Two new book chapters on Afghanistan and the New Silk Road

It has been far too long since I posted on this site. But I was busy having literally travelled around the world during the past two years in my other life as a musician.

Despite being busy playing music, I did find time to write two new chapters that will both be available soon from the publisher. These are:

“Liberating Afghanistan? Global War and the Battle for Afghanistan.” In Immanuel Ness, Zak Cope (eds.) The Palgrave Encyclopedia of Imperialism and Anti-Imperialism. London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2015.

“Afghanistan from Barrier to Bridgehead: Rare Earth Elements and the New Silk Road.” In Ryan Kiggins (ed.) The Political Economy of Rare Earth Elements: Rising Powers and Technological Change. London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2015.

I’m looking forward to reading all the other chapters in both books as soon as they arrive from the publisher. You can pre-order yours now through your local bookstore or favourite online vendor.

About “Liberating Afghanistan? Global War and the Battle for Afghanistan.”

by Michael Skinner:

Throughout the endless occupation of Afghanistan, many people in the West have continued to believe the myth that this country is a remote, worthless land populated by backward, hostile people. Given the general level of ignorance about Afghanistan perpetuated by intellectual elites, political and military leaders, and mainstream media it is not surprising so few of the taxpayers footing the bill and the families sacrificing their loved ones for the ongoing military expedition question the story of why a small coalition of states, led by the US, invaded Afghanistan and continue an occupation with no end in sight. The accepted story is that the invasion was a necessary act of retaliation that would eliminate the terrorists responsible for the 9/11 attacks, which in the process would somehow liberate Afghan women and girls, give democracy to Afghans, and generally make the world a safer place. It is beyond the scope of this chapter to counter the myth that Afghans are backward and hostile. This chapter does counter the myth that Afghanistan is a remote and worthless land by examining the geostrategic value of Afghanistan in the context of the historical expansion and evolution of capitalism and the emergence of an Empire of Capital. Afghanistan is a land of immense natural resource wealth; Afghan mineral resources are estimated to be worth one trillion US dollars and the total value of all extractive resources, including oil and gas reserves, may be as much as three trillion US dollars. Afghan resources are of significant value, but their greater value lies in catalyzing development of a trans-Eurasian network of transportation, energy transmission, and communications infrastructure with Afghanistan as a central node – Afghanistan lies at the geopolitical center of the struggle to expand an emerging Empire of Capital throughout Eurasia.

Barely more than two centuries after Elizabeth I granted the East India Company its royal charter in 1600, the company’s paramilitary forces pushed northward through India to make its first forays into Afghanistan in the early 1800s. The expansion of capitalism was, however, stalled at the borders of Afghanistan for almost another two hundred years until the US led forces ‘liberated’ Afghanistan with the invasion of 7 October 2001. Feel-good propaganda stories aside, few Afghans and especially few Afghan women and girls were liberated by the invasion. International investors, however, were truly liberated – investors are now free to profit not only by extracting Afghanistan’s wealth, but even more so from developing the infrastructure to make use of its strategic position at the center of expanding capital across Eurasia. Afghanistan is a geopolitical and economic keystone poised to become a central node of transportation, energy transmission, and communications networks spanning Central Asia that will ultimately connect the disparate regions of the Eurasian supercontinent. The US government and the Asian Development Bank (ADB) call this initiative the New Silk Road. Building physical infrastructure, however, is only part of developing the New Silk Road. Creating the political-legal-economic infrastructure, which Hilary Clinton described as ‘new rules for the 21st century’, is equally important. The strategic and economic importance of global trade in various resources wax and wane with changes in technology or consumers’ whims, but a remaining constant is the growth of the physical transportation, energy transmission, and communications networks, as well as the less tangible but no less real political-legal-economic infrastructure of empire. Building this superstructure of dominance lies at the heart of building empire.

In this chapter, I first, examine the vast resource wealth of Afghanistan. Second, I examine the development of the New Silk Road as a means not only to exploit this wealth but more importantly to expand US and allied dominance in Central Asia and throughout Eurasia. Third, I argue the invasion of Afghanistan was not necessary in the legal sense defined by international law; however, the invasion and continuing occupation is necessary, from the perspective of geostrategists, to expand capital and maintain US dominance in the global political economy. I conclude the invasion and occupation of Afghanistan is one battle of many in an endless global war for the expansion of capital that demonstrates the emergence of an Empire of Capital. The US continues to compete for global dominance, but the empire the US leads is becoming increasingly multinational in composition as the most powerful and wealthiest capitalist states evermore closely align their interests toward global and not exclusively national capital expansion. The invasion of Afghanistan failed to liberate most Afghan women, but it successfully liberated capital, by destroying Afghan normative systems of collective ownership and replacing these with a political-legal-economic regime created by the US and its closest allies.

About the book, The Palgrave Encyclopedia of Imperialism and Anti-Imperialism. edited by Immanuel Ness and Zak Cope:

The Palgrave Encyclopedia of Imperialism and Anti-Imperialism presents prominent themes, epochal events, theoretical explanations, and historical accounts of imperialism from the beginnings of modernity and the capitalist world system in the 16th century to the present day. It offers a body of comparative research that challenges and enhances our understanding of today’s world.

Whereas imperialism is an indispensable element of contemporary political analysis and scholarly investigation, a primary academic reference work on the subject has up to now been sorely lacking. The Encyclopedia of Imperialism and Anti-Imperialism was conceived and designed to fill this gap for scholars and students across academic disciplines and, indeed, beyond the confines of the university.

