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Sarah_Chayes23 karma

Please read Zephyr Teachout's great book: Corruption in America. This is a wonderful question, because I would definitly put the U.S. on the continuum. I'm not saying corruption here is the equivalent of corruption in Nigeria or Bulgaria, but we are losing our grip on the type of public integrity the Founders invented our governing system to protect.

Sarah_Chayes22 karma

The Afghanistan situation was -- was, I emphasize -- quite easy, at least for the first 5-8 years. The government was on life-support. The U.S. (and the rest of the international community) held the IV bag. So assistance (financial and later military) could have been much more strictly conditioned on constructive behavior on the part of Afghan political leaders. That is what all the Afghans I spent time with thought the U.S. should do, and were stunned that we didn't. Somehow, we decided it would be a violation of Afghanistan's "sovereignty" if we "intervened" in this way. As though we weren't intervening as it was!

Of course the situation -- in terms of what an outside power can do -- is much more difficult where the leverage is less overwhelming. Still, many actions can be taken that will reduce the degree to which corruption is actively enabled by outside powers. How they talk to and about corrupt officials; invitations to fancy international gatherings; ceasing to use foreign assistance as a kind of pay-to-play deal for "access" to host government officials; where applicable asset-seizures and visa denials. But all of this should be implemented carefully, following a rigorous analysis of the structure and functioning of corrupt networks.

For citizens, the first thing to do is to organize a boycott on bribes. If everyone got together and refused to knuckle under together, it would make a difference. When scandalous news is revealed -- such as Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan's likely theft of $10-$20b. in oil revenues, citizens should get out and demonstrate!! Who do they think is going to clean this up for them?

Sarah_Chayes17 karma

Several great questions embedded in this single one.

First: the main security concern that I suggest emanates from Afghan corruption is the expansion of violent extremism. It's amazing that a country that was completely done with the Taliban when I first arrived in Dec. 2001 (and I'm talking Kandahar, their former heartland) could have become permeable to the militants again within about five years -- all because of people's indignation with government corruption. The Taliban are a cross-border phenomenon, destabilizing highly corrupt Pakistan as well as Afghanistan. And now it's pretty clear that ISIS is finding a foothold in that border territory. So there's a major regional security threat.

The second security threat is that of Afghanistan becoming a kind of hub for transnational criminal enterprises. Afghan banks -- which are either Ponzi schemes or drug money laundering outfits -- now possess SWIFT codes. Facilitation for transnational criminal superpowers, along with opium and heroin production and trafficking, may become Afghanistan's major industries in the years to come.

As for "types" of corruption, I'm actually not sure that is the most fruitful way to consider the issue. What I am seeing in Afghanistan and other countries I have researched -- Nigeria, Uzbekistan, the pre-Arab Spring regimes in Tunisia and Egypt, Bahrain, the Assad regime in Syria, not to mention Yanukovych's Ukraine, the Balkans, a number of Latin American countries, Bulgaria, etc., etc. -- is an integrated system. Cops on the street shake people down, but then pay a cut of the take up the line all the way to the minister of the interior. Meanwhile, the regime uses the police as its enforcement arm. Judges sell their decisions, and pay the justice minister. The tax authorities are wielded as implied punishment, allowing people to evade paying till the regime wants a piece of their action and they refuse. Then, here comes the audit. The agriculture department diverts water from your date palm trees unless you sell to the regime at a cut-rate price. The whole machinery of the state is bent to the purposes of enriching the kleptocratic network. It is that systemic structure that is most important...and that makes it a very difficult problem to solve, once it gets this bad.

Sarah_Chayes11 karma

I think the problem I am pinpointing goes beyond lack of economic opportunity. That phrase is somehow...neutral. In the countries I am looking at, the widespread belief is that the lack of econ. opportunity results from the illegal and unethical and abusive capture of revenues and opportunities by a network of corrupt political leaders and cronies. So there is humiliation and in-your-face injustice in this poisonous stew. Much more infuriating than poverty alone. So...worker collectives are a potential solution to part of the problem, but don't really get at the heart. And as soon as worker collectives or other types of efforts to withdraw from the corrupt political economy begin to...work, they will be targeted by the kleptocratic network.

Sarah_Chayes10 karma

I'm not sure I am qualified to answer this question, having never traveled to either Syria or Iraq. Thanks for asking, though.