How to fix AfghanistanSeptember 18, 2021
Afghanistan fell to the Taliban in the middle of August, three months after the US announced a complete withdrawal of its troops.
The fall surprised a lot of people, especially since the US spent 20 years building the country from scratch. It was the job of the Afghan army to defend their country and they were doing a decent job before 2021, despite the corruption of their leaders.
This all changed when Trump announced a withdrawal of the US military by May 1, 2021, a policy which was continued by Biden. This cancelled the air support that was vital to the operations of the Afghan army. Without it, their operations started to fail and the Taliban started winning. This is because both sides had similar heavy weapons and so airpower was the only edge that the Afghan army really had over the Taliban.
After the Taliban gained ground, the most absurd thing happened – the Afghan government itself fled and told its army to surrender. Their president’s reason was that he didn’t want to get hanged by the Taliban. It shows the total lack of governance by the democratically-elected Afghan government.
In the end, it became obvious that that government was really just a fake institution made of elite Afghans who wanted to reap private gains from American money. This fakeness and non-governance is common in democratically-elected officials who will fool or bribe the people just to get votes. This was already known since the time of the ancient Greeks:
The Taliban, on the other hand, was not democratic and therefore was not as fake as the Afghan government.
Though Biden bears some of the blame for such a rapid withdrawal, the entire US policy is more to blame. The Americans complained that the Afghan government was corrupt and that the generals didn’t really fund the army with the money given. But they fail to see that the corruption was caused by the Americans themselves in giving lots of money to Afghan leaders who are merely popular but not moral. Morality itself takes time to build, just as you cannot teach morals to a child overnight and expect him to have it for life.
The American ignorance on how to build morals is easily seen in the belated attempts at nation-building by the American military. More importantly, it is seen in their policy of starting up a democratically-elected government at a time when the soul and moral glue of Afghan society had been obliterated by the Soviet war*.
*Our Supersociology defines a society as a collection of minds that are unified or glued together by the morals of common interest. Afghan society therefore is a union of the different tribal society-minds which are made up of individual personal minds. This union is dissociated by internal discord from heightened ego as selfish-interest, or by external pressures, such as war. The Soviet war dissociated the soul of Afghan society, splitting it back to its components: the Pashtun society-soul, Tajik society-soul, Hazara society-soul, Uzbek society-soul, etc. with weak morals. An example of a multi-tribe society that has successfully been glued is Jordan.
We will apply dialectical analysis according to Supersociology in order to list the mistakes of the US policy in Afghanistan. From there, we can come up with solutions that are better than the ones implemented from Bush to Biden.
The Mistakes of the US
Mistake 1: Not Relying on Islam
During the Prophet Mohammad’s time, many civilizations, specifically the Middle Eastern, Roman, and Persian societies, were pummeled by war. This caused them to become dissociated, unstable, and more corrupt and barbarous. The solution of the Prophet was to reunify them under Islam through the concept of Allah which represents the highest morals and ideals:
Islam includes a moral system that is supposed to bring peace, prosperity, and justice – things that destroyed societies desperately need. Afghanistan was such a society. This is why the Taliban, with its medieval version of Islam, naturally dominated after the grip of the Soviets weakened in the 1990’s.
The first mistake of the US was in imposing a Western system instead of an Islamic system of governance and swift justice. If people say “When in Rome, do as the Romans do,” then it would be also correct to say “When creating systems for Afghanistan, use what Afghans are used to.”
Mistake 2: Giving Too Short a Time for Results
The second mistake of the US was to allocate only 20 years to re-establish Afghan soul or identity. If we look at recent Afghan history, we can see that, between their civil war and the US war, Afghanistan only had five years under the Taliban to form their identity.
|1989||The Soviets leave Afghanistan keeping a pro-Soviet government|
|1991||The Soviet Union collapses, reducing the support to the Afghans, causing a civil war|
|1994||The Taliban are formed under Mohammed Omar. They rule Afghanistan from 1996|
|2001||The US war in Afghanistan begins|
Five years, or even twenty years, is way too short. The ideal length for a society to form its own consciousness is around 80 years. For example, the period from the American Revolution to the Civil war is around 80 years. Only after this period was the American identity unified. Likewise, it took 78 years from the British War of the Roses to establish British identity as an Anglican society under Henry the 8th.
