Tag Archives: afghanistan

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.

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.

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

Related posts:

A Reasonable End to the Afghanistan War

Last year, I wrote:

Liberals and the left need an Obama administration. Otherwise, it is unlikely that Americans will withdraw from Afghanistan.

As more people talk about leaving Afghanistan to its fate, its worth a second to look around and ask what an appropriate future for Afghanistan loosk like.

Afghanistan’s most important future partner is China.

Afghanistan’s most important future association is the Shanghai Cooperation Organization.

A reasonable goal for US efforts in Afghanistan is to allow it to become a functional member of the SCO, the club for natural resource suppliers of the People’s Republic of China.

The Anti-KMT Taiwanese Movement Goes off the Deep End

It is interesting to watch the anti-KMT, anti-CCP tendency in Taiwanese politics move from a coherent argument for self-determination (when they were in charge) to increasingly belligerent and angry.

In this excerpt, Michael Totten (who is normally great on the subject) has a guest post which, among other things, cites Edward Said:

For the colonizer, the role as a “civilizer” is implicit on defining the objects of their civilizing project Said 1979: 44-45. The resulting definitions must contain two exclusive, yet interrelated parts: A convincing demonstration of the people’s inferiority and the people’s ability to become “civilized” under colonial rule. By providing definitions for peripheral people, the civilizer provides the colonized with a set parameter of comparison with the colonizer and a reason they must become “civilized”Harrell 1996: 8-17.Often, the distance between the periphery and the center is imagined, not simply as physical space, but in terms of time. By projecting the “other” in terms of temporal displacement or “denial of coevalness”, the colonizer distances himself from the colonized Fabian 1983.

via The View from Taiwan: More on the ECFA Cartoons: Guest Post.

From Afghanistan to Taiwan, Chinese and American interests are rapidly converging. This is a good thing for those parties (such as the governments of Afghanistan and Taiwan) able to form friendships with both. For the often scattered and marginalized opposition, however, the Sino-American future presents real problems. As China and America are globalizing countries, it is no surprise that the opposition to Sino-American interests in both Afghanistan and Taiwan take up rhetoric that is skeptical of globalization and the west in general.

China, Russia, and Afghanistan

China is on our side in Afghanistan:

Foreign Policy: The Road to Kabul Runs Through Beijing and Tehran
Chinas long-term strategy is clear: It has become the largest investor in Afghanistan, developing highways to connect Iran and the giant Aynak copper mine south of Kabul. The Chinese have likewise financed the deep-water port at Gwadar on Pakistans Arabian Sea coast.

Russia, of course, is not. More from Democracy Arsenal, Duck of Minerva, Zenpundit, and of course tdaxp.

Putin’s priorities are clear

But then, he’s too busy turning the Nazis into the only legitimate opposition in Russia to fight the Taliban:

The Weekly Standard
While Obama deals with the assorted tax problems of his nominees, the world continues to turn. The AP reports that “Kyrgyzstan will no longer allow US to use airbase that supports military operations in Afghanistan.” This as the Kyrgyz president arrives in Moscow for a state visit the agenda for which is to include Russia forgiving Kyrgyzstan’s debt and providing nearly $2 billion in loans and new investments.

This presents an opportunity. Historically, politics in Afghanistan was split between Iran, India, and Russia supporting the multiethnic north, and Pakistan supporting the Pashtun south. If Russia is actively preventing support of the Afghan government (which is a very “northern” institution), we may seeing de facto between Russia and Pakistan in supporting the Pashtun south.

Which means an Indian-Iranian-American alliance in support of Afghanistan’s national government is possible.


I hope Barack Obama is paying attention!

The New Bad War

I’ve said several times that as the Iraq War winds down, leftists will begin to oppose the War in Afghanistan.  Their support of the “good war” serves mainly to oppose the central front of the war on terrorism, the place where America has invested the most resources and the most effort.  As soon as the Iraq War ends, they will begin to oppose the new central front.

Because the Surge has worked better than we expected, leftist opposition to the Afghani War is building faster than I expected.  British leftist writer Robert Fisk begins the effort to make us lose in Afghanistan, in his new editorial:

And Obama and McCain really think they’re going to win in Afghanistan – before, I suppose, rushing their soldiers back to Iraq when the Baghdad government collapses. What the British couldn’t do in the 19th century and what the Russians couldn’t do at the end of the 20th century, we’re going to achieve at the start of the 21 century, taking our terrible war into nuclear-armed Pakistan just for good measure. Fantasy again.

Joseph Conrad, who understood the powerlessness of powerful nations, would surely have made something of this. Yes, we have lost after we won in Afghanistan and now we will lose as we try to win again. Stuff happens.

Robert Fisk’s World: Why does the US think it can win in Afghanistan? – Robert Fisk, Commentators – The Independent.

Leftists oppose us winning because they want voices that oppose us to be heard.  This is true on nearly every front: they oppose us not because we are wrong, but because we are strong.

Not Cold, just processing a politically bankrupt state

Courtesy of Tom, this great news on US outreach to see what Muslim troubles Saudi Arabia can stir up within the decaying Russian Federation. Really, this is great news, and one of the countermeasures I suggested earlier. It seems that the Bush Administration is ably playing a double game, on one hand saying crazy things in an attempt for the Russians to save their own face, while at the same time decoupling our efforts from Putin’s petrothugs.

U.S., Saudi Arabia: Holding the Chechen Card | Stratfor
But after watching Russia’s recent power surge in Georgdia, the Saudis now share a common interest with Washington in keeping the Russians at bay. And with the Saudis now making roughly $1 billion a day on oil revenues, Riyadh has ample cash to spare to revive its links with Islamist militants in the Russian Federation.

Saudi support is not only limited to Chechnya, however. The republic of Tatarstan also is a prime candidate for a covert strategy that aims to inflame Russia’s Muslim minorities. This Muslim belt is key because it separates the ethnically Russian portions of Russia from sparsely populated Siberia and runs through all of Russia’s transport networks (road, rail and pipeline). If Tatarstan, which has become more independent in developing its vast oil wealth, revved up a resistance movement against Moscow, Russia would have no choice but to focus its efforts on quashing the rebellion at home rather than spreading its influence abroad.

There is no chance of a renewed Cold War with Russia, simply because Russia is unable to sustain a Cold War. People who believe in a new Cold War with Russia are guilty of legacy thinking. We are not dealing with the politically bankrupt Empire built on the blood of peasants on workers: rather, we are dealing with a politically bankrupt state that reminds us of nothing so much as a nuclear version of Saddam Hussein’s Iraq.

Some may object to helping Chechen, Dagestani, and Tartari “freedom fighters” because of the trouble it may cause in our war against terrorism in Afghanistan-Pakistan. However, we cannot let Pakistan’s civil war dictate our foreign policy. To do so would be to put the Pakistani ISI in charge of the State Department. The battle for the leadership of Pakistan between the army, the ISI, Islamists, socialists, and al Qaedais of no concern for us, except for making sure that al Qaeda loses.

Indeed, supporting Islamists parties in Chechnya, Dagestan, Tartarstan, and elsewhere in Russia may well help is in our battle to punish + destroy al Qaeda, by allowing us to more convincingly partner with “moderate” Islamists elsewhere in the world.