I have little hope in the United Nations when it comes to issues of accountability abroad. That goes in spades when it comes to places like Afghanistan. Case in point: its firing of American diplomat Peter Galbraith. According to news reports, Galbraith had a falling out with a Norwegian diplomat, Kai Eide. It could have been a personal discord but probably it had more to do with Galbraith’s no-nonsense views on corruption and accountability, something the UN has a dismal track record on.
Between 2005 and 2007 I worked with Galbraith on dozens of stories when I was a staff writer at the Council on Foreign Relations. He was often ensconced in some New England hideaway but he is nothing if not passionate about foreign policy, especially as it relates to Iraqi Kurdistan. Galbraith is a sentimentalist and quick to correct what he perceives as lazy journalism or inaccuracies of those people whose causes he champions (i.e. the Kurds). He is anything but a company Yes Man.
But that is not what Afghanistan needs. It needs people like Richard Holbrooke and Peter Galbraith, diplomats with long track records, to deliver some tough love to that part of the world. Afghan leaders are taking international handouts and buying themselves villas abroad and doing next to nothing to help the Afghan people. Without knowing all the facts involved, my guess is that Galbraith was a bit too vocal about Kabul’s sham election last month and the UN would prefer somebody who carries a softer stick (read: somebody who will toe the company line— ballots, what ballots?—that all is hunky-dory over there). We need more folks over there like Joseph Biden, who had the decency to throw his napkin down in front of Hamid Karzai and storm out of a dinner last year (the president was dodging questions raised about corruption). If it were up to the UN, everyone in the room would have gone on eating politely in silence.