Continuing on the question of strategy and escalation in Afghanistan, over at NRO today John Derbyshire asks what the hell are we still doing there anyway? That’s a question a growing number of Americans are also asking. Obama doesn’t seem to have made up his mind exactly what we’re doing in Afghanistan either. So it’s worth considering.
Derb’s solution is to buy off the right people and get out. He’s an old school conservative, the “rubble don’t make trouble” brand of foreign policy. I’m with him in a broad sense, but the fact is that Afghanistan was pretty much rubble on 9/11 yet we got big trouble. Beyond that, having troops and aircraft stationed on either side of Iran is a huge bargaining chip. Just because Bush and Obama are afraid to play that chip doesn’t mean we should just give it up. And having some muscle near Pakistan to secure or destroy its nuclear arsenal if/when the meltdown comes is a plus as well.
On balance I think rubble between Iran and Pakistan would devolve into exactly what it was before. Which brings us back to the question of whether a military-based solution is even achievable. But what about rubble plus a truckload of greenbacks? Could we buy peace from the people of Afghanistan?
Per the CIA World Fact Book, there are roughly 29 million people in Afghanistan. To hell with buying the right people, let’s buy them all. Derb’s a demography bug – their median age is 17.6 and 44.5% of the population is 14 or under. Compare that to the US’s 36.7 and 20.2% – it’s a young country. Average GDP per capita is SEVEN HUNDRED DOLLARS. Seven hundred freakin’ dollars a year. Young, dumb, and poor. Where would porn producers be without that demographic? Some shady dude with a few hundred bucks can coax a Western girl into getting violated nine ways from Sunday – on film – but we can’t buy off dirt poor Afghanis?
For a paltry (at least in the age of Obama) $150 billion we can give every man, woman, and child in Afghanistan $5,000. That’s seven years worth of income in a lump sum. Think that would buy us some good will? Think young Afghanis would remember fondly the day America made their family rich? Just register you and your family with the government and walk out with your bonanza. In no time they’ll be so busy with cell phones and computers and TV and shopping the kids will have no use at all for jihad. Stewing over their parents’ refusal to buy them a PS3 instead of some imagined abuse at the hands of the Great Satan.
Oh, and rather than eradicating poppies we set shop and buy all their opium. Pharma companies need the raw material and it will keep it off the black market. Same deal – come in, register, get a premium price for your wares, and walk out with cash. Before you know it they’ll be too busy planning the annual harvest festival to fret over jihad. Sure, some of the baddies would profit from the deal, but it’s not like they aren’t cashing in on the opium trade now. Eventually we’d end up cutting them out of the equation completely and dealing directly with farmers. Would they bite the hand that feeds them?
There’s an old joke about an honest politician – once you buy him he stays bought. It would be a great bargain if we could be sure the Afghanis would stay bought. On the other hand, who’s going to come along with a better offer? Afghanistan’s a dump.
It could work. I’m all hawk, but protracted military conflicts without easily defined metrics for success put our soldiers in a position where they’ll eventually have fought and died…not in vain, because we’ve rolled up a shitload of AQ and Talibanis…without a realistic chance of conclusive victory. Considering the special circumstances of Afghanistan (9/11) and what we’ve invested so far, I want Obama to listen to his generals press forward in Afghanistan.
What victory will look like and if it can ever be achieved remain to be seen. In the meantime we stay in their backyard and continue sending as many jihadis to Allah as possible. Who knows, someday we may even fall ass backwards into OBL.