Category Archives: Central Asia

Reaction to “The Long Type of Time”

Lexington Green has closed the Afghanistan in 2050 roundtable, and given these reactions to my contribution, “The Long Type of Time

Dan tdaxp applied the XGW framework, and made what I found to be the most compelling statement in the RT, which I will paraphrase. Dan noted four timescales: short, medium, long and very long. The first is the realm of military action, the second of political action, the third of economic change, the fourth of cultural transformation. The 40 year time scale of the RT is beyond the scope of military or political action, but too short for cultural transformation. So, the answer to where Afghanistan will be in 40 years lies in the realm of economic development. This sphere is relatively resilient and resistant to the happenstances of human agency. Which means that the very great likelihood, assuming current trends continue, is that Afghanistan will be an economic satellite of China. That seems to me to be exactly right.

Thanks Lex!

Afghanistan in 2050: The Long Type of Time

The American victory in Afghanistan would be short lived, owing to the efforts of the progressives. The stable, secure, and democratic Afghanistan inaugurated by President Obama was soon undermined by activists to his left. The Karzai government was unable to acquire the weapon systems that it needed to defend itself, and was soon swept away in all but name. To this day, the Afghanistan War is a lesson of the hollowness of military victory when the enemy has already infiltrated the nation’s capital.
The Story of the United States, 1776-2026, Beck Academic Books.

American imperialism ran aground in Afghanistan, like it ran aground in Vietnam two generations before. Attempts by the globo-capitalists in the Obama Administration to subjugate the Afghan people quickly backfired, as popular movements swept across the countryside. Of course, given Afghanistan’s unique history, many of these movements garbed themselves in the robe of the religion that is native to the region. The enormous might of the military-industrial complex was once again unable to overcome the will of the people– both American and Afghani — for peace.
The American People: Triumphs and Tragedies, the Yearly Kos Press.

The Shanghai Economic Friendship Association was first formed as the Shanghai Five in 1996, as a way for China build friendships with our neighbors. The group was renamed the Shanghai Cooperation Organization after Uzbekistan joined, though Uzbekistan would not be the last new member! Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, Turkmenistan also soon wished to join, and the Shanghai Economic Friendship Association was born. The SEFA is now an “economic, monetary, and political union,” in which all members work together to harmonize their economics while avoiding conflict or misunderstandings. Peace-keepers from SEFA have proven critical for the prevention of conflict in Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, and other countries.
Asia: A Political Geography, Peking University Press.

“…we stayed a long, long time
to see you
to meet you
to see you
at last.”
– Sufjan Stevens, In the Devil’s Territory

There are several types of time. There is a short time, where events will begin after some action. In a short time, a man might buy a lottery ticket, and discovery that he is now rich. There is a medium time, where events will begin after a series of actions. A might cut up our credit cards, as a solution to his lottery addiction that will last a medium-amount of time, until he changes his mind and applies for new cards. There is a long time, in which a man’s medium time patterns keep repeating until something fundamentally changes. And there is a long, long time, after which it feels like the world has ended.

It is human nature to want all good things to being in a short time, and for bad things not till happen until a long, long time. In general, a more intelligent man will think more about what is good for a long time than a medium time, and a less intelligent man will think about what is good for a short time than a medium time.

The four types of time are relevant to understanding security. A battle can be won in a short time. Military solutions are short time solutions. Elections can be won in a medium time. Political solutions are medium time solutions. Wealth is built over a long time. Economic processes are long time processes. And the terrain changes of a long, long time. (There is human terrain and physical terrain, the former being more important than the latter.)

The four types of time can be understood through the xGW framework. In the xGW framework, violence is understood through one of six gradients. A 0GW conflict is a genocide, a war of people against people. A 1GW conflict is the the creation of a trained and armed class of fights. A 2GW conflict introduces capital as a substitute of labor, whether in the form of arrows or cannons. In a 3GW conflict the goal is no longer to destroy the enemy, but merely to disrupt his operations through formless fast transients. 4GW narrowly targets violence so that for most of the struggle the conflict is a political campaign aimed at splintering the opposition. 5GW focuses death even more closely, perhaps only on one individual, and may never be noticed at all.

