Afghanistan and the Failure of Nation-Statism | Omid Fouladpouri
Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article do not reflect the opinions of Pulse Magazine as a whole.
The situation in Afghanistan demonstrates a flaw in our society of nation-states. The occupation, which was functionally a colony through the U.S.’s partial political control and U.S. military forces propping both the state and U.S.-friendly politicians up, fell immediately after U.S. forces left the “country”, since it was never truly a country from its lack of unity.
The nation-state model of society has been around for only a few hundred years, from around 1648 after the Treaty of Westphalia, but has been imposed on almost every last piece of land on Earth. This model demonstrates not only inefficiency, but also the pure impossibility of prosperity in the so-called “Afghanistan” territory due to a lack of unity and the foolish expectation of the success of this historically flawed model. The Middle East in general was not occupied by nation-states until fairly recently, since post WW1. In Afghanistan specifically, the existence of many ethnically and culturally different groups and a broad, mountainous region make national unity impossible.
The U.S. ostensibly occupied Afghanistan to prevent absolute Taliban rule, but similar to Vietnam, the U.S. failed to really get rid of the Taliban. The U.S. proceeded to spend over 2 trillion dollars, an amount of money which could pay off everyone’s student debt, on five corporations: Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, General Dynamics, Boeing, and Northrop Grumman over the last 20 years to equip a corrupt government that collapsed within weeks. The centralization of weapons and resources in the government led to the Taliban acquiring billions of dollars worth of weapons upon taking over the country. If the U.S. believed in opposing the Taliban and creating a resistance against them, why didn’t they help train, strengthen, and arm the people, instead of an unstable colony? Not only in training militias but the actual people in the neighborhood. It would threaten the political domination, intimidation, and control the U.S. had and preserved in the region, up until all of it was for nothing anyways. The U.S. propped up and armed an unstable nation-state, which was dismantled over a few days. 20 years, over two thousand American lives, tens of thousands of innocent civilian deaths, and trillions of dollars for nothing.
The solution is clear. When centralization fails, decentralizing is the answer. Empowering and strengthening local communities would have been key in protecting those the coalition and government forces couldn’t adequately defend. This happens through not attempting a national unity, but unity of the local groups. Organizing and funding local assemblies and associations to help defend themselves, along with providing arms to the people in unified groups among the local cultural bodies, would work far better then a centralized nation-state from the fact that unity is necessary for effective organization.
There’s a society in north-east Syria which follows this model of local empowerment. In the AANES, Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria, every neighborhood has its own defense group, which protects the people of that community from danger. The AANES were one of the strongest forces fighting ISIS and almost completely wiped them out from Syria entirely, though ISIS still exists in very small pieces of land in the Syrian government-controlled region. It is heavily decentralized and horizontally organized to ensure nobody can oppress and endanger another with unequal capacities, whether it is in weapons or people. Decentralization and horizontal organization are vague terms which functionally just describe what is exemplified in local councils with equality in decision making among the members. If this model was promoted, whether in part or in its entirety, the Taliban would have had a far more difficult time in taking over “Afghanistan”, or at least the portion which doesn’t support them. The people would not be left unprotected if organized, armed, and trained in those local groups. Organizing along local bodies that generally are unified has demonstrated this efficacy.
This general sentiment extends beyond Afghanistan alone; endangered communities all around the world could similarly apply these values and ideas. The scalability of this decentralized organization allows its applicability to be maximized in every space. The only people who would be threatened by a system that perpetuates these values of freedom and equality are those who instead promote terror, authoritarianism, and those who oppose the safety of the people. The power to defend communities must be in the hands of the people. Afghanistan certainly helps to support this point, in which centralized organization has now threatened the safety of over 38 million people.
The U.S.has not only attempted this approach in Afghanistan, but also in Iraq where it too ended up as a nation-build attempt failure. The U.S. continues to promote this ideology of nation-building for its self-interest, such as cheap oil and resources, at the expense of the communities experiencing American interventions. U.S. intervention in the Greater Middle East has caused instability and as a consequence, an increase in religious fundamentalist terror. Religious fundamentalist terror in the region did not significantly exist pre-Western intervention. Due to the creation of false borders, instability, and threat on cultural sovereignty, this terror has become much more prevalent. The conditions other countries, mainly Western ones especially, created helped this rise.