Tuesday, June 15, 2010There's been a heated reaction to the NYT report that Afghanistan has enormous mineral riches. At one level this isn't a big surprise, given that minerals deposits tend to be in mountains and Afghanistan has tons of those (no I don't know anything about geology - obviously). People have already noted that this report may be overblown, but if true that it's not necessarily a good thing given the track record of developing countries & natural resources finds (oil, diamonds, etc.).
What strikes me most are the political context and historical parallels. This information was released just as it becomes clear that the timeline for withdrawing from Afghanistan isn't going to work (surprise!). The military needs a continuing justification to keep the occupation....er....counterinsurgency going, and we suddenly learn there might be massive economic benefits to staying? How convenient. The case for Iraq was a bit more straightforward (oil), but I've heard this song and dance before. Historians and those old enough to remember might recall all the conversations about rubber supplies in Vietnam being used as a justification for that war.
Rubber and lithium. Sure sounds like stuff that's worth thousands of deaths and national bankruptcy.