The Moment

5|11|10: Washington

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The Obama administration's realism was on display during Afghan President Hamid Karzai's visit to Washington. The American ambassador to Kabul once famously called Karzai "not an adequate strategic partner," but President Obama needs him more than ever as the U.S. expands the fight against the Taliban to their stronghold in Kandahar. Karzai's last Washington visit garnered him cold photo ops; this time he got big dinners hosted by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Vice President Joe Biden. But effective realism depends on knowing who you're dealing with. Karzai's half-brother Ahmed is the provincial ruler of Kandahar and allegedly profits from the drug trade, which in turn funds the Taliban. (Ahmed himself denies any ties to the narcotics business.) It's one thing to live with the Karzai brothers' shortcomings; it's another to appear ignorant when they act against U.S. interests. St. Bernard said, "See everything, disregard much, change a little." As the U.S. presses into Kandahar, it risks seeing little, disregarding much and changing nothing.