Aristotle wrote that there are two types of people. On one hand, there are masters. On the other hand, there are servants. Masters occupy themselves with philosophy, politics, and economics, according to Aristotle. Servants do not. As a result, one is in a position to manage and order the affairs of a society, whereas the other is not and must be managed and ordered. But managing and ordering global affairs has to take into consideration the reality that economic and social progress – although inevitable – requires a plan and a strategy to overcome the challenges and obstacles which stand in the way of global economic and social progress.
The main obstacle to economic and social progress on a global scale is perhaps human nature itself and the result of how human nature has shaped the international economy and international system. When an economic and social system – which is now global – is predicated upon the unbridled pursuit of money and pleasure, the inevitable outcome is political decay and social corruption, which in turn leads to hedonism and war. Hedonism is the root cause of mental and spiritual destruction. War is the root cause of material and physical destruction. Moreover, when the entire international system is crafted and structured solely around hedonism and fear, it is perhaps obvious that the outcomes are dire.
But ultimately, the choice is between a life and a world dictated by anxiety and fear on one hand, or a life and a world shaped by general happiness and peace on the other hand. The choice is ours, and although many people are not cognizant of this, the only thing which separates the two choices is the difference between belief and disbelief. As the American psychologist William James documented in a book titled “The Varieties of Religious Experience,” belief leads to better mental and physical outcomes than disbelief.
For America to recover and to find its way again, it must somehow overcome its addiction to Afghanistan and the Middle East. Afghanistan is again front and center in the news. The Biden Administration is mulling over what to do there. Should the Biden Administration abide by the agreement that the Trump Administration signed with the Taliban in February 2020? Or should they break the agreement and “stay the course” as some have suggested? First of all, one should ask: what does it mean to “stay the course”? What is the goal for Americans in Afghanistan? If it is about the issue of terrorism, we should all remember that ISIS is the byproduct of American invasions in Iraq and Syria. There was no ISIS before America invaded the Middle East. Also, because of Pashtun nationalism, the Taliban has grown bigger and stronger since 2001, not weaker. If the goal for Americans and Europeans is to sustain the Afghan Drug Trade and Afghan opium – which is the biggest business in the world – they should just admit it.
In addition to Afghan opium, there is also the issue of minerals and rare earth materials that are in Afghanistan. It is important to note that Afghanistan is the Saudi Arabia of technology. What Saudi Arabia is to cars, Afghanistan is to smart phones and technology. America began seeking control of Afghanistan ever since the Americans conducted a geological survey there in the early 1970’s whereby the Americans discovered that Afghanistan had an array of minerals and rare natural resources. But the problem for Western powers – both past and present – has been holding Afghanistan due to both costs and geography. China also seeks a supply chain for its industries, and it is easier for China to do this because of its close proximity to Afghanistan.
China seeks an Afghan supply chain through Pakistan and the Taliban. America sought its supply chain through the Afghan government. But the Taliban never went away. In fact, the Taliban got bigger and stronger over the years. So did China. Thus, America and NATO are hanging onto Afghanistan by a thread. The question is whether America and NATO will go the way of the British and the Soviets. Only time will tell. Nevertheless, before 1975 and the findings of America’s geological survey of Afghanistan, America did not care about Afghanistan. America invested in Pakistan rather than Afghanistan because Pakistan was a bigger country and it could obstruct Soviet intrusions into the Indian Subcontinent, which in turn could open a path for Soviet expansion into the Indian Ocean and the Persian Gulf where there are American oil interests. Afghanistan and the Middle East are thus the best places for Americans and Europeans to peddle and traffic drugs, weapons, and oil, which are coincidentally the three biggest businesses in the world. Artificial Intelligence (AI) and biotechnology are on the rise, but the incumbents and the status quo are American and European drugs, weapons, and oil.
Pandering to drugs, weapons, and oil interests is a bipartisan initiative in Washington. Nancy Pelosi and Chris Coons coddle Pakistan and Qatar more than anyone else. I have personally witnessed them coddling Qatar at Capitol Hill. But the inflationary effects and the consequences of a global economy held captive by just three or four special interests are immensely harmful for everyone else. Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, and Libya are all examples of the destructive effects of a global economy and society held captive by just three or four narrow special interests. Yet, this is unfortunately our reality.
One possible response put forth by progressives in the West and around the world is a transition to a green economy in order to address both climate change and the social inequities and injustices in the areas of health care, mental health, economic inequality, and gun violence which have taken root due to adverse human behavior and the structure of our international system, which is shaped by three or four special interests. Progressives have an uphill battle ahead of them. It is incredibly difficult – if not impossible – to overcome both human nature and special interests. But it is a battle that progressives have been waging valiantly and quite effectively both in person and through social media. Waging a battle against both human nature and special interests – both of which have held the whole world captive for so long – is an incredibly difficult endeavor which takes an emotional and physical toll on those who are fighting the battle.
But the rationale behind waging such a battle is a noble one, which is that there is a possibility for humans to transcend both human nature – which is shaped by greed and hedonism – and the special interests which have shaped the international economy and international system for so long. Many people may not buy into this rationale. But this is the rationale which drives dreamers and idealists to do what they are doing all over the world. Perhaps this is the battle which the dreamers and the idealists have chosen wisely. Perhaps there is no other choice but to wage this battle. The consequences for not waging this battle are greater than actually getting one’s hands dirty in this battle. Sitting idly and letting someone else wage the battle is the path of least resistance. It is easier to decay and rot than to elevate and evolve. There is risk associated to everything we do. But there are also rewards.