October 6, 2010

Kin Selection

From the New York Times, a good story about the extended family of the U.S.-installed President of Afghanistan:
... Of the seven sons of Abdul Ahad Karzai, a prominent Kandahar politician who lived in exile in Quetta, Pakistan, until his 1999 assassination by the Taliban, only one — Hamid Karzai — had never lived in the United States. By 2001, a generation of Karzais who had grown up in the United States and knew little of Afghanistan was emerging.

But after the American-led invasion of Afghanistan ousted the Taliban in 2001 and lifted Hamid Karzai from obscurity to the presidency, the family’s migration pattern reversed. Only one of his brothers, Abdul Wali Karzai, a biochemistry professor at Stony Brook University in New York, declined to go back home. Many others seized the opportunity. ...
WASHINGTON — Until recently, Taj Ayubi’s specialty was retail. Mr. Ayubi, an Afghan immigrant, ran a furniture store in Leesburg, Va., and before that, a thrift shop in Washington.

But today, Mr. Ayubi’s specialty is foreign policy. He is the senior foreign affairs adviser to the Afghan president, Hamid Karzai.

Among Mr. Ayubi’s qualifications for his post in Kabul are ties to President Karzai’s extended family. His sister is married to a Karzai, and her sons are now important junior members of the growing Karzai family network in Afghanistan.

In recent years, dozens of Karzai family members and close allies have taken government jobs, pursued business interests or worked as contractors to the United States government, allowing them to shape policy or financially benefit from it.

While the roles played by two of President Karzai’s brothers — Ahmed Wali Karzai, the power broker of Kandahar, and Mahmoud Karzai, a prominent businessman and investor in the troubled Kabul Bank — have been well documented, the extensive web of other family members has not previously been reported. Most of them lived in the United States before going to Afghanistan, leveraging the president’s position to put them at the center of a new oligarchy of powerful Afghan families.

... The family’s expanding presence serves both to strengthen and to undermine President Karzai, according to American and Afghan officials. Corruption allegations taint his government, and Afghans routinely accuse him of turning a blind eye to the activities of some of his relatives. ....

Ronald E. Neumann, the United States ambassador to Afghanistan from 2005 to 2007, said he believed that President Karzai intended to create a support network that could help him survive after the withdrawal of American troops, the same way that another Afghan president, Najibullah, survived for years after Soviet troops withdrew in 1989. “Karzai is convinced that we are going to abandon him,” Mr. Neumann said. “What’s his answer? To create a web of loyalties and militia commanders and corrupt families all knitted together.”

“This network,” he added, “is part of his survival mechanism.”

... “Family politics is part of the culture of this part of the world,” said Ahmed Rashid, a Pakistani author who has written extensively about Afghanistan. “Right now, Afghanistan is going through a phase of very primitive capital accumulation by the country’s leading families.”
... One Afghan Parliament member said family members exploited their connections to get in on favorable business ventures. “They have carte blanche to be partners with anyone they want to; it’s the unwritten law,” said the official, who asked not to be named for fear of retribution. “Anyone who wants to start a business and has problems becomes partners with them.” ...

With so many Karzais flooding back into the country, tensions and rivalries have emerged among them, according to several family members. Rateb Popal, for example, has been feuding with Mahmoud Karzai, and in interviews, Mr. Popal, who served a prison sentence in New York on drug-related charges in the 1990s, accused Mahmoud Karzai and the president of undermining his business deals.

One thing to keep in mind is that the Karzais are Pathans, who are notorious for their self-destructive individualistic rivalrousness even at the nuclear family level. Consider the Pathan proverb: When the floodwaters reach your chin, put your son beneath your feet. A famous phrase often associated with the Pathans is, of course: I against my brother, my brother and I against my cousin, we three against the world. That kind of thinking explains a lot about why Afghanistan is the way it is.

But the Karzais appear to be more like the rest of humanity in that their extended family is pretty good at working together for their mutual benefit. By Pathan standards, the Karzais are practically Rothschilds. Granted, when you have the U.S. Army and the CIA at your beck and call, you ought to be able to do pretty well for yourselves. But a lot of Pathan families, if granted the use of the World's Only Superpower as their personal piggy bank, would have, literally, gone to war with each other. So, the Karzais are clearly a cut above the Pathan norm.

I've noticed that a lot of the new immigrants in LA are rather like the Karzais: they're Caucasians from West Asia or Eastern Europe, and they're definitely not peasants. They are typically from Old Country political and/or mercantile elites. They remain plugged into complex multinational social structures that we poor dumb Americans can only begin to fathom.

19 comments:

Spearchucker McGee said...

This is why Steve is the funniest man in America

'Granted, when you have the U.S. Army and the CIA at your beck and call, you ought to be able to do pretty well for yourselves'
keep it real since 2001...

Anonymous said...

“Anyone who wants to start a business and has problems becomes partners with them.”

Sounds like Goodfellas:

"Now the guy's got Paulie as a partner. Any problems, he goes to Paulie. Trouble with a bill, he can go to Paulie. Trouble with the cops, deliveries, Tommy, he can call Paulie. But now the guy's got to come up with Paulie's money every week. No matter what. Business bad? F--k you, pay me. Oh, you had a fire? F--k you, pay me. The place got hit by lightning, huh? F--k you, pay me. Also, Paulie could do anything. Especially run up bills on the joint's credit. And why not? Nobody's gonna pay for it anyway. And as soon as the deliveries are made in the front door, you move the stuff out the back and sell it at a discount. You take a two hundred dollar case of booze and you sell it for a hundred. It doesn't matter. It's all profit. And then finally, when there's nothing left, when you can't borrow another buck from the bank or buy another case of booze, you bust the joint out. You light a match."