The six gradients of conflict map onto the four types of time. 1GW, 2GW, and 3GW, falling within the traditional understanding of war, are clearly tactics made for winning in the short time. 4GW, falling within the traditional understanding of politics, is obviously a tactic meant for winning in the medium time. 5GW, as a method for silently creating social realities to force an enemy into doing as you wish, is naturally an economics-based approach. The gradients of war then circle around, as 0GW, a brute-force method of changing the human terrain, is a way of speeding of a change that normally would take a long-long time into a short-term solution.

This roundtable asks what Afghanistan will be like in 2050, forty years after these posts are written. Forty years is the difference between 1945 (when Emperor Hirohito of Japan surrendered to the Allies) and 1985 (three years before Emperor Hirohito would stop going to the Yasukuni Shrine, where some Japanese war-criminals are interred). Forty years is the difference between 1959 (two years after Deng Xiaoping was named being named General Secretary of the Chinese Communist Party ) and 1989 (when Deng Xiaoping ordered the crack-down against pro-democracy protestors in Tiananmen Square). Forty years is the difference between 1944, Menachem Begin’s declaration of revolt against Britain, and 1984, the year after Begin left office as the Prime Minister of Israel.

In other words, forty years is no long, long time at all.

Neither is forty years a short time, though. A problem that lasts forty years is too long to be solved by the military. And neither is it a medium time. A problem that lasts forty years is too long to be solved even by the politicians.

Forty years is definitely a long type of time. Forty years is ruled not by armies or politics or geography, but by economics. Therefore, in order to understand Afghanistan in 2050, we can dispose of wars and politics. Battles will be won and lost, deals will be made and broken. Unless there is unusually brilliant or unusually atrocious individuals in power, the results of these things even out over time. Likewise, we cannot expect any meaningful change to the terrain in only 40 years. The Hindu Kush and Pamir Mountains will still be there, and the people will still be Muslim.

The physical and human terrain of Afghanistan mean that the largest industries in Afghanistan will be natural resource extraction. This will be true for a long time, whether the optimistic projections of specific surveys come true or not. The physical and human terrain of Afghanistan’s neighbors mean that the largest market for Afghanistan’s extractive industries in China. This will also be true for a long time. Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and Turkmenistan are too small, Iran is an extractive supporter itself, and India is separated from Pakistan by inhospitable terrain — the Hindu Kush mountains and the Islamic Republic of Pakistan.

We will wait a long time to see Afghanistan in 2050. Fortunately, we already know the important outline of Afghanistan in 2050: in will be a natural resource exporting satellite of China. To the extent that U.S. strategy accounts for this fact, there will be less mayhem. To the extent it does not, there will be more. But absent unusually good or unusually atrocious leadership, this outcome is inevitable.

The Long Type of Time is part of the Afghanistan 2050 Roundtable. Be sure to also read The Exit Strategy Fantasy and Looking Back from 2050.

Roundtable: Afghanistan 2050

An upcoming blog roundtable will feature retrospective posts, and subsequent reactions, to Afghanistan in 2050. The distance between 2050 and now is 40 years, and as Lexington Green writes

40 years is the period from Fort Sumter to the Death of Victoria, from the Death of Victoria to Pearl Harbor, from Pearl Harbor to the inauguration of Ronald Reagan. It is a big chunk of history. It is enough time to gain perspective.

This exercise in informed and educated imagination is meant to help us gain intellectual distance from the drumbeat of day to day events, to understand the current situation in Afghanistan more clearly, to think-through the potential outcomes, and to consider the stakes which are in play in the longer run of history for America, for its military, for the region, and for the rest of the world.

I am excited to be a part of this upcoming roundtable, along with Mark Safranski, Shane Deichman, and others. I hope my own upcoming post, The Long Type of Time, will be considered a worthwhile contribution.

Oppose the Treaty of Copenhagen

When European politicians say “global warming,” they mean “Russia.”

And when American politicians say “global warming,” they mean “not enough bailouts.”

globalwarmingbailout

I oppose bailouts, and so I oppose the American justification for lying about global warming.

However, the European lie is a noble lie — it is a lie in favor of a greater good. Russia is a dangerous, warlike, central Asian power that regularly invades European democracies. We should oppose Russia.

