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Jonathan Russo Headshot

Frankenpuppets

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If one wants to see the real face of America's declining power abroad, look no further than Karzai's Afghanistan or Maliki's Iraq. Then compare those two postwar U.S.-installed governments to post-World War II Japan and Germany. After Allied victories, spilled blood and treasure we installed provisional governments that did what we told them. Germany and Japan had no independent voice; they were reconstructed in our image. While politically subservient, we revived and recreated their economies. This provided them with a framework for becoming global economic powerhouses.

After the end of the war, the idea of Germany and Japan having a government that ruled without our dictates would have been impossible to sell to the victorious Americans. In Japan we kept the emperor, but in a circumscribed role. We remade their institutions into more representative ones and even fostered the rights of women. In Germany, after an occupation government we finessed a relationship with Konrad Adenauer, who pretended to be independent while hewing Germany tightly to the Cold War Western alliance. He was the "Allies' Chancellor."

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Now we have two new postwar leaders whom we installed who have at every turn defied our needs and sabotaged our goals -- resulting in the loss of American lives. Our enemies must be laughing out loud. Compare our response to these Frankenleaders to Putin's response to his Ukraine challenge. He took no prisoners in solidifying Russian interests there, and this was with a somewhat democratically elected government; he did not have to invade to influence.

The latest outrage in an ongoing series is at Bagram Prison in Afghanistan. There, Karzai has just released Taliban fighters who have blood on their hands. It is yet one more straw in a bushel of actions that weakens the American effort there and renders the coalition partners' efforts meaningless. In Iraq too, Maliki has unwound most of the military successes on the ground and thrown the country back into chaos, opening the door even wider for Iranian Shiite influence.

These policy failures are traceable back to George W. Bush. They are also proof of Republican insanity over Benghazi. Just how trillions of dollars and thousands of lives were lost to install these two Frankenpuppets should be the real object of congressional investigations. The endless Benghazi fiasco investigations are a tiny backstreet sideshow compared to this world-class circus of incompetence.

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America's impotence is really on display here. It is sort of like the Serenity Prayer about changing what you can and understanding what you cannot. We really have little leverage over Russia's Putin, Iran's Rouhani, or Venezuela's Maduro. These leaders are not beholden to us in any tangible way. So influencing them to support our policies is hard, and the world understands that. Next in line would be leaders like Israel's Netanyahu. Given that we're the protector -- and in essence the guarantor -- of Israel's security, one would think that little daylight should be seen between Obama and Bibi. And while the two leaders have their differences, the two countries are deeply connected, if not actually joined at the hip. But Karzai and Maliki are only in the palaces they occupy because we put them there. As a payback for this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, you would think they would be a little grateful and compliant, not completely defiant.

In the old days, the Patrice Lumumba days, the CIA had a particular way of dealing with foreign leadership gone awry. Clearly it is not P.C. to act like that now. So is there anything that can be done to stem the losses that we are sure to sustain from both of these Frankenpuppets' continued defiance?

I don't have a handy answer, but something clearly has to be done. At the very least a summit of all the U.S. government military and intelligence branches should be convened to devise a proper response to Karzai and Maliki. Intense pressure, including the possibility of actively working to find and fund a political opposition, must be an option. It is unacceptable that these two can reverse the sacrifice of wars won at so much cost.