Recent elections in Iran and Afghanistan have one very important thing in common: very strong evidence of fraud. This should not be very surprising, but it should give pause in that some areas of both countries saw turnout greater than the actual number of voters. While Iran does not put up too much of a democratic front, the idea that even what small choice Iranians had was taken away is nonetheless very disheartening. Not much can be done about the Iranian case by the U.S., even though Iranians themselves have taken to the streets in protest of what has been seen as a stolen election.

Afghanistan, on the other hand, has received billions of dollars in aid and Karzai has received large amounts of military support as well. This does not bode well going forward in state-building. It weakens the American argument that democracy and elections build states. Afghanistan has had at least two national elections since the American invasion of late 2001, and it has been regarded as one of the most corrupt countries in the world today. Bribery and kickbacks run rampant, and that is in addition to the fact that the Karzai government fails to truly rule much more than the capital, Kabul.

To complicate matters, Americans are slowly losing faith in the outcome and increasingly questioning the actual mission there. President Obama has stated a willingness to commit more troops to Afghanistan. These new fraud allegations make an already difficult mission even more so in that it creates the appearance that the US is continually supporting corrupt leaders that support American interests.

No election is perfect and discrepancies will always surface, but it is important to remember that such systematic efforts to create desired outcomes are the antithesis of what democracy is all about. The U.S. has weathered the Iranian election relatively well in that it has maintained a low profile. How the U.S. proceeds in Afghanistan will be much more telling of just how much is invested in Afghanistan’s development itself and how much is simply in having Karzai remain in power. History tells us all an interesting story, hopefully the US has learned and from it and takes a longer term view this time.

Written by Dan Logue