Physicist Erwin Schrödinger proposed a famous "thought experiment"
with a cat in a sealed box, wherein the cat's life or death depended on the
state of a subatomic particle. To an outside observer, until the box is opened,
the cat remains both alive and dead; its status is indeterminate.
As it is with cats, so it is with Afghanistan.
As with the cat, the situation is indeterminate, but much more complicated.
Present-day Afghanistan includes not just two indeterminate outcomes. There
are dozens of Future Afghanistans, but only one is alive, only one will turn
out to be real. As history unfolds, all but one of these Future Afghanistans
will fade away. In the end, only the real one will remain. But before then,
they are all live; the real one remains indeterminate. These Future Afghanistans
include an Afghanistan in Turmoil, rent by bitter civil war. And a Medieval
Afghanistan, mired in poverty and low level violence. They also include a New
Afghanistan ready to blossom into a modern nation, ready to follow in the footsteps
of South Korea - another war torn, miserably poor, agrarian country. With US
help, South Korea was not rebuilt, but built; it has become an economic powerhouse
and a vibrant democracy.
Few observers can sense this New Afghanistan. They are linear thinkers who
can project trends and see logical expectations, but cannot see looming discontinuities,
when a sudden outcome shatters earlier projections. A prime example was the
rapid and peaceful disintegration of the Soviet Union which surprised hundreds,
even thousands, of Soviet specialists. More recently, the Arab Spring amazed
the Arab specialists of the world when a single spark ignited the hopes and
enthusiasms of millions of frustrated peoples. A New Afghanistan is likewise
waiting to astound those who extrapolate trends. This New Afghanistan is there,
under the surface, one of a multitude of Future Afghanistans coexisting in an
It is our task, our challenge to envision this invisible Afghanistan, to enable
it, to seek the spark that can ignite the flames of hope and enthusiasm within
everyday Afghans. It is our task to see to it that this New Afghanistan does
not simply fade away, but instead astounds the linear thinkers of the world
as it blossoms into a modern nation.