Afghanistan: 20 Years, $2 Trillion, 20 Days

First thought is that the US spent 20 years and $2 trillion trying to build a democracy in a half-literate country of goatherders that disintegrated within 20 days.

Think what you could have done with that (dependent on your preferences).

  • “Green New Deal”.
  • Free college.
  • 335 ship Navy.
  • Mars base.

This adventure must have set some kind of anti-ROI record. Just a singularly total waste of time, money, and energy (if relatively light on blood compared to other conflicts).

Ironically, the USSR’s creation lasted three years. Despite the mujahedeen receiving much more in the way of foreign support, Najibullah’s government managed to independently mount multi-division offensives against the jihadists after the Soviet withdrawal and survived for a bit more than three years, when Soviet aid dried up. In contrast, it appears that the Americans were simply uninterested in building an actual army that could operate independently without their oversight. These are some interesting remarks on this from a former Afghan major on Brown Pundits. Even the South Vietnamese regime lasted for two years. (Has American nation-building capacity declined? Though of course Afghanistan and Vietnam aren’t really at all comparable).

The US failure in this respect is all the more total in that, at least according to the most comprehensive poll on the matter, most Afghans did not actually sympathize with the Taliban. The percentage of Afghans who said they sympathized with the Taliban in 2019 was just 13%, shrinking to 8% in Kabul. Even amongst ethnic Pashtuns, this percentage was just 21%. If this poll is accurate, it would imply the Taliban had less popular support than Islamic State in its heartlands of Al Raqqa. (Incidentally, the fact that many Western commenters believe that Taliban support was broad-based is a testament to Taliban PR). And yet, even so, the Taliban went through the ANA like a hot knife through butter, strolling from town to town in their sandals, firing their rifles from the hip without aiming, like you can see in combat videos from Sub-Saharan Africa. It seems that normie Afghans are not Islamist enough to want the Taliban, but nor are they motivated enough to stick their necks out for a highly corrupt government that few saw as “theirs” and which confirmed their intuitions by fleeing to Dubai as the Taliban closed in. Individually, it was not the incorrect decision, even though it collectively doomed them to an outcome that a majority probably saw as suboptimal.

Finally, it’s certainly a major PR defeat for the US, and some of the most regressively kneejerk anti-American elements, running the gamut from domestic Islamist interlopers crowing over the “defeat of colonialism and imperialism” to their newfound groyper allies slavering over putting women in cages and banning vaccines, are certainly savoring the moment. However, I would imagine Biden has good reasons for going through with the withdrawal. It gets rid of a major strategic liability and money sink, especially at a time when the US needs to devote more and more resources to keeping ahead of China. I would guess that in many cases, even the supposed benefits of staying in Afghanistan might have been overstated. For instance, some have touted it as a “live fire” training base. But the soldiers there operate in conditions of total air and EW supremacy, which will not be forthcoming in a military clash with a real peer competitor. Consequently, the “lessons” that the US military has been learning from Afghanistan may be dubious and even counter-productive in a serious conflict.

At the end of the day, if 20 years wasn’t enough time to stabilize the situation, probably 30 wouldn’t have been enough either. It is good not to succumb to sunk costs fallacy. Certainly the withdrawal might have been better managed. Gifting a newfangled Islamist regimes with tons of advanced weaponry doesn’t strike me as an excellent idea (though, happily, the Taliban Air Force will be barely any more adept at using them than ANA). Perhaps the strategy should have been to hold on to core areas; for instance, if ANA had been concentrated around especially anti-Taliban Kabul and the north, as opposed to being spread out all over the country, then it could have held at least those territories. But those are speculative counterfactuals. At the end of the day, perhaps Biden looked at Trump’s experience, and decided that a sharp and quick withdrawal was only way to avoid it being sabotaged by Pentagon bureaucrats.

