12 November 2009

A Modest Proposal For Solving Two Intractable Problems of the Day, Afghanistan and Our Debt to China

Two of the myriad intractable problems facing our current government are what to do with Afghanistan, and how to manage our relationship with China as they own more and more of our debt. These problems on their surface would seem to be entirely unrelated, and the one (Afghanistan) is causing a huge strain with regards to how we can act on the other (as we spend on the war, we increase our debt).

Well, what if I had a modest proposal that would go a long way towards solving both of these problems? Luckily for Pres. Obama and his team of advisers, I have such a plan, and like most modest proposals, and like most workable solutions to complex problems, it is a solution that is both simple and elegant.

I'm sure my smarter readers have already guessed at the nature of this particular proposal, they are probably way ahead of me, and are at this very moment slapping their forehead and thinking to themselves, 'why didn't I think of that and create a blogpost delineating the details of such a simple, yet brilliant plan before that immodest proposer beat me to it'. I can't take too much credit for this plan, it comes from combining a variety of streams of thought and keeping a firm eye on both the past with a knowledge of history, and an eye to the problems of the future.

Having read Churchill's collection of his war correspondences from the region, and having known veterans from the previous Soviet conflict in the region, as well as the current conflict, I have trouble believing that there is much hope in developing stability amongst a collection of peoples and factions that have enjoyed nearly an uninterrupted supply of feuds, rivalries, and bloodshed for more than two millennia (don't think there's been a quiet period in the region of more than a decade or two since Alexander's time).

With that knowledge, seems there are three paths open to us if we wish to get out with honor, and leave some semblance of stability, or if not stability, at least leave an environment where terror can no longer be exported from the region. Those three paths are, one pick a tribe and a warlord, and arm him to the teeth and let him subjugate the other tribes. In some ways, we are doing that now with Karzai, though we are trying to be subtle about it, and we are preventing him from being overly bloody in reprisal. Seems a really half assed way to do it, but that's our current path. The second path is to do what the Soviets attempted to do, shell, bomb, and shoot them back to the stone age, but given that the region as a whole is barely beyond the stone age, that strategy imposes a cost on the foreign aggressor disproportionate to its effect on the locals. There is a third way, a modest way, and one that ties in with our debt to China (bet you thought I forgot about that part, didn't you?)

That third path, is get some other sucker on the hook. Our trade partners (and political rival) China, is looking to expand their influence on the global scene, and they have no compunction about brutality or using forced migration to subjugate a land (see both Xinjiang and Tibet). China borders Afghanistan (barely), and they have an excellent track record (depending on your point of view, again see both Xinjiang and Tibet) of sending in vast hordes of Han peoples into areas to remake the social, political, and ethnic make up of huge regions. For a modest forgiving of our current debt to China (say on the order of $2,000,000,000,000.00, I know the current value of Chinese owned debt sits at a mere $800,000,000,000.00 or so, but if we give them something in return, I'm sure they'll let us run up a nice little tab, and that extra $1.2T could go a long way in funding all sorts of wonderful projects our current administration would love to get to if they only had the means), we'll hand over rule of Afghanistan to China, no question asked, no other strings attached, and we'll take a 'see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil' stance at the United Nations with regards to any and all measures the Chinese may have to engage to quell the locals.

It's the perfect, two birds, one stone, solution, one that will ensure decades of prosperity at home while tying up Chinese expansionist fervor in a region where even the Chinese may have trouble being brutal enough to manage properly. In one fell swoop, we extract ourselves out of a tough mess, and enmesh our likely main rival over the next few decades in that same mess. I know you may think China won't be big enough suckers to take this mess off our hands, but the Chinese are hungry to prove themselves as a major world power, a worthy rival to United States global hegemony, and they would have a hard time passing up such a wonderful opportunity to give the United States a bit of a black eye in the global community, and make us look like the fading hegemon in much the same way we began taking over the global role Britain enjoyed a century ago.

This move will set China back, and shoot us forward, any cries about illegality, and colonialism, and betrayal to the people of Afghanistan will be drowned out by the cheers at the homecoming of so many of our troops, and the jeers at China as they crack down on the various peoples of Afghanistan. We will turn China's ambition against themselves, and we will appear humbled, even humiliated, yet through that humility we will emerge far stronger than if we pursue either of the other paths open to us (paths fraught with their own perils).

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