But the Treaty of Copenhagen is not the best way to do it.

A better way to work against Russia is to support her neighbors.

In Europe, this means broadening the Alliance and deepening the Union.

In East Asia, this means encouraging the economic trends that are leading to a Chinese colonization of Outer Manchuria.

In Central Asia, this means winning in Afghanistan, and driving (pushing, airlifing, whatever) violent jihadists to Russia.

The Treaty of Copenhagen is fine for European countries. It allows them to take collective action against Russia. However, there are better ways for us to help than by signing on.

Russia and ClimateGate

Russia opposes the useful lie of global warming.

As I said (November 20, 2009)

When Europeans say global warming, they mean Russia. To Europeans, global warming is a noble lie that allows concerted action against Russia to be planned, discussed, and executed in the open. Not surprisingly, Russia is strongly against this fraud:

Climate change sceptics who have studied the emails allege that they provide “smoking gun” evidence that some of the climatologists colluded in manipulating data to support the widely held view that climate change is real and is being largely caused by the actions of mankind. So far the veracity of the emails has not been confirmed and the scientists involved have declined to comment on the story, which broke on a blog called The Air Vent.

The files, which in total amount to 61MB of data, were first uploaded onto a Russian server, before being widely mirrored across the internet. The emails were accompanied by the anonymous statement: “We feel that climate science is, in the current situation, too important to be kept under wraps. We hereby release a random selection of correspondence, code, and documents. Hopefully it will give some insight into the science and the people behind it.”

Hopefully, the European chattering classes will talk themselves into ignoring the pseudoscience they are selling to their own publics. The struggle against Russian aggression and backwardness is too important to let honesty and science get in the way.

And now (hat-tip to a faithful reader):

The server is believed to be used mainly by Tomsk State University, one of the leading academic institutions in Russia, and other scientific institutes.

Computer hackers in Tomsk have been used in the past by the Russian secret service (FSB) to shut websites which promote views disliked by Moscow.

Such arrangements provide the Russian government with plausible deniability while using so-called ‘hacker patriots’ to shut down websites.

The Climate Change Fraud

Surprising no one, the “evidence” for global warming is fraudulent, the product of organized deception mascerading as science

Hundreds of private emails and documents allegedly exchanged between some of the world’s leading climate scientists over the past 13 years have been stolen by hackers and leaked online, it emerged today.

The computer files were apparently accessed earlier this week from servers at the UK’s University of East Anglia’s Climate Research Unit, a world-renowned centre focused on the study of natural and anthropogenic climate change.

When Europeans say global warming, they mean Russia. To Europeans, global warming is a noble lie that allows concerted action against Russia to be planned, discussed, and executed in the open. Not surprisingly, Russia is strongly against this fraud:

Climate change sceptics who have studied the emails allege that they provide “smoking gun” evidence that some of the climatologists colluded in manipulating data to support the widely held view that climate change is real and is being largely caused by the actions of mankind. So far the veracity of the emails has not been confirmed and the scientists involved have declined to comment on the story, which broke on a blog called The Air Vent.

The files, which in total amount to 61MB of data, were first uploaded onto a Russian server, before being widely mirrored across the internet. The emails were accompanied by the anonymous statement: “We feel that climate science is, in the current situation, too important to be kept under wraps. We hereby release a random selection of correspondence, code, and documents. Hopefully it will give some insight into the science and the people behind it.”

Hopefully, the European chattering classes will talk themselves into ignoring the pseudoscience they are selling to their own publics. The struggle against Russian aggression and backwardness is too important to let honesty and science get in the way.

Toward a Guidepath for Afghanistan

Fear and Loathing in the Blogosphere is exactly right:

There is only one reason to stay in Afghanistan: to put Afghanistan on the glide path towards becoming a functioning member of the SCO. This is essential to our national security because expanding the Core and shrinking the Gap is imperative to our national security. We have to regionalize this conflict by making partners of China and India. And American troops have a key role to play in both protecting the population and training Afghan security forces in the mean time. And both of those jobs are manpower intensive.