Conversely, the conventional wisdom is that this is a minor “win” for China, which has been sending out feelers to the Taliban for months; on July 28, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi met with Taliban commander Abdul Ghani Baradar, who is to imminently become Afghanistan’s new President. Probably Chinese investment into infrastructure and mining will be sufficient enticement to make the Taliban honor their commitment not to support Uyghur separatists in response to China’s reciprocal and long-standing policy of not meddling in the governance of other countries. But there’s no way to be sure. Russia is now put into the awkward position of having to negotiate with an organization which its official news media, by law, has to remind its readers/viewers is “banned in the Russian Federation” while at the same time having to respond to inane and recurring American claims that it paid that same Taliban to kill American soldiers; allegations that I now half expect to resurface in force to explain away the humiliation of the past three weeks. Since the current Taliban as I understand is in significant part a confederation of regional warlords, and the Tajik north feels like breaking away again – for instance, on account of resurgent Pashtun nationalism – this could create a refugee crisis that overspills into Tajikistan and from Tajikistan into Russia itself (non-ethnic Russian immigration from Central Asia is dominated by Tajiks). And will the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan continue to recognize Crimea, as Hamid Karzai did? So many questions! The Taliban’s triumph in Afghanistan will also be discomfiting, if not catastrophic, for Iran. During its previous lease on power, the two nearly came to blows in 1998 when the Taliban killed Iranian diplomats and journalists in the northern city of Mazar-i Sharif (the date is marked as “Journalist’s Day” in Iran). As with Tajikistan/Russia, there might also be a flood of Hazara refugees into Iran if the Taliban overreaches.

In fact, the only clear winners and losers, respectively, would appear to be Pakistan and India, respectively. India’s project to build a logistics route through Afghanistan down to the Iranian port of Chabahar is now dead in the water.

It’s a Zoomer’s Market

Like them, hate them, or consider them genderfluid TikToking herbivores, but one thing the zoomers undoubtedly get right is that they know the value of their labor and aren’t afraid to spell out their conditions to seething boomers.

Isn’t this, like, the free market at work? Why would a supposed “libertarian” have a problem with this?

The combination of Corona gibs, forced savings (fewer vacations, dining out, etc.), and zoomers being much more financially literate relative to previous generations means they have lots of cash at their disposal. Safety net = more room to negotiate –> employee’s market.

It’s also very good for the economy. Can’t find someone to “stand there and ensure safety on a 1 lane dirt road” for a pittance? Well, perhaps such a joke job shouldn’t exist in the first place>?

The post-Corona economy sort of strikes as something of a preview of what UBI would be like. Greater productivity. Labor gets much more negotiating power. Sign on bonuses, once the preserve of highly skilled and sought after technical workers, are now being offered by some McDonald’s outlets. Billionaires might have become richer, but so did most everyone with investments outside gold and fiat. In tech, remote work has become the norm. Shitty employers offering shit jobs whine about the “entitled” ingrates who are driving them out of business.

Meanwhile, as I half suspected would happen at the outset of the pandemic, most everyone else wins.


Rainbow Ascendant

I mentioned this Ipsos poll on global attitudes to LGBT in a previous Open Thread, but it really deserves a separate post on account of its significance.

I think it demonstrates three things:

  1. LGBT rights (as in marriage and adoption) have become universalized beyond their Western core, with the Rest sliding into line soon after Red America gave up on opposing it about a decade ago.
  2. This is spearheaded by the younger generations.
  3. PR, or propaganda, works both ways. There has obviously been a huge and increasingly state-directed push for LGBT from the US. But countries that legally discouraged it have become “frozen” so far as attitudes are concerned.

Here’s the graph of countries that now support gay marriage.

Notably, there are solid majorities everywhere for it outside Russia and Malaysia in the polled countries. Turkey is 50/50. The V4, including PiS-ruled Poland, support it. So do China and India, the two most populous countries.

So one might say that this is literally “GloboHomo”, i.e. culturally hegemonic. That is, just as the “gay marriage” culture war was “lost” in America from around 2010, the same is true of the world as a whole c.2020. Again, see China and India.

Whereas Russia made the anti-LGBT campaign the central lynchpin of Putin’s “conservative turn” around the late 2000s, it did not play much of a role in more authoritarian China (except perhaps very recently). Its very telling that in the absence of state repression (via propaganda), it has “won” by default.

And for that matter even in Russia trends might have recently reversed (maybe, the linked poll has a low sample… need to wait for more polls).

This would also tend to support the “LGBT as fad” thesis.

Curiously, there’s no difference between gay marriage support and gay adoption support (at least with the exception of Russia and Poland).

Another curious observation is that levels of support for LGBT rights correlates with how gay you are on average. Not a clean correlation by any means, e.g. Malaysia is very high, and India is at the very top. Brazil doesn’t surprise me, I recall reading coming across older polls which showed that more of them identified as homosexual or bisexual than the 3% of Americans, before the zoomers broke the charts.

LOL at Russia being literally the straightest country in this sample. One is tempted to conclude that Milonov and Yarovaya were correct about everything.

