Charged with Salt and Batteries
Charged with Salt and Batteries
June 15, 2010
- Q. What is the new definition of “Taliban”?
A. Anyone who lives above a lithium deposit
On Monday we learned something that the Pentagon has known for years: Afghanistan is sitting on a trillion dollars worth of valuable minerals.
I have literally never seen a news story more interesting than this one. I barely know where to begin. For starters, why were Americans looking for mineral resources in Afghanistan in 2007? I try so hard to NOT become a conspiracy theorist, but COME ON! Give me a frickin’ chance!!!
If you’re wondering when the U.S. will withdraw its forces from Afghanistan, you now have your answer: Never. Our worst case scenario is peace. If war ends in Afghanistan, some subset of the Taliban would eventually become fantastically wealthy with the help of foreign mining operations. Nothing good can come from Taliban billionaires. That’s the strategic risk that will keep us there forever.
Of all the mineral riches that Afghanistan could have, why oh why did it have to include lithium? Just when I was getting all hopeful about electric cars, which require batteries, which will probably require lithium, we find out that lithium is located where the Taliban poop. What were the odds of that? It’s like the plot of a poorly written movie. Meanwhile, the friendly Swiss are being completely useless and producing nothing but chocolate and lederhosen. I will only say this once: I CAN’T RUN MY CAR ON CHOCOLATE!
Strategy-wise, these valuable deposits in Afghanistan are a major problem for U.S. defense. It makes leaving impossible and staying even harder. Any sense of military legitimacy will soon be smothered by talk of economics. If there’s one argument that you can be sure will never fly with the American voting public, it goes like this: “Those vast mineral deposits are a total coincidence.”
The moral questions in Afghanistan are fascinating. If a country harbors terrorists that attack your country, creating the necessity of invasion at great expense, do you get to keep some of the minerals you find? Or is it fairer that some goat herder or war lord who happens to live above a copper deposit by pure chance gets to become a billionaire while his neighbors starve? Is it moral to establish a thoroughly corrupt Afghan government, which might be the only kind possible, and then leave? I contend that all paths are thoroughly immoral.
If every option is equally immoral, maybe the next filter should be practicality. I say we turn Afghanistan into a corporation, with all of the citizens owning equal shares after the U.S. Treasury carves out its 25% stake of preferred stock. Our military would stay there in a paid security arrangement, transitioning over time to a private operation. The corporate bylaws would require American security personnel for at least 100 years. Sort of like the Swiss Guard and the Vatican.
Afghanistan might never work as a country, but maybe it could work as a corporation. Arguably, the corporate model is what makes China work so well. The Chinese Communist Party reminds me of a corporate structure, where the CEO serves at the pleasure of the board of directors, and building wealth is the main goal. In China, the head guy doesn’t have dictator powers. He serves at the pleasure of the Communist Party leaders, and he needs to perform well or they replace him. Some version of that model would probably work a lot better than democracy for Afghanistan.
Yes, I do realize that nothing I write in this blog is factually accurate or remotely practical. Thank you in advance for pointing that out.