The Shanghai Cooperation Organization is the best chance for peace and safety in Central Asia. And Afghanistan that is capable of becoming a functioning member of the SCO is an Afghanistan that is hostile to terrorism.

That requires more than “Staying the Course” or “Cut and Run” — it requires more than acting as an offshore balancer.

America can help build the future of Afghanistan.

America should surge troops into Afghanistan, defeat al Qaeda, defeat the Taliban as a “state within a state,” and put Afghanistan on the glidepath for membership in the SCO.

Seriously, Tom

During Russia’s invasion of Georgia, Tom insisted that he had a “Secret source” on the ground, highly credible, tell him things that were being suppressed by every major media outlet. In spite of this conspiracy, because of Tom’s inside connections, he knew the truth: Vladimir Putin was a world leader on par with Hu Jintao or George Bush, intervening in the lawless frontier to spread connectivity and establish modern rulesets.

When everything died out, the “Secret source” was revealed to be a thoroughly average reporter, whose reports (completely consistent with what everyone else had written) detailed the obvious: Russia invaded Georgia after a time of rising tension, which included the Russians violating Georgian airspace, and the Georgians shelling separatists who had been given Russian passports.

Let’s see some apologies
ARTICLE: Georgia Set Off War, Probe Finds, By Philip P. Pan, Washington Post, October 1, 2009
Ah, I can’t wait to hear all the bloggers’ mea culpas regarding the EU report on the start of the Russian-Georgian war.

Turns out we shouldn’t have all become Georgians then.

Once again, Tom is reporting news that everyone knew since August 9th, 2008. Catholicgauze reported it then. Duck of Minerva recapitulates it now.

When it comes to those who criticize Putin, Tom prefers terms like hysterics and freak-out. And indeed, there is a hysterical crowd that engages in cold-war thinking.

Such freak-outs seem limited to those in the oil services sector, though.

There’s more to life (and Russia) than Gazprom.

Review of “The Rebllion of Ronald Reagan: A History of the Cold War” by James Mann

Recently I finished The Rebllion of Ronald Reagan: A History of the Cold War by James Mann.

The Rebellion of Ronald Reagan is a history of Ronald Reagan’s diplomacy with Mikhail Gorbachev. As such, it is largely confined to Reagan’s second term, those incidents from late in Reagan’s first term — as well as some in the first Bush Administration, are mentioned. The book is not a chronological narrative, but rather four of them. The four sections of The Rebellion of Ronald Reagan focus on Reagan’s relationship with former President Richard Nixon, Regan’s relationship with author Suzanne Massie, the context of Reagan’s “tear down this wall” speech, and Reagan’s summits with Gorbachev.

Reagan and Nixon were contemporaries, though Reagan’s early life as a politician meant that he started behind Nixon’s position. Nonetheless, both men were deeply affected by early battles against American Communists. While Nixon worked on the House Unamerican Affairs Committee, Reagan was President of the Screen Actors Guild, and faced much more open Communist agitation and troublemaking. Both ultimately made peace with Communist governments in ways that were unexpected to the world, but consistent with long-held beliefs. Nixon was concerned about Soviet imperialism and the role of the Soviet Union as a large Eurasian land-power, and so was willing to support non-Soviet (but still totalitarian) forces on the rim of Eurasia, such as Maoist China. Reagan was hostile to totalitarianism, but not concerned about the mere presence of a large landpower that spanned Europe and Asia. Thus, Nixon would have been unlikely to make peace with the Soviet Union to the extent that Reagan did (and, together with Henry Kissinger, was highly critical of Reagan’s moves at the time). Likewise, Reagan’s concern with average human beings and hostility toward

totalitarianism would have made him more sympathetic to Breshnev’s Soviet Union than Mao’s China in the early 1970s.

Suzanne Massie wrote Land of the Firebird: The Beauty of Old Russia. She is also an active writer and speaker — indeed, she has a website. She served as an unofficial intermediary between Reagan and the Soviet leadership. James Mann does not mention if there were other such intermediaries. Massie’s main contribution was to personalize and humanize the situation of average Russians for President Reagan. Many of Regan’s senior aids were concerned of the extent to which Massie may have been influenced by the KGB. Eventually, they succeeded in limiting her access to the President.

