Recently in Hanoi, Vietnam’s capital city, a long forgotten bunker was rediscovered underneath a hotel.  This brings back the memories of a war that ended not all that many years ago, but the effects of which are rarely seen today.  In fact, Vietnam has transformed itself from the war-torn nation it was when hostilities ceased in 1975 into one of the fastest growing economies in Asia.  Just look at the things you buy.  It is amazing how many things are made in Vietnam.  Adidas and Nike both have major factories there, as do many other large retailers. Not all that long ago it was a war zone.

Will Iraq and Afghanistan turn out the same way?  Will upper-class Iraqis be driving around in Bentleys bought with money made from selling Americans the latest sneakers?  Chances are Iraq will be supplying oil rather than sneakers, but in my opinion there is a strong possibility that as Iraq stabilizes, their economy will strengthen and they will come to play a larger role in the world economy.  Afghanistan is a different story. An Afghan’s first loyalty, generally speaking, is to their clan.  Although abundant in natural resources, it is doubtful whether Afghanistan can ever stabilize enough under one blanket government to have any semblance of a strong economy.

Both nations could benefit from preferable trade treatment by the United States in the future.  After WWII, the United States was able to reap the benefits of infrastructures that they helped to build in both Germany and Japan.  As the United States helps to rebuild Iraq and Afghanistan, they will again be concerned with helping these restructured nations prosper.

If you asked most Americans in 1975 if they would be buying clothing made in Vietnam in 2011, most would have probably answered no.  But today, we openly trade with Vietnam and they reap the benefits of American consumerism.  It will be interesting to see what the future will hold for Iraq and Afghanistan.

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One comment

  1. It is extremely difficult to predict what the future holds for American-Afghan and American-Iraqi relations. However, I would have to agree that there is a strong possibility that the Iraq economy will stabilize and both the United States and Iraq will be able to benefit from their future relationship. But, given the recent announcement that the United States will withdraw the remainder of it’s troops by years end, I believe the post-war success of Iraq will largely depend on the amount of effort the United States puts forth in assisting Iraq in this enormous transition. Domestically, many issues in Iraq remain unresolved. Twenty months after a national election, the political blocs cannot agree on who should run the Defense and Interior Ministries. And the Parliament still has not yet passed legislation about how the country’s oil and gas revenues should be divided. Furthermore, the Iraqi infrastructure is far from adequate. Even though the United States is in the middle of a financial crisis, it still needs to increase diplomatic and cultural programs in Iraq as well as assist it greatly in rebuilding its economy. The aid to Iraq should not, and does not, need to be as massive as The Marshall Plan, but it should be sufficient enough to ensure that the post-war outcome is a positive one.

    Afghanistan, on the other hand, is a completely different situation. The United States has been in Afghanistan for about ten years and the nation has yet to improve drastically. The country is extremely difficult to stabilize given the extreme dichotomy between its urban environments and underdeveloped areas (which are highly susceptible to Taliban and radical Islamist influence). Terrorists from other countries constantly flow into Afghanistan, and crime clans like the Haqqani network (which is also a radical Islamist organization), are getting more powerful by the day and will certainly outlast the United States’ presence in the country. In fact, the Haqqani network is so powerful that according to Marc Sageman, a former CIA officer, “Whoever is in power in Kabul will have to make a deal with the Haqqanis…It won’t be us. We’re going to leave and those guys know it.” The drug trade in Afghanistan also continues to flourish and is supported by the Taliban and other powerful criminal gangs. The drug trade and gang / Taliban influence has been part of Afghanistan for decades. All of these aspects of Afghan life will surely outlast the United States presence, thus making it even more difficult for Afghanistan to transition into a more prosperous sovereign nation.

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