A Philosopher's Blog

The Future of Afghanistan

Posted in Politics by Michael LaBossiere on November 12, 2012
A Hospital Corpsman attached to the 3rd Battal...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

While there is still a war in Afghanistan, it does not get very much attention from the media or the public. The current plan is for the United States and other nations to withdraw from Afghanistan in 2014. What happens after then is, of course, a matter of some concern.

Looking back on the long history of the region, the prospects for the country (to use the term somewhat loosely)do not seem to be very good, at least in terms of a functional nation emerging.

The chances of Afghanistan becoming a functional nation depends on the capability of the central government to exert authority over the country. This can be done in two ways, which were discussed by Thomas Hobbes in his classic work.

Thomas Hobbes notes that “Fellowes are gotten either by constraint, or by consent; By Constraint, when after fight the Conqueror makes the conquered serve him either through feare of death, or by laying fetters on him: By consent, when men enter into society to helpe each other, both parties consenting without any constraint.”

In terms of compulsion, even with the military might of the United States and its allies the government of Afghanistan has been unable to maintain complete control over the country. When these forces leave the government forces will be on their own. In order to predict what will happen, one must consider the likelihood that these forces will be able to not only completely replace the departing forces but also do a better job at maintaining order. This seems to be unlikely.

While the government of Afghanistan will most likely lack the power to compel those who oppose it, there is the alternative of acquiring consent. That is, getting enough of the people and groups to buy in. If this occurs, the country could stabilize enough to be considered a functional country. Looking at the current situation, it seems unlikely that those opposing the government will come around after the foreign forces depart.

The most likely scenario is that the central government will either be overcome or collapse and Afghanistan will return to the way it has been for centuries. Terrorist groups will, in all likelihood, set up bases and training camps in the region-just as they did in the past. While things will be different in many ways from when the Soviet Union departed, that period of history does provide a good indication of how things will unfold.

Naturally, things could be different this time around-but it seems likely that America will have no more success in nation building in Afghanistan than any of the predecessors had in conquering the land.

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15 Responses

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  1. T. J. Babson said, on November 13, 2012 at 12:12 am

    There is a war on? Really? We heard about Big Bird and Binders, but not a word about the war.

    • Michael LaBossiere said, on November 13, 2012 at 7:37 am

      Neither party seemed to see an advantage in bringing it up. Or they forgot about it…

    • biomass2 said, on November 13, 2012 at 4:28 pm

      Google: Obama’s stump speech on war.

      • magus71 said, on November 13, 2012 at 4:41 pm

        al-qaeda is far from dead.

        • Michael LaBossiere said, on November 13, 2012 at 5:15 pm

          They are mostly dead. But some similar groups will move into the niches they have been killed out of.

          • magus71 said, on November 13, 2012 at 5:38 pm

            We never engaged in the level of attrition necessary to defeat them. Networks can be defeated (the, “you can’t kill an idea” mantra is moot; you only have to dissuade people from acting on bad ideas, not having them in the first place) but you must attack on multiple fronts and maintain constant pressure, which we have not done. We focused on areas in which we had already driven al-Qaeda out, like Afghanistan, and allowed them to regenerate in other areas, like Nigeria and Yemen. We should have hit multiple areas simultaneously and hard, but not tried to build nations where none can exist. Most of the countries in which al-Qaeda is operating would have welcomed our military intervention, which is against the Left’s message, I know. The Left agrees with al-Qaeda, that we have no right to be in places like Saudi Arabia, a place whose government wants us there. Yemen wants our help, as does Nigeria and many other places. And I don’t subscribe to the idea that we’re creating more jihadists. Not at this point. In the lands of eternal failure, there will always be martyrs for the cause. They need an enemy and they will find one, anywhere.

        • biomass2 said, on November 13, 2012 at 5:27 pm

          No quibbles there.
          My suggestion to Google “Obama’s stump speech on war” was merely made to point out that during the campaign we heard more than Binders and Big Bird. Much more.

  2. […] The Future of Afghanistan (aphilosopher.wordpress.com) […]

  3. WTP said, on November 13, 2012 at 9:39 am

    Looking back on the long history of socialism, the prospects for successful implementation do not seem to be very good, at least in terms of creating a functional society…oops, wrong thread.

  4. magus71 said, on November 13, 2012 at 10:54 am

    We have very little national interest in continuing on as we have, in Afghanistan. The cynicism is me has reached such a level that I think some generals will not advocate immediate withdrawal because the war affords them the opportunity to get another star on their chest. I sound like John Kerry…

    Afghanistan has the government it deserves: A government made up of Afghans and acting like Afghans. The Taliban, another form of government, is also what Afghanistan deserves, because the Taliban is made up of Afghans and they act like Afghans.

    The cycle of nature is the destruction of harmful or weak organisms. Afghanistan will at least be reduced to the state of vestigial organ in the evolutionary cultural path.

    • Michael LaBossiere said, on November 13, 2012 at 4:35 pm

      Afghanistan is rich in natural resources and apparently the Chinese have been making deals to get access. I wonder if they will be able to do any better than we did. Or the Russians.


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