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Lexington Green wraps up the Afghanistan 2050 Roundtable with an analytical essay:

[….] B. Failure of the American Effort in Afghanistan

Our posters were nearly unanimous that the current American effort in Afghanistan would not succeed, or even have a long-term effect on Afghanistan. That is an expected, but still damning vote of no confidence on the decade-long Bush-Obama non-strategy for Afghanistan. The strongest counter-example was Trent Telenko, who suggested a strategy to secure the country that sounds plausible to me, an non-expert.

Joseph Fouche had my second favorite observation of the Roundtable: “America has the firepower to destroy a large country, the heavy forces to invade a medium country, and the manpower to occupy a small one.” The USA and its military are not configured to do the kind of nation-building the US Government seems to want to do. Thomas P.M. Barnett has long observed that these tasks, if they can be done at all, require lots of people. The USA has a military composed of a small number of highly trained and expensively equipped people. The only way that a country the size of Afghanistan could be pacified is to put lots of boots on the ground. The only countries that have that many boots are China and India. Afghanistan will not be pacified by the USA, using hearts-and-minds methods. It may be pacified by one of the two large Asian powers, using more direct method. Jim Bennett speculated on what it would look like if China moved in, bulldozer fashion. His vision seems highly plausible over the long term.

Fringe provided a thoughtful analysis of the US failure in Afghanistan, which I won’t summarize but I strongly suggest you read. I think it is the single most informative post in the Roundtable. He notes that successful US wars have not had an “exit strategy.” To the contrary, they consisted of a battlefield success followed by an extended occupation. This provides an initial test, before the outset of a war. If it is not worth an occupation, it is not worth invading in the first place. “With few exceptions, if it’s worth a war, there is no exit strategy.”

One intriguing set of predictions was of ongoing, networked non-governmental efforts to provide some relief for the Afghan people. Dr. Madhu predicts ongoing turmoil, with NGOs doing humanitarian work where governments are unwilling or unable to go. David Ronfeldt foresees a “secretive ethicalist netfirm” operating swarms of surveillance UAVs to protect Afghan women. While this seems exotic at first glance, David is probably tapping into what seem to me to be the likely trends.

Radical advancement in technology may make much of our current thinking obsolete by 2050, and probably a lot sooner. Zenpundit noted in a comment that “[t]he DIY movement combined with high tech sectors like desktop manufacturing and nanotechnology are going to permit [individuals] and small groups to have their own capacity for military intervention.” The bad guys will take advantage of this first, since governments will try unsuccessfully to control the process. Once that fails, we will see a massive breakout of self-help as military scale violence becomes accessible and ubiquitous. Once this happens, the nation-state itself will be an over-priced, unusable legacy system that not only fails at providing the core function of providing physical security, but obstructs it. We will have to move to a different arrangement entirely. Goodbye, Westphalia, you won’t be missed very much. The good guys will win but the process will be ugly. This was roughly what I predicted in my initial post, with a posited dissolution of the USA, followed by a networked regrouping of the successor entities

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