Oh, and by the way, if you think using leverage to affect the political choices made by the Afghan leadership is not a good thing right now, then you are a) Liz Cheney, b) Sarah Palin, c) a blithering idiot or d) some combination of the previous options.
Well, then I suppose I'll take "c) blithering idiot" for $1,000, Andrew.
However, keeping my blithering idiocy in mind, I wonder if Exum could perhaps clarify what he means by "using leverage." I don't think anyone - not even Governor Palin, for that matter - is arguing that Karzai should be exempt from any and all forms of diplomatic pressure. What she and other critics of the Obama administration's handling of Karzai seem to be taking exception to is the very public belittling of the man.
Larison suggests that Karzai's latter-day defenders are simply adding this to a continuum of mostly hollow attacks on Obama's foreign policy. I'm sympathetic to this argument, and he's probably right, but so what? Obviously, the president is going to make policy mistakes, and if your fallback position is to simply attack everything that he does, eventually, you're going to get one right! Blind squirrel ---> nut.
But if the United States is truly invested in securing and nurturing Afghanistan's fragile young democracy, what then is the point in publicly humiliating the democratically elected-ish leader of said investment? There's nothing wrong with pressuring Karzai behind closed doors; publicly equivocating when asked if Karzai is even a U.S. ally is another matter entirely.
If he is an ally, well then the answer should be simple. If he isn't, then what the hell are we doing in Afghanistan? As a critic of the Afghan surge, Karzai's legitimacy never really mattered as much to me as did eradicating al-Qaeda's presence in the region - and we're doing that. Exum, on the other hand, supports a prolonged military presence in Afghanistan, and yet, for some reason, also supports publicly undermining the democratically elected-ish leader of the country.
American legitimacy in Afghanistan is pegged to the legitimacy of Karzai and the Afghan government. Should it come as a surprise then when Karzai chooses to do photo ops with Ahmadinejad and, even more absurdly, threatens to join the Taliban after Washington publicly exposes him to be a contrivance or puppet of the West? Such marching orders place him in a rather untenable spot, no?
I don't know the answers to all of these questions, but I'm just a blithering idiot . . . or perhaps Liz Cheney. Is it too late to change my answer?