Geopolitics

Afghan Debacle Reminds Us That Finance Rules The World

The fall of the Afghan national government may be a calamity for the Afghans but not for the world's big-money interests, which prefer to deal with ruthless, incompetent regimes that will sell out their countries.

Evacuating operations at Kabul airport on Aug. 21

Sra Taylor Crul/U.S. Marine/Planet Pix/ZUMA
Mohammadreza Hosseini

-OpEd-

LONDON — The world is still in shock from the sudden departure of U.S. troops from Afghanistan, the collapse of its vast, national army, and the Taliban overrunning the country within days before an almost coordinated silence among governments and media.

People everywhere are asking: What really happened? There is no convincing answer yet. Initially it was said that Washington's policies toward the Taliban had failed. Then, that the Taliban were themselves Afghans, unlike the Pakistani Taliban, and somehow "working with" the Americans. Then U.S. President Joe Biden tells us: we never intended to forge a democracy in Afghanistan, but a security cordon for ourselves.

But one thing for sure he hasn't clearly explained is how 20 years of presence had left such an ill-prepared Afghan army behind. Did the Americans and the Afghan army agree not to fight? What led Biden and others to conclude the United States no longer had interests in Afghanistan?

Such questions often remain unanswered even if politicians know the answers. Decisionmakers deal precisely with these questions when meeting at international summits like G7 or at Davos. That is where it would be agreed that the United States can vacate Afghanistan and who's to come in its place. Yes, global capital is the guiding force behind such plans, and its interests and methods are the only explanation for the Taliban's unchallenged power grab. The same can be said about the world's silence over the crimes perpetrated by Iran's regime and the killings of dozens, hundreds or even thousands of civilians. Yet where it serves globalized interests, the world is whipped into a frenzy over the death of an individual and an incident becomes media fodder for weeks.

Globalism is neither a necessity nor an inevitable consequence of capitalist development.

Media of course are a key tool for the global control of both mass and élite opinions. A study from June 2020 by the Oxford Internet Institute cited China's direct influence, through think tanks and cash, on the world's most influential media. Its aim has been to sway opinion in favor of its Belt and Road initiative, which would reorder global economic ties and spread Chinese influence across Asia. Through the media, China wants to impose the idea, particularly in Europe, that its rise to global preeminence is inevitable and liberal democracy is no longer the only option.

It used these tools to divert suspicions about the Wuhan laboratory being the source of the COVID-19 pandemic. Of course, propaganda and cultural infiltrations are no novelty in communism. And in spite of the Soviet Union's collapse, communism's influence on Western minds and cultural institutions endures. It has merged today with the globalizing tendency led by China and includes perversions like support for reactionary regimes that have thrown in their lot with the "Eastern" bloc.

Evacuating women from Kabul to Spain on Aug. 29 — Photo: Mc2 Katie Cox/U.S. Navy/Planet Pix/ZUMA

Globalism is neither a necessity nor an inevitable consequence of capitalist development. It is forged and fine-tuned at the élite summits in order to maximize coordination between regional capital blocks and ease capital flows. It has little time for personal or labor rights and will turn if need be to changing political structures, or bringing down nations and "little" economies.

What it wants is a global market, not global welfare. It has already, willy-nilly, forced states to cut benefits and healthcare, pummel wages, delay retirement and create "zero-hour" contracts, while boosting spending on arms. But it also requires incompetent governance — by Taliban, mullahs or militias — and discord abroad.

Since the Taliban won't be able to entirely fill NATO's place, there is room in Afghanistan for other, unruly forces. As we witnessed with last week's attacks, Afghan lives and civil society will be swept away, but that is of little concern to the global society. Its concern is profit, and more profit. For that it needs the resources repressive regimes will sell it cheap to earn the world's indulgence for their repressive acts.

Recent events are a turning point as the United States cedes its place to China.

Not content to ruin their own countries, the revolutionary zeal of these regimes inevitably leads them to stir trouble among neighbors. Which is fine, as fearful countries will purchase more arms. The aim in any case is to keep governments weak and ensure they will not obstruct profits from flowing to where they must.

The reasons why strong parties and institutions did not emerge in Afghanistan should be studied elsewhere, but recent events are a turning point as the United States cedes its place to China as the ranking superpower. An appeasement-minded outlook may have led many Western politicians to overlook the former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger's observation that since Mao, Chinese leaders have simply mastered the art of diplomatic bluffing, or bluster, to get to where they are today.

Globalism is turning into capitalism in its most ruthless form, undermining nations, states and culture to forge and control its single market.

Perhaps the only thing that might stop its plans is public awareness. It doesn't seem like much today, but with a few more shocks like Afghanistan, people might take the first step, and shake off the chains of the false promises coming out of the media.

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A tribute to the 30,000 Iranian political prisoners murdered in Iran in 1988

Anne-Sophie Goninet, Hannah Steinkopf-Frank and Bertrand Hauger

👋 Laba diena!*

Welcome to Wednesday, where Afghanistan's Taliban demand to speak at the United Nations, China takes a bold ecological stand and we find out why monkeys kept their tails and humans didn't. Business magazine America Economia also looks at how Latin American countries are looking to attract a new generation of freelancers known as "digital nomads" in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

[*Lithuanian]

🌎  7 THINGS TO KNOW RIGHT NOW

• Taliban ask to speak at UN: With global leaders gathered in New York for the 76th meeting of the UN General Assembly, Afghanistan's new rulers say their country's previously accredited United Nations ambassador no longer represents the country, and have demanded a new Taliban envoy speak instead. Afghanistan is scheduled to give the final intervention next Monday to the General Assembly, and a UN committee must now rule who can speak.

