Preparations for the “Next Afghanistan” Have Already Begun

Now that the twenty year-long US military expedition to Afghanistan has ended in catastrophe, the US Neocon establishment has already begun preparations for the “Next Afghanistan”. That process begins with blaming Joe Biden and rewriting history.

Thus, Richard Haas (President of the Council on Foreign Relations) writes in Project Syndicate: “Biden was recently asked if he harbored any regrets about his decision to withdraw all US troops from Afghanistan. He replied he did not. He should.” As part of his argument, Mr. Haas scare mongers prospect of a “Taliban domino effect” whereby the Taliban takeover Pakistan.

The New York Times has also been busy playing the blame game and rewriting history. Two days after Kabul fell, its page one story blamed President Biden and suggested something very different was possible: “But in his speech, Mr. Biden spent more time defending his decision to depart Afghanistan than the chaotic way it was carried out.”

In similar vein, another Times story claimed: “In several cities, Afghan security forces put up a strong fight to stop the Taliban advance, with videos showing exchanges of gunfire. But much more prevalent during the Taliban’s offensive were scenes of apparent retreat by government forces left ill-equipped to secure the country after the American withdrawal.”

The reality is President Biden has nothing to apologize for and deserves our collective thanks for a decision that benefits the United States but would never politically benefit him.

The scale and speed of the collapse in Afghanistan after twenty years of nation building and massive military engagement is not a critique of Joe Biden. It is a damning indictment of the national security and foreign policy establishment.

There was never going to be any other way of exit from this misconceived imperial venture. It was something like this or be there forever.

The “Taliban domino theory” and the “Not this way” argument are attempts by the Neocon establishment to deflect their culpability and pave the road for the “Next Afghanistan”.

Expect more of that from those who got us into this mess and kept us there so long. And the most dangerous among those voices are Neocon Democrats and so-called liberal media like The New York Times, as they give political cover and credibility to their more extreme Republican Neocon counter-parts.

The Neocon narrative opportunistically sprinkles the false notion of self-inflicted defeat and humiliation, thereby rewriting history and making us feel better. That is its toxic siren appeal. It triumphed after Vietnam. It is absolutely critical we stop such Neocon narratives taking hold after Afghanistan or we will be condemned to a future of more of the same.

How the U.S. Military Protects and Enriches Multinational Speculators

By Polly Cleveland

At a 1972 economics conference, at the height of the Vietnam war, Mason Gaffney presented an invited paper blandly entitled “The Benefits of Military Spending.” The paper so shocked the conference organizer that he refused to include it in the conference volume. Gaffney couldn’t find another publisher willing to touch it. Now, only 46 years later, here’s that paper (draft version), updated by Cliff Cobb, and published in the American Journal of Economics and Sociology (March 2018). What so offended the economics establishment?

In dry economese laced with even drier humor, Gaffney laid out the fundamental land economics underlying U.S. military spending. The logic resembles that of urban sprawl: For a few bucks, John Bigshot buys Old MacDonald’s farm way out in the boonies. Then he visits his pals on the city council of Anytown. They in turn vote to incorporate MacDonald Luxury Estates into greater Anytown, which means the town improves the road, extends water and sewer, police and fire protection, and other benefits to the property. With little personal investment (maybe a suitcase of cash), Mr. Bigshot has acquired a multimillion dollar parcel at the expense of Anytown taxpayers.

In similar fashion, multinational corporations go to third world countries where they acquire concessions for a song—mineral rights, broadcast rights, bank licenses, timber rights, harbor and airport rights, rights of way, or large tracts of agricultural land. Often they have bribed the local ruler, or “cacique” as Gaffney calls him. When angry locals threaten to overthrow the cacique, the multinationals can call in the U.S. government to protect their sacred property rights. The United States may provide guns and aircraft to the cacique, or establish a military base, or finance infrastructure like dams and ports and highways. Alternatively, the United States can support an opponent who promises to uphold those concessions. A small initial overseas investment can yield decades of lucrative return flows to the multinationals.

Documenting dozens of such arrangements, including the original deals for oil in Saudi Arabia and Iran, Gaffney takes a sly poke at the conventional economic treatment of “defense” spending as a benign “public good” equally benefitting all citizens of the homeland. The real-life benefits go to a small wealthy international minority with no particular loyalty to the United States, while ordinary U.S. citizens pay—as consumers, taxpayers, and especially as soldiers.

When I first read an unpublished version of the paper in 1992, 20 years after Gaffney wrote it, I felt a jolt of recognition. I was a Foreign Service brat. My dad served as Economics Officer; what was he doing? Arranging deals for U.S. investors. Everywhere we were posted or traveled there were U.S. military bases. What were they doing? (We FS types looked down on the military, because they didn’t try to learn the local language or culture, and shopped only at the PX.)

I felt the same jolt years later reading John Perkins’ Confessions of an Economic Hit Man. Perkins’ employers sent him out to convince local third world rulers to undertake wildly overambitious, environmentally destructive infrastructure projects to be built by multinational engineering companies like Bechtel and Haliburton. These projects usually failed to deliver the promised economic benefits, leaving the locals in hock to U.S. and European banks and subject to U.S. control. The original excuse for U.S. intervention on behalf of such caciques was that they provided us with a bulwark against “Communism.” Today they provide us with a bulwark against “Terrorism,” but it’s the same pattern.

The United States has dominated this game since World War II, taking over from Great Britain. The Chinese are now bent on doing us one better with military bases in the China Sea, rail and road systems across Eurasia, seaports around the world, and vast soy plantations in Latin America, Southeast Asia, and Africa. It’s the same pattern.

Looking back to 1972, I think Gaffney’s analysis so shocked conventional economists precisely because his method was so conventional. No hint of Marxism. Just good old-fashioned marginal analysis applied deadpan to an array of undisputed historical facts. Even worse, Gaffney poked subtle fun at received economic wisdom. No way could such subversion see the light of print—until now.