Scholars and historians will debate and study many of the outcomes of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars for many years to come. Without a doubt, neither one of these conflicts was perfect, as if there ever is such a thing in war.
But one of the things that gives me concern and to which I have given a lot of thought to is the many potential outcomes of these wars. In the case of Afghanistan, first and foremost we went in there to hunt down and eradicate Al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden and in Iraq it was to topple Saddam Hussein.
Simply stated, in both of these theaters, we accomplished those two goals. But are those two outcomes enough reason for all the sacrifices that our country and others paid?
What else could we or should we have gotten out of these conflicts? In Iraq, should we have received right of first refusal for all the oil sitting deep in the largest oil deposits under Basrah? Should we have demanded and maintained a strong military presence there in order to support U.S. strategic interests in the Middle East?
In Afghanistan, should we have negotiated extremely reasonable rights to mining the trillions of dollars in minerals located throughout the country? Should we have demanded the perpetual establishment of perhaps two, three or four sizable military facilities located throughout the country, which by the way is located smack dab in the middle of Central Asia and right in the backyard of Russia?
Many people would say that for us to do those things would be imperialistic and contrary to our democratic principles. Maybe that is true, maybe not.
I think and believe that given the sizable amount of treasure and the amount of American lives lost in these two conflicts that we should have maintained sizable U.S. presence in both of these countries in order to maintain a strategic interest in these regions.
For example and from a historical point of view, at the end of World War II and after liberating Europe and much of the South Pacific, we maintained bases throughout these areas that we acquired or developed during the war. These tangible assets are sometimes referred to as the spoils of war. These bases were strategic assets that we acquired as a result of our efforts to defend and rescue the world from the Axis Powers. We then used them to continue to fight and contain communism until its demise more than 40 years later.
Some people say the United States should not be the world’s policeman and be in the business of fighting the battles of other countries. I would agree with that argument, but only if all we are going to do is spend trillions of dollars and spill American blood for nothing. No return on investment, nothing tangible received for our efforts, per se.
We have to get something out of the deal because our enemies and foes certainly are. We need these “spoils of war” to help us project democracy and peace throughout the world, protect our country and our national interests.
For example, Afghanistan has been a very strategic piece of real estate in Central Asia for thousands of years. It was once said that whoever controls Afghanistan controls Eurasia.
One reason I can think of for maintaining a strong U.S. presence in Afghanistan now and well into the future is the fact that the Chinese and other Arab states are presently rebuilding the ancient Silk Road extending from Beijing to the Mediterranean and into Europe. This overland supply route, as it will be, will circumvent the current sea trade routes stretching from China through the South China Sea, into the Indian Ocean and then eventually to Europe.
Why is it critical?
Because the Chinese know that the U.S. Navy presently controls the high seas and if they can establish a route to Europe via the Silk Road, they can effectively be out from under the thumb of United States.
There is a little-known organization that was founded by the Chinese in 1996 known as the Shanghai Five. It is an intergovernmental body comprised of China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. It is known today as the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) and includes Uzbekistan as the sixth member state. Many other non-member states such as Iran, Turkey, Afghanistan, Pakistan and others have seats in this collection of unique countries.
There are many publicly stated reasons for the Shanghai Five but the most apparent is for the SCO to be a significant counter-balance to NATO. Another strategic reason for this alignment of countries, all of which by coincidence are co-located in Asia, is economic. With more than half the world population currently located in Central Asia, this area of the world is effectively like a huge Sam’s Club. Think about it, if a collection of countries are all aligned together and co-exist in the area of the world where the most people live then this is significant and strategic situation.
Moreover, if all these member states only trade within the group – like a Sam’s Club membership – then this would be a huge and formidable economic foe to the U.S. and the West.
On the heels of the Afghanistan war where we invested so much treasure, so much time and so much blood, it would seem totally appropriate to have a sizable U.S. presence there.
In my opinion, after everything we’ve done and sacrificed in Afghanistan, for the U.S. to run out the back door and leave the lights on would be a complete lack of a macro view of the geopolitical spectrum of this region and another colossal foreign policy failure.
Viper One Six – Out.