s campaign flyer before replacing it with one of his own. He posted the footage to Facebook, which has now received thousands of views. Story here.

FORMER LPC CANDIDATE TO SERVE AS INDEPENDENT – Kevin Vuong, who won the Toronto riding of Spadina-Fort York as a Liberal candidate, said he will serve as an Independent MP, days after his party said he will not sit as a member of the caucus. Story here.

TWITTER BERNIER BAN – Twitter restricted People’s Party of Canada Leader Maxime Bernier’s account, preventing him from posting any new messages for 12 hours after he used the platform to encourage his supporters to “play dirty” with journalists covering his campaign. From CBC. Story here.

MEANWHILE:

KENNEY FENDS OFF LEADERSHIP CHALLENGE – Jason Kenney appears to have quelled another challenge from within his own caucus. A non-confidence vote against the Alberta Premier was withdrawn on Wednesday, but he committed to an earlier-than-planned leadership review, to be held well in advance of Alberta’s 2023 general election. Don Braid of The Calgary Herald writes here on how Mr. Kenney survived this fight against his leadership.

NEW CHARGES AGAINST FORMER SNC-LAVALIN EXECS – SNC-Lavalin Group Inc. and two of its former executives are facing new criminal charges related to a bridge contract in Montreal nearly 20 years ago, plunging the Canadian engineering giant into another legal maelstrom as it tries to rebuild its business after years of crisis. Story here.

FORD LOOKING FOR CHILDCARE DEAL – Ontario Premier Doug Ford says he wants to make a child-care deal with the federal government. The province has acknowledged it was in discussions with Ottawa about a potential agreement into the last hours before the federal election was called in August.

PRIME MINISTER’S DAY

“Private meetings,” according to an advisory from the Prime Minister’s Office.

LEADERS

No schedules released for party leaders.

OPINION

Andrew Coyne (The Globe and Mail) on whether this is the end of majority governments in Canada:But in Canada, for one reason or another, the grip of two-party politics has been broken – irrevocably, it seems. As a result, something else that is not supposed to happen under first past the post has been happening, with remarkable frequency: minority governments. This is not just the second straight federal election to produce a Parliament without a majority party: it is the fifth in the past seven, 11th in the past 22.”

Lawrence Martin (The Globe and Mail) on why, if any federal leader should be stepping down, it’s the likeable Jagmeet Singh: ‘Strange business, politics. While a bit short of a majority, Justin Trudeau wins a third successive election by a large margin in the seat count. Yet some critics say he should be put out to pasture. NDP leader Jagmeet Singh suffered a drubbing in the 2019 election, losing almost half his party’s seats. With much higher expectations, he did badly again in Monday’s vote, electing (pending mail-in vote counts) only one more member. Yet hardly anyone says a word.”

Robyn Urback (The Globe and Mail) on why the knives are out for Erin O’Toole, but not Jagmeet Singh: “Theoretically, Mr. O’Toole and NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh should be in the same boat. Both failed to channel national frustration over a pandemic election call and turn it into material support; both delivered underwhelming results. But Mr. Singh, who led a campaign that saw the party claim 25 seats as of this writing – just one more than it held before – doesn’t appear to be in immediate jeopardy of losing his job. The saga of former NDP leader Tom Mulcair, who was turfed by his party when the NDP won 44 seats in 2015 (that is, about 75 per cent better than it did on Monday), offers an explanation for why.”

Jen Gerson (Maclean’s) on why Tories should not “do that stupid thing” they’re thinking of doing: “If you dump your affable, moderate, centrist leader at the first opportunity because he didn’t crack the 905 on his first try, and you replace him with someone who will chase Maxime Bernier’s vanishing social movement like a labradoodle running after the wheels of a mail truck, you will wind up confirming every extant fear and stereotype this crowd already holds about you and your party.”

Steve Paikin (TVO) on advice for Justin Trudeau, inspired by the political experiences of former Ontario premier Bill Davis: I think if Davis were still alive, he’d tell the current Prime Minister: “A lot of people are underestimating you right now. They think you’re damaged because you called this snap election, and it didn’t work out as you’d hoped. Well, I’ve been there. My advice, Prime Minister, is to reach out. Be more collegial and less ideological and adversarial. Establish a good working relationship with your opponents.”