How did we come up with 80 years? According to Socrates’ social cycles , the soul of all societies goes through four phases:
We then convert the phases to their root characteristics
We then plotted each phase of modern societies to be under 20 years. Thus, we multiply 20 by four phases to come up with 80 years as a general rule. Europe and small countries seem to have 60 years.
Successful assimilation, such as what happened during the colonial period, took over 80 years. For example:
- Cambodia was a French Protectorate for 90 years
- Algeria was under French rule for 130 years
- The Philippines was colonized for 300 years
Mistake 3: Democracy in a Desert
According to the model, a working-man’s democracy is the third phase of the evolution of society. The Americans started with the third “popular” phase when they should have begun with the first – the thinking phase.
Thinking leads to philosophies. Of all the philosophies, Islam is the natural one for Afghanistan, while democracy is the most unnatural one, as explained in Mistake 1.
This is supported by Adam Smith:
The US failed to understand that the Middle East is a landlocked, barren, and inhospitable place where labor is not fairly rewarded by Nature. No matter how much hard work you do planting crops, Nature might not reward you with a harvest. The lands of France, Italy, and the US, on the other hand, are naturally fertile, and so farming labor is rewarded with bountiful harvests.
The goodness of Mother Nature led to the French, Italian, and Americans developing a civilized culture. In contrast, the harshness of Nature in deserts led to the Arabians, Mongolians, and some Native Americans to develop a barbarous culture that is used to raiding, war, and arbitrary laws. This is why civilized policies like democracy and commercial trade work for civilized countries, while barbarous policies like tyranny and simple laws work for barbarous countries*.
*Update Jan 2023: This is root of the difference between fertile Ukraine and barren Russia
The biggest mistake of the US is to assume that democracy will work for the Afghans like it did for the Americans and the Europeans. They instituted a complicated system of separation of powers, mercenary lawyers, and commercial transactions. These are policies for a civilized society and are very different from simple system of hierarchal leadership, tribal transactions, and Islamic jurisprudence that the Taliban implemented.
Because of the mismatch, an Afghan rent-seeking class naturally emerged to manage the complicated system. This manifested as the corrupt officials who simply fled to civilized countries, such as the US and Qatar, when the times got tough.
Mistake 4: Emphasis on the Military instead of Nation-building
From 2001 until the troop surge of Obama, the strategy of the US hinged on military objectives instead of social or political ones. They would go house to house to hunt down suspected terrorists and even launch airstrikes against them. The problem is that those military actions caused collateral damage which infuriated the Afghans against the Americans more than against the Taliban.
Under Obama, the main strategy of the US was to simiplistically rely on the Afghan army to defend their country. To do this, they funneled money to them which, in the end, merely went to their generals. Without proper political and military leadership and morals, the army could not defend against the Taliban who had a strong, moral leadership based on the idea called Allah. To the Afghans, this Allah was more solid than the money-god worshipped by the West.
Solution: An 80-year phased approach
To journey of rebuilding the soul of Afghan society will take around 80 years split into four phases that match the four social cycles of Socrates.
