Conservative luminaries bashing President Obama at the Southern Republican Leadership Conference have found an odd champion in Afghan President Hamid Karzai. Playing off the deteriorating relationship between Karzai and Obama, Republicans are adopting the age-old "an enemy of my enemy is my friend" strategy and staunchly defending the beleaguered president of Afghanistan. First Liz Cheney defended him. Now Sarah Palin has joined in, using her SRLC speech to attack Obama for "treat[ing] the Afghan president poorly." But the Center for New American Security's Andrew Exum offers a theory for Palin's Karzai defense. "It occured to me that it makes perfect sense that a former governor of Alaska would cheer for the president of Afghanistan. The two states are really quite similar." He lists three reasons:
- They are both home to spectacular natural beauty and mineral wealth.
- The political process in each is hopelessly corrupt.
- They are both rentier states. In 2004 and 2005, according to research done by this woman, fully 69% of Afghanistan's budget was externally financed. Those same years, Alaska suckled at the teat of the federal government more than any other state in the union on a per capita basis. ... My back of the envelope calculations suggest that Alaska received about $23.4b in federal aid during the same time period (2001-2009) in which Afghanistan was receiving approximately $37.7b in aid and development funding from the United States.
Exum then gives a breakdown of debate on the GOP's new pro-Karzai strategy: "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."