Wednesday, 23 December 2015

Well, Duh

From the BBC

Afghan government forces have lost control of the centre of the town of Sangin in Helmand province after days of fierce fighting, reports suggest.

Officials told the BBC that the Taliban controlled the local government building and police station.

The Taliban say their fighters have seized the entire district and that their flag is flying over Sangin.

Yet another example of the West treating the rest of the world like the West. We continue to treat countries that are not industrialised, where the incentives are to grab land as though they are industrialised (where the incentives are to make a cheaper computer or handbag).

Someone out there might connect these two histories:

Invade Afghanistan
Install weak government
Protect government
Leave Afghanistan
Strong militia takes part of the country a few years later


Invade Iraq
Install weak government
Protect government
Leave Iraq
Strong militia takes part of the country a few years later

The only solution to places like Afghanistan is to find a way to industrialise them. That's what gives you democracy, human rights and so forth.


Rich Tee said...

I read somewhere that David Cameron once said "You can't drop democracy out of a helicopter" but I can't find it now so maybe I am mistaken.

Even if he did say it, he clearly doesn't have the personal conviction to follow it through.

Mark Wadsworth said...

Exactly, it's not like any sane person didn't see that coming.

Lola said...

'We' could start by decriminalising various narcotics so cutting out the risk premium and hence making it more likely that Afghan farmers would turn to other crops hence cutting off a whole load of Taliban funding.

DBC Reed said...

Stigler is surely right to accentuate the role of industrialism in the development of democracy.While a place is stuck at the level of subsistence agriculture ,local big landowners run things autocratically probably in league with intolerant religious leaders and what trade there is confined to isolated cities and outlying villages. Italy was organised round city states until 19the century.("Italy" didn't exist as such and certain middle eastern counties don't have the economic infrastructure to be considered "countries" even now.There is a weird scene in Henry V where they discuss the new buzz word:"nation".The Irish captain thinks it means bastard, going I suppose from the linguistic roots.)It was probably only when British people depended on Manchester for cotton goods; Stoke for ceramics;Northampton for boots and shoes ;Wales for roof slate etc and these things weren't produced locally that people trusted each other no matter their religious and regional differences and valued them equally as customers for the goods they produced in kind of nationwide joint enterprise.
I am old enough to remember an old businessman giving a pacifist peroration on the basis that "Every time we kill a foreigner we kill a customer" which shows how strong the ties of trade were once thought to extend.

Frank said...

And, doubtless, my going on this whaling voyage, formed part of the grand programme of Providence that was drawn up a long time ago. It came in as a sort of brief interlude and solo between more extensive performances. I take it that this part of the bill must have run something like this:
“Grand Contested Election for the Presidency of the United States.”
“Whaling voyage by one Ishmael.”
“Bloody battle in AFFGHANISTAN.”

From Moby Dick by Herman Melville, 1851.

Afghanistan has been famous for "bloody battles" for over 150 years during which, several countries have tried and failed to impose "law and order" on it. Truly it is said that those who don't learn from history are doomed to repeat it.

Tim Almond said...


It wouldn't make a lot of difference, although it would generally be a good thing for other reasons.


Yes, exactly. When people trade, they change priorities. And that's about trading in industrial goods mostly. Kant wrote of capitalist peace, the idea that commerce is incompatible with war. Thomas Friedman wrote how no two countries with a McDonalds had fought a war (not entirely true but the level of warfare is tiny) and explained it that a country only has McDonalds when it has the sort of free economy to allow it.

Lola said...

TS Indeed. But it would be a good start. As picking up on DBCR's note about the pacifist businessman, why would you shoot your customers? Capitalism is automatically peaceful.

Mark Wadsworth said...

TS, you are always saying that industrialised countries are more likely to be democratic, which is probably true.

But far more important is a sense of common identity i.e. 'nationality'. Yes, this is a highly artificial thing usually imposed from above by a 'strong' ruler, but it works.

Which is why democracy does not work in Northern Ireland, but has been the norm for a millennium in Iceland, Switzerland.

Which brings us onto China - they are industrialised and have a strong sense of common identity, but are pretty far from democratic.

Tim Almond said...


I suppose it might help, but it's still growing stuff. Wars on Drugs are economically destructive, though.


The problem with NI is that it isn't particularly a productive economy. One of the things in that paper talked about the power of state vs people, with land being "state" and people being industrialisation. And the problem with NI is that it has (if you include government jobs, benefits etc) a massive state. So, people want to run the state and reward their supporters, and that creates factions. And throwing money at programmes doesn't help as it just means more for each faction to fight over.