It's been a terrible year for the U.S. in Afghanistan. After endless policy reviews and two huge shipments of young people and weapons to the Graveyard of Empires, here's what we've got to show for it:
- Double the military casualties of the prior year,
- An unbelievably corrupt election that obliterated hopes for "legitimacy" for the Afghan government,
- A large increase in the number of noncombatant locals that the U.S. or anti-Afghan-government elements have inadvertently slaughtered, and
- P.R. nightmare after
- P.R. nightmare.
The year was capped by the reported killing of school children by an international raid. Protests erupted. The locals burned President Obama in effigy. Good riddance, 2009.
While it was a terrible year in Afghanistan for you, America, it was a great year for China. The People's Republic just locked in rights to one of the richest copper supplies on Earth:
While the United States spends hundreds of billions of dollars fighting the Taliban and Al Qaeda here, China is securing raw material for its voracious economy. The world's superpower is focused on security. Its fastest rising competitor concentrates on commerce.
"We do the heavy lifting," [Central Asia-Caucasus Institute chairman S. Frederick Starr] said. "And they pick the fruit."
While China reaps the payoff, we continue to pay the costs.
According to the National Priorities Project's Jo Comerford, we're spending $57,077.60 per minute in Afghanistan just for the latest 30,000-troop escalation. The total per-hour cost is around $12 million. With the money we'll spend to ship our young men and women and equipment to Afghanistan, we could have instead created "537,810 construction jobs, 541,080 positions in healthcare, fund 742,740 teachers or employ 831,390 mass transit workers." Or doubled the Children's Health Insurance Program and the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program.
But by all means, let's keep sending our neighbors and our neighbors' kids to Afghanistan to ensure China's economy stays on track.
Derrick Crowe is the Afghanistan blog fellow for Brave New Foundation / The Seminal. The views expressed are his own. Visit RethinkAfghanistan.com to send your loved ones a video that matches your concerns about the war in Afghanistan.