On that note.

It’s quite stunning. Only 57% of American zoomers identify as totally heterosexual, versus 95% of boomers. There can only be one explanation for such a rapid change in historical time. Genetic explanations of homosexuality are not very convincing as it is (they impose extremely large reproductive costs), but even that aside, there is no way that this could have happened in a couple of generations. Cultural fad is the most succinct explanation.

The main thing that remains to be seen is how “deep” it is and to what extent it impacts on the TFR. The rapid decline in Anglo TFR over the past half decade might hint at the answer, though I suppose there are many factors involved.

And as we can see here this is a global phenomenon. Just 68% of zoomers globally are total heterosexuals versus 87% of boomers. The Americans were actually less gay than the global average at one point but the change has been more rapid.

So what could this be tied to? Well, in countries that are less gay and have less support for gay marriage/adoption, they also tend to be more against pro-LGBT signaling.

They know of fewer people who are gay. This is both a function of gay behavior being more taboo, but also, as per above, there also being fewer gays and more of a closet effect.

There’s also unsurprisingly much less support for things like corporate signaling with rainbow flags and the like.

More of them would prefer that they “stay in the closet” so far as their personal lives are concerned.

PS. This isn’t meant to be a gay-bashing post. I’m primarily interested in how things work and in any case the ~3% of the population that is gay by default has contributed to civilization above its population share (Turing, Tchaikovsky, etc.). But these more recent developments do seem quite significant and with so many zoomers and millennials starting to identify as non-hetero, might provide at least part of the explanation for the sharp falls in TFR observed across some countries in the past 5 years (in the Anglosphere in particular). In the long run, it might not be so relevant, as people more susceptible to such fads will have fewer children.


Open Thread 160

  • Emil Kirkegaard: The ‘Hereditarians bad people’ objection. On the recent spat between Cathy Young vs. Charles Murray, Steve Sailer, and other hereditarians. Ended with Steve being blocked by Cathy.

  • Hungary has become an object in the culture war. Their demographic problems long predate Orban, who was actually more successful on the economy than on the former (at least to date). They are not going to get rich by taking in immigrants. The US tends to attract much higher quality immigrants (or at least an elite “smart fraction” subset that punches way above its weight) that will simply never come to Hungary because it is banally poorer than the US and does not have world-renowned institutions/companies to attract them (as @whyvert points out). Basically, my take is that there’s limited the “lessons: that the US and Hungary can exchange are highly limited.

  • Global Times: “Lithuania is a crazy, tiny country full of geopolitical fears. Its strategy is to cling to the US as tightly as possible. Lithuania will eventually pay the price for its evil deed of breaking international rules.

* Banerjee, I. et al. (2021). Reading Race: AI Recognises Patient’s Racial Identity In Medical Images. In arXiv [cs.CV]. Twitter summary: “We performed many experiments to work out how it does this, but couldn’t pin it down. This is the most ridiculous figure I have ever seen. AI can detect race from images filtered so heavily they are just blank grey squares! …Hi everyone. This thread has been swamped by racists. I’m probably gonna miss your replies, but I’ll still be here in a few days when they move on or you can reach out through other channels.

India in the Olympics

It’s fascinating to think that what is now a solidly lower-middle income country with a population that is on the cusp of overtaking’s China’s has just two medals in the Olympics so far.

It’s a bit less surprising when one considers that the average Indian man might only be about as strong as the average Icelandic woman…

But anyhow.

The other really interesting feature is how even within India a small proportion of states contribute almost all their medal winners. For instance, 30% of the Indian Olympic team comes from Haryana and Punjab, two states with 4% of India’s population.

Moreover, even from within those states, there are areas of strong concentration.


Although it’s tempting to ascribe this to vegetarianism, the problem is that most of the South and East do eat chicken whereas both Punjab and Haryana are very vegetarian.

Looking at the leaderboard, India is right below Mongolia (population: 3 million), which at three medals has one more than India despite a 500x lower population. All three of them are in judo. The Mongols also dominate sumo wrestling in Japan (126 million).

Open Thread 159

Rosatom HQ.

  • RIP. Sam Dickson: William H. Regnery II: A Hero’s Life. A Hero’s Death.  I intersected with him in Moscow in 2018 at the end of a transit of the Trans-Siberian with a friend. Too little to get a know a person, but my impressions were positive, FWIW. On a non-political tone, He remarked that he had visited Moscow three times, once towards the end of the Soviet era, the second time around 2010, and the third time now. Each time it had gotten better. He said that he had been in London about 20 times and that it had progressively degraded since he first visited in the 1960s. In 2018, he felt it had overtaken it in quality and by a large margin.

