Monday, November 2, 2009

Our way out: Afghanistan - Guest post from AJ Gerst

Lately, the news has been painting Afghanistan as a country of drug lords, only capable of producing heroin. Apparently, several media outlets have only now come to realize that there is virtually no infrastructure in this nation. Only now do they seem to acknowledge that illiteracy, suppression of women’s rights, and lack of a cohesive government exists. Of course, concerned citizens and, yes, the media have known these facts since 9/11, if not before. Remember as well that Afghanis view their nation as a beautiful place to live and raise a family.

We should not forget that Afghanistan has been known throughout history as the empire killer, despite Britain’s alleged victory in the mid 1800s. So, do we leave this mountain nation and hope the legacy of this land does not consign America to the junk heap of empires? Do we continue onward with counterinsurgency and counterterrorism plans, bribing the Taliban into creating a government ‘we’ can live with? Or do we attempt to think outside the box and try to leave this nation better than it was before?

The idea being unfolded here will never be considered, too radical so it seems, despite its apparent logic to many people around the globe. Keep in mind the conditions within Afghanistan, the lack of infrastructure and the illiteracy rates. From this alone it should be clear that only an agrarian society can be put in place, until these tribal people have a reason to coalesce and build their own united society. After all, the only way to win in Afghanistan is to create a better way of life for its people. At the end of the day, this is not about installing and creating their government, while an adept military and police force is needed; it is about transition, the will of the people to forge their own way must be found. I offer this quote from Highly touted, but misguided ideas about Afghanistan, Oct. 30 by Jim Maceda NBC news correspondent.

“But this time the Afghan people do matter. In a counterinsurgency, as Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, would no doubt argue, it’s the Afghan people who must rise up against the Taliban. And the only reason they would do so is because they’ve gained something – security or a better life – which they don’t want to lose. The challenge, of course, is convincing the Afghans that, this time, it’s not the same old story.”

With well over 100 remote U.S. military outposts in Afghanistan, we must seriously ask ourselves if this is the right policy. Manning remote mountain outposts and waiting to be attacked by your enemy hardly seems like a means in securing a better life for the Afghan people. We have focused so much of our attention upon unpopulated areas. Since we are waiting for the enemy to come to us, why not do this in a more defensible location, one where we are actually attempting to create a sustainable life for these people and protecting them as it unfolds. A lot of money has been spent to create schools, wells, sustainable farming and local government in Afghanistan, only to be left in the hands of the Taliban after we leave. So let’s create these in a microcosm experiment, one that can be defended against, from without, a showcase of what could be. Without further ado let’s focus our attention upon agrarian concepts and human nature.

A government of the people, not necessarily a democracy, can best be accomplished when the citizens of a nation have enough leisure time to develop an interest in such concepts. This means they need a livelihood, one that generates expendable incomes and free time. It is also crucial to involve other nations in the region, creating a vested interest in Afghanistan’s success. Establishing other avenues of fiscal assistance to this nation when the time for America’s departure has arrived implies capital investments from their strongest neighbors, China an India. Historically one crop does well in this mountain country, hemp. Note, dear reader once again, that hemp properly cultivated becomes marijuana. Industrial hemp, the subject we will address is a genetically modified organism (GMO). This plant can never reach THC levels that produce psychoactive results. In fact, within this plant’s cross pollination range marijuana’s THC levels would become null and void.

I suggest moving troops to the open plains of Afghanistan, creating a test area for growing this crop around an established populated city, defending it first and foremost. Before this occurs however, investors in manufacturing plants to process this product should be found from India and China. A couple of examples, India could set up a factory that processes paper products. After all, hemp paper can be recycled seven times, compared to wood pulp paper only four times. A Chinese investor could set up a plant that processes the product into building materials. This would help to reduce some of the imports of wood products that China and India currently deal with. Both countries claim to be looking for economic viable solutions to global warming issues. International laws prohibiting the growing of hemp do not apply, as stated already this is a GMO. The best place for the factories would be in Afghanistan, helping to promote its citizenry toward a sustainable livelihood. This of course is not needed right away. Allow India and China to build these factories in their own nations during the testing phase.

Industrial hemp can be double cropped during the growing season, allowing for a larger influx of capital to the farmers. It has many potential applications beyond what was mentioned above. Even within this narrow concept of usage (paper and construction materials) we have the benefit of CO2 sequestering from the atmosphere, as industrial hemp removes more CO2 than any plant in the flora domain. This crop can be hauled for weeks to market without worry of spoilage, ideal for the lack of infrastructure in Afghanistan.

One would think a means of expanding the fiscal reach of globalization, and the prospect of reducing radical terrorist recruiting grounds would be viable enough reasons to try something like this. An entirely new industry could be spawned, one that would benefit impoverished nations of the globe. Think of the prospect for industrial nations to market to 100s of millions of people with an expendable income, should this be adopted on a global scale? The next great era of industrial growth could march hand in hand with a movement to fight global warming, halt deforestation of the globe, and help people of the planet to rise from poverty and have a sustainable life. Another example, applying this crop to Africa, envision a market where malaria nets and kits for water purification would be purchased not handed out. Think of a market for foodstuffs, radios, satellite T.V.s and countless other products to these demographics.

The next colossal global economic boom awaits. If only we can overcome two things. One is the Industrial world’s greed of market shares, and two is the protectionism of big oil and forestry. They are in reality the only ones that need suffer from the proper implementation of an industrial hemp industry. If you can make a product from wood and oil-based polymers, you can make it from industrial hemp.

We must shift the U.S. foreign policy from consuming others natural resources to establishing third world nations ability for material consumption via a green agrarian market.

1 comment:

  1. I am not an expert on Afghanistan but I do understand that most warlords are able to exercise control over their own territories. They have to make deals with the Taliban in order that their people are provided for. They provide safe harbour, fighters, and get money for goods and services rendered.
    In my view the thing to do is go to one warlord and work out a deal. As noted in the above post buying an agricultural product would be one method. Setting up a manufacturing facility would be another. Allowing export of Afghani labour would be another.
    Would this be cheaper than alternative solutions? Probably not - but I'm not sure if that should be the measure - at least on a trial basis.