In its broadest definition, imperialism is the military, political, legal and/or economic control of one people’s territory by another so that the subject territory is made to relinquish resources, labour and produce for little or no compensation. This work examines how imperialism has impacted societies in the Third World, that is, the former colonies of Asia, Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean, as well as how it has shaped social relations and popular perceptions in the First World countries of Europe, North America and Japan.

By highlighting the centrality of imperialism to present and historical realities, the Encyclopedia provides a multifaceted corrective to mainstream perceptions. Exploring the struggles waged against imperialism, the volume presents a range of biographies and movement studies that exemplify the rich and ongoing tradition of anti-imperialist theories and practices.

The Encyclopedia of Imperialism and Anti-Imperialism is divided into seven sections: Biographies; Country and Regional Analysis; Culture and the Arts; History; Movements and Ideologies; Political Economy; and Themes and Concepts. It provides a comprehensive examination and overview of its subject, covering many of the most significant social, cultural, political, and economic aspects of the imperialist project. Essays chronicle the ways in which imperialist domination has unfolded, tracing its roots, goals, tactics, influence and outcomes over time and space. The Palgrave Encyclopedia of Imperialism and Anti-Imperialism is the most comprehensive scholarly examination of the subject to date.


About “Afghanistan from Barrier to Bridgehead: Rare Earth Elements and the New Silk Road.” by Michael Skinner

Competing empires – first Britain and Russia, then the US and the USSR – used Afghanistan as a barrier between their empires. Consequently, Afghanistan was bypassed during the resource development and infrastructure building booms of the 19th and 20th centuries. However, the US led Operation Enduring Freedom invasion, in 2001, turned Afghanistan into a bridgehead to open Afghanistan and, consequently, further open Central Asia and all Eurasia to free trade. Afghanistan is a geopolitical and economic keystone poised to become a central node of transportation, energy transmission, and communications networks throughout Central Asia to ultimately connect the disparate regions of the Eurasian supercontinent in an initiative the US government and the Asian Development Bank call the New Silk Road. But building physical infrastructure is only part of this development; of equal importance is creating the infrastructure Hilary Clinton called ‘new rules for the 21st century’. Developing Afghanistan’s vast resources, including its wealth of strategically important rare earth elements (REE), is one of many catalysts facilitating this New Silk Road. Whether REE or the vast wealth of all Afghan resources are developed does not pose an existential nor even minor security threat to the US and its closest allies – alternative sources for these resources exist. The existential threat to the US-led coalition of allied states Ellen Wood succinctly calls an Empire of Capital is a reversal in growth, or, worse yet, a breakdown of the current structure of the global political-legal-economic regime that the US currently dominates. Whether China gains control of Afghan REE is of relatively minor concern compared to the strategic goal, defined in the Bush administration’s National Security Strategy, which is to deepen China’s engagement within the global free trade regime while maintaining America’s dominant position as arbiter, enforcer, and thus greatest beneficiary of this regime. But this realization does not diminish the strategic value of REE in Afghanistan; instead, it reveals a different strategic value. For the US and its closest allies, the greatest strategic value of Afghanistan’s REE, as one part of a large bundle of rich resources, lies more in their catalytic potential to attract investors than either their actual use or market values. Whether these investors are American, Chinese, Russian, Indian, British, Canadian or anyone else matters little, provided they invest within the rubric of the American led global capitalist regime. Investments in resource development are an essential catalyst to develop the physical as well as the less tangible but no less real political-legal-economic infrastructure of the New Silk Road – a strategic network intended to maintain, via expansion in Central Asia and consequently throughout Eurasia, the global status quo of perpetual economic growth of an emerging Empire of Capital and American dominance within this system.

About the book, The Political Economy of Rare Earth Elements: Rising Powers and Technological Change. edited by Ryan David Kiggins

Rare earths are seventeen elements on the periodic table that comprise the lanthanides, metallic elements which, when combined with other substances, form materials with unique magnetic, conductive, and energy storage properties. Rare earths are crucial for human prosperity, security, and peace, enabling activities ranging from social networking and internet surfing to flying waging wars. The contributors argue that rare earths are essential to the information technology revolution on which humans have come to depend for communication, commerce, and, increasingly, engage in conflict. Therefore, safeguarding ready access to rare earths ensures that humans will continue to reap the social, economic, and political benefits of information, transportation, energy production and energy storage technologies. This edited volume demonstrates that rare earths are a strategic commodity over which political actors will and do struggle for control.


Introduction: The Strategic And Security Implications Of Rare Earths; Ryan Kiggins
2. China’s Rare Earth Industry And End-Use: Supply Security And Innovation; Jost Wubbeke
3. Rare Earths And Japan: Traditional Vulnerability Reconsidered; Kyoko Hatakeyama
4. Rare Earth Elements And The European Union; Maximilian Rech
5. The Curious Disjunction Of Rare Earth Elements And U.S. Politics: Analyzing The Inability To Develop A Secure REE Supply Chain; Steven Dobransky
6. Afghanistan From Barrier To Bridgehead: The Political Economy Of Rare Earth Elements And The New Silk Road; Michael Skinner
7. The Environment-Security Nexus In Contemporary Rare Earth Politics; Julie Klinger
8. Recycling Toward Rare Earths Security; Fanny Verrax
9. Rare Earth And One-Dimensional Society: Mining The Foundations Of Counterrevolutionary Seduction; Sean Walsh
10. Rare Earths In Africa And South America; Mauro Caraccioli
Afterword: Rare Earths In The WTO; Louis Furmanski



© Michael Skinner and Michael Skinner Research, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Michael Skinner and Michael Skinner Research with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.