* Lo, Y.-H., Cheng et al. (2020). Detecting genetic ancestry and adaptation in the Taiwanese Han people. Molecular Biology and Evolution. Spoiler: Admixture happened before the Chinese emigrated to Taiwan.

(1) The Georgian Orthodox Church is autocephalous from Moscow, (2) all polls show Georgians more homophobic than Russians, (3) Georgian nationalists don’t exactly like Russia, LOL.

But it is still Putler & Russia who are repressing their gays.

41% of Ukrainians Agree They and Russians Are One People

These are the results of a recent poll from Rating Group. 41% agree with Putin’s position, 55% disagree. Not bad, considering there’s now been a generation’s worth of state svidomy narratives.

But possibly the most startling result (and certainly one that I didn’t expect is there there’s essentially zero difference across age groups. 44% of 18-29 y/o’s agree to 42% of 60+ y/o’s, despite declining numbers of self-identifying Russians in younger age groups.

Otherwise, the regional and political party breakdowns are not surprising. Solid majorities in the South and East, amongst adherents of the UOC-MP, and the expected opposition parties (Opposition Bloc, Party of Shariy, etc.) consider Ukrainians and Russians to be one people. Even so, the fact that even in Western Ukraine, 22% agree with this, as do 10% of Greek-Catholics, 12% of nationalist Svoboda supporters, and 10% of European Solidarity voters, was mildly interesting; it is curious and significant that such people even exist.

Cultural Autonomy in Film

Chinese protectionism/censorship (they only allow 34 Hollywood movies a year) has helped incubate a domestic film industry. As Richard Hanania points out, citing a study by James McMahon, that as of now, 9 out of 10 of the highest grossing films in Chinese history are domestic, all released in the last few years.

State censors require that all films in China, both of domestic and foreign origin, adhere to “the principles of the Chinese Constitution and maintain social morality” (O’Connor & Armstrong, 2015, p. 9). These standards are maintained through the prohibition of certain images and scenes that depict “demons or supernaturalism, crime or any other illicit or illegal actions within China’s borders, disparagement of the People’s Liberation Army and police, and anything that could be perceived as anti-China–including merely damaging Chinese sites or monuments.

Something like Leviathan (2014), a depressive/cynical-for-the-sake-of-it movie with Russophobic undertones, wouldn’t have been made (or at least screened) in China and that’s probably a good thing for the Chinese.

That said, another curious finding from the author James McMahon, although it is not in the paper, is that Russia – along with India and China – has the least intersection with American cultural consumption. That is, they have the lowest correlations between films that do well in the US box office and in their own.

This seems to largely be a map of cultural closeness to the US. Australia, Britain, New Zealand, and South Africa are all in the top 5 closest countries to the US.

I suspect that the distance between the US and Russia might even start to further increase with the increasingly heavy-handed promotion of “Woke” themes in American cinema.

Open Thread 158

Time for something more stereotypical.

  • The AK. About a couple of months ago the National Bolsheviks (“Other Russia”) had me round to their “bunker” for a podcast. It’s now been released, you can listen to it here. (Obviously only in Russian).

Alt Right columnist Tobias Langdon “featured me” as a Jew besmirching the noble Anglo at Counter-Currents.

This is not some dark new age of cancel culture, however, it’s just a return to normality. Those who grew up in the late 20th century were living in a highly unusual time, one that could never be sustained, a sexual and cultural revolution that began in 1963 or 1968. But it has ended and, as all revolutionaries must do after storming the Bastille, they have built Bastilles of their own. The new order has brought in numerous methods used by the old order to exert control — not just censorship, but word taboo and rituals which everyone is forced to go along with, or at least not openly criticise. You might call it the new intolerance, or woke extremism, but all societies need the policing of social norms.

No one would satirise the transgender movement today; no one would dare point fun at BLM, or Pride month; no one would dare joke about George Floyd, because like the publishers of Gay Times in 1977, they might face jail for blasphemy.  Instead leading satirist Sacha Baron Cohen makes a living making jokes at the expense of the little people. Indeed the only satire made now pokes fun at the old establishment, like punching the corpse of a once-ferocious zoo animal, or the people who still hold the old beliefs; the elderly, the less educated, the rural and provincial. The powerless.