Anonymous said...

Lets just get out of Afghanistan.

agnostic said...

You'd think most people would know about the Pashtun level of ruthlessness from the showcase of one of their favorite sports, buzkashi, from the beginning of Rambo III:

Buzkashi

Shows how easily we forget what the lives of strategically unimportant people are like, no matter how vivid and cool their portrayal is in our pop culture.

Anonymous said...

I wonder for how the long the "World's Sole Superpower" will keep meddling in other countries' business and spending billions of their own Dollars when they have a public debt of eleven trillion Dollars, or 85% of it's GDP, the highest of any nation ever, and when it's economy is 90% consumption and financial services with no production to speak of. I wonder for how long the World will keep financing the wars and the enormous voraciousness of "The World's Sole Superpower" for consumer goods. The U.S is truly a paper tiger. It is as bankrupt as Russia in 1991 and makes the Weimar Republic wealthy comparison. It's basically a nation of pashtas that only consume and have the rest of the World work for them. Oh well, I guess you Americans can hold China hostage with your nuclear weapons - a creation of mostly European scientists, as well as the rockets used in theri deployment - and force them to give you for free the goods you need to keep your standard of living when they refuse to accept the worthless Dollar as payment. You could also do that to India so they will keep sending you the engineers you need to keep the little industry you still have producing when the broken U.S.A is no longer attractive to them.

Tarquinius Superbus said...

Off topic comment ahead:

Steve, I just got the book; however, I wonder why you don't have it for Kindle (or whatever electronic format)? The same goes for "200 Years Together," why doesn't his estate release it and bypass the old guard?

syon said...

Steve Sailer:"I've noticed that a lot of the new immigrants in LA are rather like the Karzais: they're Caucasians from West Asia or Eastern Europe, and they're definitely not peasants."

A minor point, Steve, but I really think that people should use Caucasoid instead of Caucasian, especially when they are referring to people from the Middle East/Central Asia. It's more precise, and it keeps people from thinking that you are talking about people from the Caucasus.

Mercer said...

" A famous phrase often associated with the Pathans is, of course: I against my brother, my brother and I against my cousin, we three against the world."

I have read the same phrase used to describe Arabs. It was used to explain why Israeli and Western armies beat Arabs. A large army needs effective cooperation among people who are not related.

wooops said...

syon said...
A minor point, Steve, but I really think that people should use Caucasoid instead of Caucasian...

how come they don't have Caucasoid in the porn search engines?

Wanderer said...

Of the seven sons of Abdul Ahad Karzai...only one — Hamid Karzai — had never lived in the United States.

"[From the 1980s till 2001,] Hamid Karzai lived in exile in Quetta, Pakistan. From there, Karzai worked to reinstate the former Afghan king, Zahir Shah." [-Wiki]

If he spent his youth in Afghanistan and his young-adulthood in Pakistan (also apparently a time in India), it's amazing how good at English he got. I'd always assumed his English ability comes from his having lived in the USA. It turns out that's just his six siblings!

Chicago said...

Regarding the commentator who wonders about what happens when the world will "refuse to accept the worthless dollar", well, that's partly what the permanent warfare state we happen to be is all about. It becomes dangerous for any country to think twice about accepting our dollars. War has a demonstrative effect. And don't even think about things like pegging oil to other currencies like the Euro, lest a leader wants to end up at the end of a rope like Saddam did.

Anonymous said...

@Wanderer, Hamid Karzai went to college in India, and most Indian colleges teach in English

Anonymous said...

An undeniable advantage of being the President's brother can be seen here; apparently you're not roughed up before ending on the wrong side of a crane.
I guess Karzai et al have had the good sense of purchasing this.

Bantam said...

It seems like James Michener's Caravans had been written last month.

Rohan Swee said...

It's basically a nation of pashtas that only consume and have the rest of the World work for them.

"Pashta"? Is that a cross between a pasha and a gangsta?

Works for me.

Anonymous said...

"I've noticed that a lot of the new immigrants in LA are rather like the Karzais: they're Caucasians from West Asia or Eastern Europe, and they're definitely not peasants. They are typically from Old Country political and/or mercantile elites. They remain plugged into complex multinational social structures that we poor dumb Americans can only begin to fathom."

So this is what it comes to: over a thousand years of the West struggling to fight its way free of the Eurasian eucumene, only to be sucked right back in thanks to globalism and Empire. I hope everyone likes their future as peasants because that's what your children have to look forward to if they aren't "plugged into complex multinational social structures".

Has to be said...

Steve, do you think that our political or mercantile elites are not plugged into "complex multinational social structures"?

Oh, I see. You meant dumb Americans.

David said...

>Oh well, I guess you Americans can hold China hostage with your nuclear weapons [...] and force [the Chinese] to give you for free the goods you need to keep your standard of living when they refuse to accept the worthless Dollar as payment.<

Had the same thought. A few years ago, someone wrote about what he called "China's nuclear option," meaning dropping the dollar. I imagined the POTUS writing a letter, "Dear China: You speak of your 'nuclear option.' In this connection, please remember that America, too, has a nuclear option."

bruce said...

Actually whoever heard of a Superpower which doesn't demand tribute?

This is not a Superpower of any sort we are familiar with from history. There lies the problem.