Amid all of the discussion about what we should do in Afghanistan, the issue of their recent presidential election, and upcoming run-off, must not be overlooked.
In the first election, the United States government had pinned all of its hopes on Hamid Karzai and the prospect of him winning an at least moderately fair and credible election. That clearly did not happen. The election was rigged; there was cheating, widespread fraud, and widespread abuse of the democratic process. There was no clear victor due to these serious issues and now the stage is set for a second election between Prime Minister Karzai and Abdullah Abdullah.
As the run-off approaches, the United States must be engaged to ensure it is a fair process. If the United States government does not stand for free elections, advocate for free elections, and commit itself to free elections, what then are we fighting for in Afghanistan?
Furthermore, the United Stated must also engage in outreach with Abdullah Abdullah, who is by all accounts pro-Western. He has made it clear that his own worldview is not necessarily adversarial to the interests of the United States. Indeed, in many ways, his views are aligned with those of the United States.
Hence, we should promote a fair and free election, in which we are working with both sides in the runoff, so that we can have a legitimately elected president of Afghanistan, who has the credibility and support of the Afghan people. Additionally, we must push for a political reconciliation between the sides, so that the resulting government is truly a reflection of the will of the Afghan people.
This is no small matter. Unless the government has some semblance of legitimacy, we will appear to be supporting an illegitimate government that is not supported by its own citizens. And it is very clear that our lead in this process should be Peter Galbraith, who was coldly and unfairly dismissed by election overseer Kai Eide, because he pushed too hard to make sure that the elections were free and fair.
Moreover, the United States government also should continue pushing for free and fair elections in Iran. It is good to negotiate with the Iranians and to trust the Russians to work with them to reprocess uranium up to the 20% level (beyond which the reprocessing of uranium can be used in nuclear weapons). But we also must make clear that we are not going to stand by idly and let the Iranians develop nuclear weapons and routinely reveal undisclosed test sites, while they claim to be afraid of premature disclosure by other Western government and intelligent services.
We need to put pressure on Iran. What better way to do it than to stand with the opposition that represents at least 50 percent, if not 70 percent, of the Iranian people? We must take a strong position in support of democracy, freedom and liberty.
The same can be seen in Honduras, where we have been slow to recognize the rulings of the Supreme Court and the legitimacy of the November 29 presidential election. We have singularly failed to recognize that President Zelaya was removed from office for violation of the Honduran Constitution. We should commit ourselves to the process that guarantees that interim-President Micheletti’s government supports the free elections in November with international supporters.
President Zelaya has been one of President Hugo Chavez’s strongest supporters, and has brought Honduras into the anti-American alliance with Chavez and the presidents of Ecuador and Bolivia. By standing up for democracy, freedom and liberty, we will be advancing our interests in Latin America, the Middle East and in Afghanistan.
This may sound merely like political posturing, but it is much more. Unless America stands for its values -- which goes beyond just demonstrating a willingness to talk, reach out and look noble -- we cede to stand with those who promote other values and provoke anti-American behavior.
The time has passed for platitudes and equivocation. The U.S. needs to stand for a clear assertion of freedom, liberty and democracy. The world needs our leadership -- now.
Douglas E. Schoen is a pollster and Fox News contributor.