• Four corpses found on Belarus border with Poland: The discovery of bodies of four people on Belarus-Poland border who appear to have died from hypothermia are raising new accusations that Belarus is pushing migrants to the eastern border of the European Union, possibly in retaliation over Western sanctions following the contested reelection of the country's strongman Alexander Lukashenko. The discovery comes amid a surge of largely Afghani and Iraqi migrants attempting to enter Poland in recent weeks.

• China to stop building coal-burning power plants abroad: Under pressure to limit emissions to meet Paris climate agreement goals, China announces an end to funding future projects in Indonesia, Vietnam and other countries through its Belt and Road initiative.

• Turkey ratifies Paris climate agreement: Following a year of wildfires and flash floods, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced at the UN that Turkey will become the last G-20 country to ratify the emissions-limiting accords. Turkey already signed the agreement in 2016, but has yet to hold a vote in parliament.

• Mass evacuations following Canary Islands volcano: More than 6,000 people have fled the Spanish archipelago as heavy flows of lava have buried hundreds of homes. Four earthquakes have also hit the Canaries since the Sunday eruption, which could also cause other explosions and the release of toxic gas.

• Rare earthquake hits Melbourne: The 5.9 magnitude quake struck near Melbourne in southern Australia, with aftershocks going as far Adelaide, Canberra and Launceston. Videos shared on social media show at least one damaged building, with power lines disrupted in Australia's second largest city. No injuries have been reported.

• The evolutionary tale of tails: Charles Darwin first discovered that humans evolved to lose this biological trait. But only now are New York scientists showing that it was a single genetic tweak that could have caused this shift, while our monkey relatives kept their backside appendages.

🗞️  FRONT PAGE

"The roof of Barcelona" — El Periodico daily reports on the latest delay from what may be the longest-running construction project in the world. Work on the iconic Barcelona church La Sagrada Familia, which began all the way back in 1882 as the vision of master architect Antoni Gaudí, was slated to be completed in 2026. The Barcelona-based daily reports that a press conference Tuesday confirmed that the deadline won't be met, in part because of delays related to COVID-19. Officials also provided new details about the impending completion of the Mare de Déu tower (tower of the Virgin), the first tower of the temple to be completed in 44 years. Although it is currently the second tallest spire of the complex, it will become the highest point of the Sagrada Familia, reaching 172.5 meters thanks to an illuminated "great cross."

📰  STORY OF THE DAY

Latin America, the next mecca for digital nomads

Latin American countries want to cash in on the post-pandemic changes to the fundamental ways we work and live, in particular by capitalizing on a growing demand from the new wave of remote workers and "youngish" professional freelancers with money to spend, reports Natalia Vera Ramírez in business magazine America Economia.

💻🏖️ Niels Olson, Ecuador's tourism minister, is working hard to bring "digital nomads" to his country. He believes that attracting this new generation of freelancers who can work from anywhere for extended visits is a unique opportunity for all. Living in a town like Puerto López, he wrote on Twitter, the expat freelancer could "work by the sea, live with a mostly vaccinated population, in the same time zone, (enjoy) an excellent climate, and eat fresh seafood." For Ecuador, the new influx of visitors with money to spend would help boost the country's economy.

🧳 While online-based freelancers already hopped from country to country before COVID-19, the pandemic has boosted their current numbers to around 100 million worldwide. The Inter-American Development Bank estimates there could be a billion roaming, digital workers by 2050. Some European countries already issue visas for digital nomads. They include Germany, Portugal, Iceland, Croatia, Estonia and the Czech Republic, but in the Americas, only four countries make the list, namely Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Panama and Costa Rica.

💰 In August 2021, Costa Rica approved a law for remote workers and international service providers, intended to attract digital nomads and make its travel sector more competitive. The law provides legal guarantees and specific tax exemptions for remote workers choosing to make the country their place of work. It allows foreign nationals earning more than $3,000 a month to stay for up to a year in the country, with the ability to renew their visa for an additional year. If applicants are a family, the income requisite rises to $5,000.


➡️ Read more on Worldcrunch.com

#️⃣  BY THE NUMBERS

$2.1 billion

Google announced yesterday it will spend $2.1 billion to buy a sprawling Manhattan office building, in one of the largest sales of a building in U.S. history. The tech giant plans on growing its New York workforce to more than 14,000 people.

📣 VERBATIM

It is sickening and shameful to see this kind of president give such a lie-filled speech on the international stage.

— Opposition Brazilian congresswoman Vivi Reis in response to President Jair Bolsonaro's inflammatory 12-minute speech at the UN General Assembly. The unvaccinated head of state touted untested COVID-19 cures, criticized public health measures and boasted that the South American country's environmental protections were the best in the world.

✍️ Newsletter by Anne-Sophie Goninet, Hannah Steinkopf-Frank & Bertrand Hauger

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