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US Faces Off With China Over Rare Earths

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Ann R. Thryft
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Re: World Politics Over Natural Resources
Ann R. Thryft   4/11/2012 12:49:05 PM
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Rob, you're sure right about difficulty in occupying the country by US and Soviet forces. But the problem is, there's no overall economy for the dollars to go into: there are tribes and powerful individuals/families within those tribes. Some of them, most likely those already in power, very likely the ones we don't like, will manage to get the dollars, assuming there are any left after all the mercenaries and whatnot forces we send over there have taken their pickings first. There's no particular reason to think that similar sociopolitical-economic structures (to sub-Saharan Africa or portions of the Middle East like Iraq and our involvement with them) will produce different results.


Rob Spiegel
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Re: World Politics Over Natural Resources
Rob Spiegel   4/10/2012 1:39:02 PM
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Yes, you're right about Afghanistan, Ann, which is probably part of the reason the Soviets and the U.S. have had so much trouble occupying the country. I would think that the dollars would still go into the economy in one way or another, but maybe not.

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: World Politics Over Natural Resources
Ann R. Thryft   4/10/2012 12:53:18 PM
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Rob, thanks for the info. You're right, that looks promising. However, it's not going to do the country much good overall because Afghanistan isn't really a country, in the sense of a state. It's a collection of people with different ethnic and linguistic origins living mostly in nomadic tribes at conflict with each other, and without any overall unifying sense of statehood. If the main European invasion of North America had been by Vikings or Celts in the years 500-1000 AD, we might have had a sociologically and technologically similar situation here, among native and European-born tribes in conflict with each other.


Rob Spiegel
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Re: World Politics Over Natural Resources
Rob Spiegel   4/9/2012 1:27:51 PM
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Some American officials have estimated the Afghan rare earth deposits are worth up to one trillion dollars. So it is significant. That should have some impact on the country's economy even  it it goes to just a few.

http://www.laprogressive.com/afghan-mineral-wealth-highway/

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: World Politics Over Natural Resources
Ann R. Thryft   4/9/2012 12:26:44 PM
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Dave, I agree with you about the unlikelihood that Afghanistani residents will benefit from this discovery. My references to chess and and poker concerned relations between the governments of the US and China, which are actual nations with a sense of statehood and longstanding central governments, regardless of what we may think of them. That description does not fit Afghanistan in the least: politically and sociologically it is much more like many sub-Saharan African "nations."


Ann R. Thryft
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Re: World Politics Over Natural Resources
Ann R. Thryft   4/9/2012 12:25:56 PM
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Rob, thanks for that info about the discovery of rare earth minerals in Afghanistan. Given the long history of outside intervention in that country, I find it difficult to believe that the people who live there will benefit from this discovery.


Rob Spiegel
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Re: World Politics Over Natural Resources
Rob Spiegel   4/6/2012 11:03:19 AM
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I understand your point, Dave. In some of these under developed countries, it is a small number who actually benefit. With the Congo, there is at least a movement among developed countries to avoid the use of "conflict materials." Though I have to say, I'm not sure how well the effort is succeeding.

Dave Palmer
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Re: World Politics Over Natural Resources
Dave Palmer   4/5/2012 6:32:53 PM
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@Rob: I'm sure that the people of Afghanistan will be the ones to benefit from their country's mineral resources, just like the people of the Congo have, right?

Maybe this is a game for companies and for governments -- but whether it's chess or poker, it seems that the populations of natural resource-rich countries are almost always the losers.

Rob Spiegel
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Re: World Politics Over Natural Resources
Rob Spiegel   4/5/2012 5:14:30 PM
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That's pretty good, Ann. I like your differentiation. To further complicate the world of rare earth minerals, a huge supply has been discovered in southern Afghanistan. Geologists estimate Afghanistan has enough rare earths to supply the world's need for 10 years:

http://www.livescience.com/16315-rare-earth-elements-afghanistan.html

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: World Politics Over Natural Resources
Ann R. Thryft   4/5/2012 4:15:32 PM
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Rob, now I'm thinking that the relationships, which are complex, resemble chess sometimes and poker at others, and in both cases, military strategies or tactics. Over the long haul I suspect it's more like chess: you can see your opponent's "hand" (pieces on the board) and guess at their strategy while formulating your own (like war). At the tactical level, I think it's more like poker: you don't know what resources your opponent has for this next confrontation (battle) or what tactics they will use, so you rely more on bluff.

I think your observation is very interesting about government and industry re who's playing which game.


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