July 2, 2010

The Power of Buried Treasure

Justin Katz

By now perhaps you've heard this intriguing news:

Geologists have known for decades that Afghanistan has vast mineral wealth, but a U.S. Department of Defense briefing this week put a startling price tag on the country's reserves of iron, copper, cobalt, gold and other prized minerals: at least $908 billion.

If impoverished Afghanistan is seen as having a bright economic future, that could help foreign governments persuade their war-fatigued publics that securing the country is worth the fight and loss of troops. It also could give Afghans hope, U.S. officials say.

Generally speaking, such a possibility could yield two results: residents of the country could see it as a golden ring for which to reach through an end to in-fighting and cooperation with foreign nations and companies capable of teaching Afghanistan to capitalize on its resources, or influential native forces could decide that they'll increase their take if they pursue the sort of tribal dominance that has characterized the region's society.

Which result obtains will probably have more to do with the people of that country than those leading our own, but it seems to me that this sort of approach will squander whatever influence we have:

The Obama administration reaffirmed Sunday that it will begin pulling U.S. troops out of Afghanistan next summer, despite reservations among top generals that absolute deadlines are a mistake.

President Barack Obama's chief of staff said an announced plan to begin bringing forces home in July 2011 still holds.

If the message from our government is that we will stay in Afghanistan until the society is secure and leaders are working comfortably with the West &151; even (maybe especially) if the perception is that we're after the buried treasure — then terrorists and warlords perpetuating disruption will have reason to calculate a benefit to themselves if they cooperate, rather than face extinction at our hands. If the message from our government is that we really don't want to be there and will jump at politically sufficient excuses to flee, then the disruptive forces in Afghanistan will be more likely to look for strategies (and foreign allies) who will help them take control and then exploit the resources for themselves.

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Glad to see the veneer about Democracy is off with your admission that this is all about the plunder associated with empire. If only the west can teach those "silent, sullen peoples" of Afghanistan can learn to capitalize on its resources! This is serious tripe even for this blog, which can be expected to readily parrot Pentagon talking points.

See a lovely debunking of this "news" here...
The Pentagon’s Afghan Mineral Hype

"What is it men cannot be made to believe!" (Dan will just have to look that one up).

Posted by: Russ at July 2, 2010 2:27 PM

Wow-you never miss achance to dump on your country,do you?
I guess you have a superior sense of justice,right?
Never a peep from you about "human rights"abuses in Iran.I mean they're just good "anti-Zionists" aren't they?
Your "veneer" is beginning to wear pretty thin.

Posted by: joe bernstein at July 2, 2010 2:49 PM

Suffice it to say Justin has absolutely no understanding of Pashtun culture of Afghan society.

These tribes have 3,000 year old traditions, most all of which are foreign to our way of thinking....

They will not "come around" to our way of thinking any more than we will "come around" to theirs.

As if on cue, GOP Chairman Steele - who Andrew praising in another thread here - today said to GET OUT of Afghanistan.....
"'The One Thing You Don't Do Is Engage In A Land War In Afghanistan'

Of course, the reaction is swift....

Justin, are you that blind that you cannot understand that every society does not bow down to outside power?

Posted by: Stuart at July 2, 2010 4:18 PM

William Kristol-barf-is a grinning turd with the attitude of "let's you and him fight".
He wouldn't get any closer to a combat zone than aa few thousand miles.
He can make me change the channel quicker than a remote.
They oughta use Kristol to look for land mines.

Posted by: joe bernstein at July 3, 2010 12:59 AM

"could help foreign governments persuade their war-fatigued publics that securing the country is worth the fight and loss of troops"

... Well, on the one hand, I disagree with this author: not one American soldier is worth securing another country's natural resources, no matter how rich. But I do agree with Justin: this could be a powerful cohesive force within and among Afghanistan's intra-hostile factions.

Posted by: Monique at July 3, 2010 8:02 AM


The point — the body between your two "other hands" — is that securing Afghanistan's resources is not the objective; it's a step. In helping the other nation to secure and access its own resources for its own benefit, we can decrease its willingness to cultivate a terroristic subculture.

The trade-off isn't lucre for lives. It's American lives taken in voluntary warfare balanced against a potentially much greater number of American lives taken while engaged in the simple acts of living and working — that is, doing such things as define and advance our society.

Posted by: Justin Katz at July 3, 2010 8:24 AM

The Wahhabist version of Islam represented by the Taliban has maybe a 30-year legacy in Afghanistan having been brought the by outside power as part of the response to the Soviet invasion in the 1970s-1980s; actual Islamic traditions of Afghanistan established over centuries prior are much more diverse. But once Stuart knows that a movement which is trying to take control of a country has a totalitarian nature, even a movement funded and supported from outside, he's ready to declare that it musn't be interfered with!

Posted by: Andrew at July 3, 2010 11:30 AM

Justin, I expressed myself badly. I was responding to the concept in a vacuum that the tapping of a country's natural wealth justifies the loss of another country's troops.

This is not at all the reason that the United States invaded Afghanistan. The continued existence of that country's government, the Taliban, which hosted al Qaeda and was its political arm, clearly posed a danger to the safety of the United States and its people.

Now, if Afghanistan's natural resources facilitate a speedier return of US troops, that would be a good thing.

Posted by: Monique at July 4, 2010 10:43 AM

If history is any guide, those resources will result in more bloodshed.

As to the Talibs, they are the descendants of the people we financed against the Soviets...the sons of the Muhajadeen.

Every single American and Nato general and lawmaker has stated that there is ZERO chance of "getting rid" of the Taliban since it is a grass roots movement. It is the people.....financed and armed by Pakistan (our ally).

As a friend of mine who was in Vietnam often says "if you find yourself in a foreign land with villagers taking pot shots at you, it's time to think".

It is simply hubris which allows us to think we can "win". We can't. It won't happen. The result has nothing to do with what I think....it is simply that they are ready to die - each and every one - and that they are supported by quite a high percentage of the population. We'd have to send a million or more troops and have unlimited time and money to prevail, and even that would not be pretty.

I'm ready to be proven wrong. Time will tell. But thumping on my (or Andrews) chest will not make an iota of difference.

In terms of money - for the eventual cost of these wars to our treasury and society, we could have given each Afghan family about 1/2 million dollars, enough for them (in that country) to live happily ever after.

But, that puts no money in the hands of defense contractors and American corporations.......

To think that some minerals buried in the ground will do more is pure folly.

Posted by: Stuart at July 4, 2010 12:58 PM

Quoting Cormac McCarthy;"This a real mess,sheriff.Well,if it ain't it'll do til the mess gets here".
Bleak outlook.
Having been in a real mess a long time ago,I'm not trying to be glib.

Posted by: joe bernstein at July 4, 2010 5:30 PM

Monique and Justin playing tennis from the same side of the net.

Posted by: OldTimeLefty at July 5, 2010 11:20 AM
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