The article in today’s New York Times about vast riches in Afghanistan cleared up a mystery (in my mind at least) about why we are at war there. With the cat out of the bag, so to speak, maybe there will be a little focus to the exercise. Heck, I always thought it was about oil, but perhaps minerals are more useful.
The problem that this seems to clarify is it is all about control of the mineral wealth and who is going to get rich from it. Will it be the Taliban? The current government? US corporations? China? Or in the end will the country get carved up between Pakistan and Iran? It is too depressing to contemplate.
If we look at the many other examples in the world where vast riches have been discovered, the model is too clear. The local population ends up being little better off, the countryside is laid waste (might be hard to tell), and a select group becomes incomprehensibly rich. If the locals are really, really lucky then maybe some of the money will go to improving their lot — like some places in the Middle East. But more likely it ends up in Swiss banks and the elite gets to build compounds that make Versailles look like a shack.
So I feel sorry for the poor people of Afghanistan. I am sure they just want eveyone to go away and leave them alone. Pity that is not going to happen — especially now.