It will begin with feudalism which will hopefully evolve into a democracy, depending on the result of each phase. The foreign spending will only be large during the first phase and will decline as the Afghans gain their own unity and identity:
|Phase 1: 2001||Local warlords and clans will be recruited and funded to fight the Taliban as to create a feudal system under the US. In this way, the US acts like a king, and the warlords will be its vassals.|
|_||The NATO surge will last from 2001 to 2005, ideally with 40,000 troops. Its main goal is to get rid of Taliban influence and leadership and not to alienate the Taliban, since they are a big chunk of Afghan political and religious society. If they become alienated, then perpetual civil war will happen, similar to Ireland vs Northern Ireland.|
|_||These clans eventually become political parties within 5 years and form their parliament.Thus, parliament is made up of local leaders who are able to maintain peace and order. In the first five years, there will be no Afghan army, only militias that are taught to operate and maintain US military hardware. The top leaders are then voted by the parliament and not by the people.|
|_||By 2005, the strongest warlord, from the strongest party, becomes President of Afghanistan. His militia will then be merged with friendly militias to form the Afghan army.Nation-building will begin through the President.This will allow NATO to reduce its troops to 30,000 by 2006 and 20,000 by 2011.|
|_||A position called ‘Protector of Afghanistan’ will be created in 2001 and will be assigned to a female Afghan to act as opposition or balance against the Afghan President. She will be modeled after female Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, act as direct liasion to the US State Department, and will be secured by the US military. This will reverse the anti-women policies of the Taliban by putting a woman as one of the highest officials that can veto and investigate the President or any government minister. Thus, this detail is specific only to Afghanistan. In addition, her office will craft an Islamic system that will fit the interests of both the Taliban and the US. This aims to put the morals of the people on her side since we expect that the ruling class will try to assassinate her.|
|_||The office of the Protector will be the precursor of the Afghan justice and law enforcement system and is modeled after Socrates’ Guardians. It will be the bridge between the barbarous Taliban system and the civilized Western system. The weak militias that did not make it into the army will be given the option to join the police as a counterweight to the military.|
|Phase 2: 2021||In the second phase, NATO will reduce troop numbers to 5,000-10,000. With less foreign presence, the rival warlords will try to unseat the President. This will then either allow the President to eliminate those rivals or be eliminated himself. In the latter case, the Protector intervenes and ‘crowns’ the new President from the winning faction. She will not try to create any ‘coalition government’ which is common in civilized countries.|
|_||The risk of civil war will be highest in this phase but can be prevented with the experience gained from the previous phase. If the goal of Phase 1 was to eliminate terrorism and Taliban influence, then the goal of Phase 2 is to consolidate governance and nation-building to prevent extremism from forming again.|
|_||Rivalries between political parties, Protectors, and even impatient US policymakers will crop up during this phase. If Afghanistan stays stable, then infrastructure can be built (such as the Ring Road) and US troop levels can be reduced below 5,000 by 2031. Their main goal will be to train the army and protect the Protector (who will train the police) and ensure the integrity of the law enforcement and Islamic justice system. If the country becomes unstable, then infrastructure will be withheld and targets reduced.|
|Phase 3: 2041||By now, the dust from the rivalries between the parties would have settled. Without the usual discord between the parties, Afghan politics will turn their attention against the Protector who represents foreign occupation. In this phase, the focus is on preventing Afghan nationalism from becoming too strong as to kick itself out of the international community that helped create it. This would prevent it from degenerating into another Iran. If the people allow foreign interests to remain, then private investments can begin. If not, then it will become like a banana republic with a ruling class that preys on its own people. It would mean that the Protector failed in her job|
|Phase 4: 2061||With the parties, Protector, and foreign interests stable in the country, the democratic system can be introduced. Its main goal will be to spur economic activity and invite foreign investors and tourists in order to wipe out the poverty and inequality that breeds extremism.|
|_||The goal for this phase is to counteract the natural low-productivity and rent-seeking behavior that Islam causes. We had relied on Islam to restore, define, and unify Afghanistan’s moral standards for the sake of peace and order. But now, we have to unify that standard with the rest of the non-Islamic world for the sake of growth and development.|
Ideally, this system aims to transform Afghanistan from a barbarous country into a prosperous democracy, similar to how events transformed the barbaric Anglo-Saxons into the British empire. Realistically, it can either transform Afghanistan either into a dictatorship like Jordan, Syria, Libya, and Iran, or into an imperfect democracy like Pakistan and the ex-Soviet states. Because of Afghanistan’s natural limitations, we cannot expect it to become as multicultural and secular like Malaysia or even Indonesia.
However, this system will surely excel in eliminating terrorism from the country, which is the main reason that the world thought of Afghanistan in the first place. In addition, it can be modified to rebuild destroyed societies like Libya, Sudan, Iraq, and the Rohingya, and can be implemented after successful coups.
For most countries, this can be shortened to 60 years of four 15 year phases. Each phase then has three 5-year plans.