Send along your political questions and we will look at getting answers to run in this newsletter. It’s not possible to answer each one personally. Questions and answers will be edited for length and clarity.

Got a news tip that you’d like us to look into? E-mail us at tips@globeandmail.com. Need to share documents securely? Reach out via SecureDrop

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Japan’s ruling party puts legacy of Abenomics in focus.

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Japan’s widening wealth gap has emerged as a key issue in a ruling party leadership contest that will decide who becomes the next prime minister, with candidates forced to reassess the legacy of former premier Shinzo Abe’s “Abenomics” policies.

Under Abenomics, a mix of expansionary fiscal and monetary policies and a growth strategy deployed by Abe in 2013, share prices and corporate profits boomed, but a government survey published earlier this year showed households hardly benefited.

Mindful of the flaws of Abenomics, frontrunners in the Liberal Democratic Party’s leadership race – vaccination minister Taro Kono and former foreign minister Fumio Kishida – have pledged to focus more on boosting household wealth.

“What’s important is to deliver the benefits of economic growth to a wider population,” Kishida said on Thursday. “We must create a virtual cycle of growth and distribution.”

But the candidates are thin on details over how to do this with Japan’s economic policy toolkit depleted by years of massive monetary and fiscal stimulus.

Kono calls for rewarding companies that boost wages with a cut in corporate tax, while Kishida wants to expand Japan’s middle class with targeted payouts to low-income households.

The winner of the LDP leadership vote on Sept. 29 is assured of becoming Japan’s next prime minister because of the party’s parliamentary majority. Two women – Sanae Takaichi, 60, a former internal affairs minister, and Seiko Noda, 61, a former minister for gender equality – are the other candidates in a four-way race.

Parliament is expected to convene on Oct. 4 to vote for a successor to Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, who announced his decision to quit less than a year after taking over from Abe.

A government survey, conducted once every five years and released in February, has drawn increasing attention to trends in inequality during Abe’s time.

Shigeto Nagai, head of Japan economics at Oxford Economics, said the survey revealed “the stark failure of Abenomics to boost household wealth through asset price growth.”

Average wealth among households fell by 3.5% from 2014 to 2019 with only the top 10% wealthiest enjoying an increase, according to a survey conducted once every five years.

Japanese households’ traditional aversion to risk meant they did not benefit from the stock market rally, with the balance of their financial assets down 8.1% in the five years from 2014, the survey showed.

“We think the new premier will need to consider the failures of Abenomics and recognize the myth that reflation policies relying on aggressive monetary easing will not solve all Japan’s problems without tackling endemic structural issues,” Nagai said.

Bank of Japan Governor Haruhiko Kuroda defended Abenomics and said the pandemic, not slow wage growth, was mainly to blame for sluggish consumption.

“Unlike in the United States and Europe, Japanese firms protected jobs even when the pandemic hit,” Kuroda said when asked why the trickle-down to households has been weak.

“Wage growth has been fairly modest, but that’s not the main reason consumption is weak,” he told a briefing on Wednesday. “As the pandemic subsides, consumption will likely strengthen.”

 

(Reporting by Leika Kihara; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)

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Politics Podcast: FiveThirtyEight Goes To Canada And Germany – FiveThirtyEight

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FiveThirtyEight

 

On Monday, Canadians granted Justin Trudeau a third term as Prime Minister but did not give his party a majority in Parliament. Germany will have an election on Sunday to determine who will be the next Chancellor now that Angela Merkel is stepping down after sixteen years in power. In this installment of the Politics podcast, polling analyst and writer at The Writ, Éric Grenier along with FiveThirtyEight’s Kaleigh Rogers come on to discuss the outcome of the Canadian election. Later, Politico Intelligence Analyst and co-founder of Poll of Polls Cornelius Hirsch and Berlin-based journalist and Politico Europe contributor Emily Schultheis join to talk about how the race is playing out in Germany.

You can listen to the episode by clicking the “play” button in the audio player above or by downloading it in iTunes, the ESPN App or your favorite podcast platform. If you are new to podcasts, learn how to listen.

The FiveThirtyEight Politics podcast is recorded Mondays and Thursdays. Help new listeners discover the show by leaving us a rating and review on iTunes. Have a comment, question or suggestion for “good polling vs. bad polling”? Get in touch by email, on Twitter or in the comments.


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