by Kevin Barrett (Main Stories, Crescent International Vol. 50, No. 8, Safar, 1443)
Has Afghanistan, the proverbial graveyard of empires, buried the US empire and its hopes for global domination? The geopolitical earthquake of the US defeat in Afghanistan has sent shockwaves across the entire Eurasian supercontinent, the “World Island” home to the majority of Earth’s population and resources, crushing US aspirations beneath the rubble of its doomed nation-building project.
British geopolitical theorist Sir Halford John Mackinder famously coined the equation: “Who rules Eastern Europe commands the Heartland. Who rules the Heartland commands the World Island. Who rules the World Island commands the world.” But today, the economic rise of East Asia has moved the center of Zbigniew Brzezinski’s “Grand Chessboard” eastward, from Eastern Europe in Mackinder’s time to Central Asia in general and Afghanistan in particular. By losing its Afghan gambit for control of the center of the Grand Chessboard, the US (Anglo-Zionist) Empire appears to have lost today’s equivalent of the 19th century Great Game.
The 2021 US defeat in Afghanistan bears many resemblances to the 1989 Soviet defeat. In both cases, globe-straddling empires with vastly superior military, economic, and technological resources were roundly defeated by grotesquely outgunned Afghan guerrillas. In both cases, the invading and occupying empire attempted to impose its dominant ideology—communism for the USSR, neoliberal capitalism for the US—and was routed by Afghans flying the banner of Islam. Both empires wasted colossal sums of money in their doomed efforts to subdue Afghanistan, bankrupting themselves in the process. Both empires’ illusory strength was unmasked and debunked by their misadventures in Afghanistan, as their defeats revealed underlying ideological, cultural, economic, and military weaknesses. Perhaps most importantly, both empires, in their respective Afghan debacles, suffered incalculable losses of morale, paving the way for imperial collapse.
Ordinary Americans, and the politicians they elect, have only a vague idea of what was at stake in Afghanistan. They were brainwashed by media propaganda portraying the US crusade in Afghanistan as retribution for the “terrorist attack” of September 11, 2001. In reality, 9/11 was a false flag inside job by neoconservatives, and the US war on Afghanistan was about geopolitics and money, not anti-terrorism or revenge. And while the Afghan war succeeded in making colossal sums of money for various corrupt individuals and entities, notably the drug dealers of the military-industrial-intelligence complex, it was a financial disaster on the macro level, as well as a geopolitical blunder of the first magnitude.
The US invaders had hoped to plunder Afghanistan’s rich array of natural resources—not just opium, but also trillions of dollars worth of mineral deposits, including iron, copper, lithium, rare earth elements, cobalt, bauxite, mercury, uranium and chromium. And they had hoped to build and control a TAPI (Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India) natural gas pipeline. Indeed, TAPI pipeline plans were probably the single most important factor in the US decision to invade Afghanistan, which was taken in July, 2001, after the Taliban refused to award the pipeline contract to the US/CIA candidate, Unocal, instead offering it to the Argentinian company Bridas.
Thanks to its humiliation by the Taliban, the US will be only a marginal player in efforts to exploit the mineral and energy resources of Central Asia, as well as plans for a New Silk Road trade corridor uniting the Eurasian supercontinent. The development of Central Asia will be primarily driven by the biggest nearby economic power, China. For that reason, geopolitical analyst Alfred McCoy has argued that China will be the primary beneficiary of the US defeat in Afghanistan. McCoy writes:
“With a trillion dollars invested in Eurasia and another trillion in Africa, China is engaged in nothing less than history's largest infrastructure project. It's crisscrossing those three continents with rails and pipelines, building naval bases around the southern rim of Asia, and ringing the whole tricontinental world island with a string of 40 major commercial ports.
Such a geopolitical strategy has become Beijing’s battering ram to crack open Washington’s control over Eurasia and thereby challenge what’s left of its global hegemony. America’s unequalled military air and sea armadas still allow it rapid movement above and around those continents, as the mass evacuation from Kabul showed so forcefully. But the slow, inch-by-inch advance of China’s land-based, steel-ribbed infrastructure across the deserts, plains, and mountains of that world island represents a far more fundamental form of future control.”
The rise of China as the future leading power of the Eurasian-African world island has important implications for Islam and for the world’s Muslim nations and peoples. Afghanistan, along with Iran, Pakistan, Turkey, and other nations of the Muslim East will inevitably be drawn into a Chinese-centric economic orbit. Will Muslims eventually be invaded, occupied, and physically and ideologically colonized by non-Muslim Chinese? Does the fate of the Uighurs, who are certainly being oppressed on account of their religion (though probably not as horrifically as Western propaganda suggests) await other Muslim peoples of Central and East Asia?
While Muslims will undoubtedly jostle with China and other countries over money and power, it seems unlikely that China will colonize and subjugate the Muslim world the way the Euro-Americans and Zionists did. The Uighurs, nationalists living on the edge of China, are an exception. Historically, China, unlike Europe, has not shown a penchant for invading and colonizing far-flung lands. And despite its official Marxism, China’s real ideology is a kind of collectivist nationalism very much in line with its Confucian roots. Lacking a universalizing ideology, China—unlike Euro-America with its Christian and post-Christian “civilizing missions”—lacks the desire to force its culture on other peoples. In stark contrast with the Christians, who wanted everyone to be Christian, and the (European) communists, who wanted everyone to be communist, and the neoliberal secular humanists, who want everyone to be a neoliberal secular humanist, the Chinese know full well that not everyone is Chinese, and they are okay with that.
The stark difference between the Western secular humanist imperialists and the Chinese pragmatists is on full display in Iran, where the West has been at war with the Islamic Republic, and dedicated to eliminating it, since 1979. Western secular humanists, and their Christian and/or Zionist fellow travelers, cannot abide Iran’s experiment in Islamic governance, because its success threatens their mythical delusion that the whole world is fated to become like the West. The Chinese, for their part, have no interest in imposing vaguely communist Confucianism on Iran. So, while the West unleashes endless terrorist attacks on Iran and its regional allies, China has signed a 25 year $400 billion agreement aimed at developing Iran’s infrastructure in exchange for discounted oil. Unlike the West, China is perfectly happy to let Iran continue its successful Islamic Republican experiment.
The other factor in the West’s war on Islamic Iran—Zionism—is likewise a non-factor in Islam-China relations. The West, its ruling elites top-heavy with Zionist billionaires, is fanatically dedicated to maintaining and expanding the Zionist entity occupying and genociding Palestine. China, while pragmatically cultivating ties with the Zionists when it serves Chinese interests, has no ideological commitment to Zionism. When the Zionist entity finally implodes, an inevitability in a post-Western world, the Chinese—who suffered horrifically under Western imperialism and consequently empathize with the Palestinians—will shed no tears.
The end of the five-century era dominated by Western and most recently US imperialism will free Muslims to be ourselves. Rather than endlessly reacting against the never-ending onslaught of imperialist-colonialist aggression, we will finally get the breathing space to figure out what kind of (Islamic) governing structures we want to live under. The post-American, post-US-defeat-in-Afghanistan world will open the door for the second stage of the Islamic Awakening, whose first stage grew out of Islamic Iran’s and Afghanistan’s victories against the world’s two biggest empires of 1979.