This is one of the best meta-pieces on the Great Awokening to date IMO.

The report – “No 32-04 vd” – is classified as secret. It says Trump is the “most promising candidate” from the Kremlin’s point of view. The word in Russian is perspektivny.

There is a brief psychological assessment of Trump, who is described as an “impulsive, mentally unstable and unbalanced individual who suffers from an inferiority complex”.

There is also apparent confirmation that the Kremlin possesses kompromat, or potentially compromising material, on the future president, collected – the document says – from Trump’s earlier “non-official visits to Russian Federation territory”.

#ThatHappened. /s Actually, I strongly suspect it might have been a troll job. Anyhow, as Aaron Mate points out, even the likes of Maddow aren’t touching it with a ten foot pole.

Kirkegaard with a blast from the past (2019): South Africa’s Decline Is Worst Among Nations Not at War, Model Shows. I wonder if there’s some demographic tipping point at which it implodes.

  • AFGHANISTAN. Zadran, S. K., Ilyas, M., & Dawari, S. (2021). Genetic variants associated with diseases in Afghan population. Molecular Genetics & Genomic Medicine, 9(5), e1608. Holtz: “In Afghanistan, the prevalence of cousin marriages is estimated to be 46.2%. The prevalent type of cousin marriage is first cousin marriage (27.8%), followed by double first cousin marriage (6.9%), second cousin (5.8%), and third cousin (3.9%).” Sailer noted this, and the implications for the chances of US success in Afghanistan, two decades ago. 😐

  • Video of Taliban taking over a gym. Disclose TV: “UK will work with the Taliban if they take power in Afghanistan, says the British Defense Minister.”

  • CORONA. Yuri Deigin – Get vaccinated! It could help you, like, not die… It’s pretty funny observing the hostile responses to it. Basically, what I think happened is that many anti-China right-wingers followed him after Wade propped him as the originator of the “biolab escape” theory, under the impression he was some kind of anti-China propagandist. This is not the case, to their chagrin.

Incidentally, I have largely refrained from opining on ivermectin. It did strike me as this year’s hydroxychloroquine (not suppressed, works to some extent in some cases, neither the silver bullet nor the snake oil of rightoid and soyjak imagination, respectively), but it’s not something I wanted to actively research. But happily, Deigin – compiled some several studies which shows it as “either ineffective or very mildly effective.”

Richard Hanania: “Latest conservative grift is to buy a $120 Chinese phone, preload it with conservative apps, rename it the “Freedom Phone,” and sell it for $500.

While Freedom Phone’s founder has failed to include basic details about its device, he did line up a massive ad campaign among conservative influencers. Along with Owens, Stone, D’Souza, and Alexander, the Freedom Phone has also been backed by a number of other figures popular on the right, including Pizzagate conspiracy theorist Jack Posobiec, journalist John Solomon, and Students for Trump cofounder Ryan Fournier.

OTOH, who can blame them? There’s a reason these influencers have made it and you haven’t. My observation is the more you scam rightoids, the more they respect you for it.

  • FINANCE (NFA). Three companies of note have listed in recent weeks: Transferwise (now just Wise) (~$13B), a very easy to use service for international money transfers; 23andme (~$4B), which needs no introduction; and the European Medical Center (~$1B), a private chain of about a dozen high-end clinics in Moscow. I suspect all of them will do quite well. I was actually slightly surprised that 23andme mc is so low, the genomic data it has accumulated should be a goldmine for pharma companies.

Innovative Immigrants. But Which Ones?

America’s ability to draw high quality human capital from abroad is one of the lynchpins of its economic strengths and probably goes some ways to explaining why it’s GDP per capita is significantly higher than would might be predicted from its national IQ.

Alexander Kruel recently had a Twitter thread about precisely which groups of immigrants contribute to that innovation:

From The Demographics of Innovation in the United States (page 26-27).

Nothing surprising there. But it’s spelled out just in case:

Then it cites the composition of the US Math Olympiad team. The International Math Olympiad has indeed long become a Chinese vs. Chinese-American contest.

Similarly “Oriental” picture in Canada.

Now the underrepresentation of NAM (non-Asian minority) immigrant achievement is something that’s in the “those who know, know” category, to be surreptitiously noticed if not publicly acknowledged .

But there’s a much more obscure but also rather important, and arguably more interesting, HBD observation to be teased out from behind these three examples.

Any suggestions?