Why Are We in Afghanistan?

Take a look at the map.  Afghanistan is next to or near Iran, Russia, China, Pakistan, and India.  These are all countries that are vitally important to the United States as key allies or enemies, and as potential economic and political competitors.  Afghanistan is also next to Turkmenistan and other Central Asian Republics that are rich in oil and natural gas.  Their total reserves exceed those in the United States (Ahmed Rashid, Taliban: Militant Islam, Oil, and Fundamentalism in Central Asia Yale University Press, 2001 p.144).

While the U.S. had no sustained interest in Afghanistan after the Soviet Union pulled out in 1989, more recent developments have made Afghanistan important.  The collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 freed the Central Asian Republics, which had been tightly tied to the USSR, and made them accessible to the U.S.  And China’s economy has continued to grow since the ‘90s, driving China into global markets for oil and gas and drawing their attention to the Central Asian Republics.  The Afghan War is also a proxy battle between Pakistan and India, each with nuclear weapons.  Quite apart from terrorism, this is a region where the U.S. would like to exert influence.

Michael Zweig is Professor of Economics at the State University of New York at Stony Brook, where he has received the SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Teaching and is the founder and director of the Center for Study of Working Class Life.  His most recent books are What’s Class Got to Do with It: American Society in the Twenty-first Century (Cornell University Press, 2004), and The Working Class Majority: America’s Best Kept Secret (Cornell University Press, 2000).  In 2005-2006, he was executive producer of the film Meeting Face to Face: the Iraq-U.S. Labor Solidarity Tour.  Professor Zweig is active in his union, United University Professions (Local 2190, American Federation of Teachers, AFL-CIO), representing 34,000 faculty and professional staff throughout SUNY, and has served two terms on its state executive board.  He represents UUP on the national steering committee of U.S. Labor Against the War.  He lives with his wife in New York City and on the North Fork of eastern Long Island, where he has been named “Citizen of the Year” by The Suffolk Times for his writing and community organizing around issues of planning, zoning, and land use.  For more information about Why Are We in Afghanistan?, go to <www.stonybrook.edu/workingclass/
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