Yesterday’s papers reported on the talks between Bush and Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai, which were concluding with the requisite photo-ops. These diplomatic events are artfully choreographed dances: the American president has to suggest that the two countries are equal partners rather than an imperial state and its client regime; the visiting pol has to suggest some degree of independence for the folks back home while otherwise blessing the dependent relationship. Thus, Bush could say that Karzai “knows best about what’s taking place in his country, and of course, I’m willing to listen.” That’s our Bush, not only The Decider but also one heck of a listener. And Karzai (on CNN) had referred to Iran as a “helper” while not making a fuss about his country’s lack of sovereignty, say, in deciding whether US troops are allowed within its borders. The New York Times coverage included a front page above-the-fold shot of the two striding along as if equals hitting their stride together, and then this photo with a story that made it sound like they were having a thoughtful debate.
Two things strike me right away. One is Karzai’s gesture, which neatly reflects his ambivalent stance politically. Holding his hands in that manner can provide sophisticated inflection of a point in deliberative discussion, and it can also can be a sign of obeisance or supplication. The second thing I can’t help but notice is the grass–how green and lush it is. Everyone there is taking it for granted, but it’s so rich–and so far away from Afghanistan:
Photographs by Doug Mills/The New York Times, and the Senlis Council/Global Policy Forum