The most important words of the famous line, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!,” where the first two. The United States had consistently criticized the Berlin Wall,

and regularly called for its demolition. However, the social context of Reagan’s 1987 speech was a rise in German nationalism. At the time of the speech, the United States had used its role as one of Four / Quadruple powers to assert sovereignty of Berlin, and prevent West Berlin’s mayor from visiting the east. At the same time, Soviet and American introduction of intermediate nuclear weapons in Europe lead to efforts by East Germany to work with West Germany to get rid of both sets of weapons. The German people and the East German government (though not the West German government) feared that the Soviet Union and NATO would be willing to wage a nuclear war if it could be limited to Germany.

Many American analysts felt that Soviet introduction of intermediate nuclear weapons was a mistake. When America introduced intermediate weapons as a response, these were much more tactically useful than soviet weapons. While any Soviet invasion of Europe that resorted to nuclear force would require missiles that would be launched from Soviet territory anyway, NATO intermediate weapons could be launched from Europe and hit the Soviet Union. Such weapons afforded America the possibility of maintaining territorial neutrality during a nuclear exchange between Western Europe and the Soviet Union, which would destroy both forces while leaving the United States the undisputed hegemon. In the Administration Reagan was relatively alone in viewing this outcome as unacceptable, and his diplomacy with Mikhail Gorbachev proceeded in spite of governmental hostility.

Mann argues that Reagan did not win the Cold War, but that he was not merely a lucky President, either. Rather, Reagan allowed Gorbachev to lose the Cold War in ways that other administrations would have been unable to. Reagan was the first President since Franklin Roosevelt who was not hostile to Soviet imperialism. Gorbachev was able to convince the Soviet power establishment not that the Union was economical disastrous (Which they knew before electing him), or that Moscow was on its way to being a third-rate power (which the Soviets realized organically as comparisons even war-torn Vietnam was somehow less “war torn” than Russia), but that the Party had a once-in-a-generation opportunity to turn things around without facing an American attack.

Unfortunately for Gorbachev, the only person who seemed to see the situation clearly was… Suzanne Massie. Massie emphasized to nearly everyone that there was no Soviet people, no Soviet society, and no Soviet sense of us-versus-them. There were only Russians, Ukrainians, Belarussians, Kazakhs, and others, all hostile to the foreign Internationalist occupation of their countries. On Christmas Day, 1991, Gorbachev resigned. The Soviet Union would not see 1992.

After reading The Rebellion of Ronald Reagan, the President reminded me of Mao Zedong. Like Mao, Reagan was able to brilliantly read his people, more comfortable in the poetics of politics than the details of policy, and deeply suspicious of formal structures. Also like Mao, Reagan disliked the formalities of the Presidency. Unlike Mao, of course, Reagan was not paranoid, and was not afflicted with totalitarian powers.

I have read every book James Mann has written. The Rebellion of Ronald Reagan reads as something of a prequel to Rise of the Vulcans: The History of Bush’s War Cabinet. However, Mann has also written two excellent books on American policy toward China: About Face and The China Fantasy. However, little reference is made to China, even in areas (geopolitics, the events of 1989) where it would would make sense of the narrative.

I enjoyed The Rebellion of Ronald Reagan. It gave me a three-dimensional view of President Reagan and Gorbachev, who existed more as shadows in my historical imagination. Highly recommended.

Afghanistan and Civl Wars

Catholicgauze has a thought provoking post up. Oftentimes, “Afghanistan cannot become Switzerland” is said as if it were unarguably true. Catholicgauze disagrees… in a way.

The collapse of the European peace-keeping function in the European Civil War (1914-1945) led to a flare-up of wars as local powers (including Japan, India, China, and Pakistan, in descending order of aggressiveness) began invading their neighbors and causing havoc.

While some bloggers applaud aggressive war and see it as the wave of the future, a real future worth creating depends on a world-wise peace-keeping superpower… at least until energy-exporting states no longer become war-exporting states.

While we wait for that better world, however, we can take small steps to win in Afghanistan. We must define victory in Afghanistan as functional membership in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, and keep in mind the real problems of Afghanistan and the region

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