Monday, June 14, 2010

A Double-Edged Sword in Afghanistan

It is unclear what will come of the news that the U.S. has identified vast deposits of minerals in Afghanistan. The article stresses the huge potential (and upside) of this discovery, but it is clearly a double-edged sword. To be fair, the article points this out in terms of Afghanistan's infamous corruption, but it only indirectly hints at potential U.S. ambitions and greed--think US based multinational corporations. Surely there will be conspiracy theories that these riches are why we went to Afghanistan and while these can easily be rebutted, they are prophetic in the sense that we will be tempted to extend our time there--thinking that we have earned the opportunity to gain from these mines and that our departure would allow China to become the dominant player and beneficiary. We may even think we are defending our interests and those of the Afghanis. It may be though that China's interest could overlap with our interests. Might not it be possible to welcome the Chinese as partners in stabilizing Afghanistan and the region? If the deposits are nearly as large as anticipated and if the Afghanis need as much assistance as expected, then surely there's enough work and wealth to go around. Then again it is easy to imagine the allure of vast riches only worsening the corruption, mistrust, and the fighting.

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