State Collapse and Nation Building in Afghanistan

Peter Turchin

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Today the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan collapsed. Top officials, from president Ashraf Ghani down, have run away. The army partly melted away, partly defected to Taliban. There are reports of looting in Kabul, as cops have deserted their posts. This is a classical state collapse, although it is clear that the void will be filled soon enough by the Taliban, who, according to reports, plan to announce their own state from the presidential palace in Kabul in days.

Presidential Palace, Kabul source: Wikimedia

There are many ironies in this situation, but personally for me the main one is that Ashraf Ghani started as an academic who studied state collapse and nation building. Back in 2008 I reviewed, for Nature, the book written by Ghani and Clare Lockhart, Fixing Failed States. My review was not gentle. One of my comments was that the authors

review four examples — post-war Europe, Singapore, the southern United States and Ireland — that, in their opinion, prove that countries confronted with devastation, chaos and entrenched poverty can transform themselves into prosperous and stable members of the global community. Apart from Singapore, however, these are not examples of state collapse. Europe in 1945 was devastated by interstate war; Ireland was poor before its economic miracle but not a collapsed state; and few would consider the United States to be weak.

I also slammed them for not being aware of the current literature on state collapse. Notably, they apparently never heard of structural-demographic theory (among other important theoretical developments). They should have read and paid attention to Ibn Khaldun (more on this below).

And I found their specific proposals lacking, well, specifics:

Ghani and Lockhart propose an agenda for state building, but their weak analysis undermines its credibility. They suggest a ‘sovereignty strategy’ that involves formulating a strategy, then setting the goals and rules of the game, mobilizing resources, allocating critical tasks and, finally, monitoring implementation of the strategy. This generic approach does not suggest concrete policies. For example, the book describes how a strategy formulated in the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh “forced a sobering reading of conditions: corruption, inefficient use of state resources, short-term planning and poor infrastructure. This reading of context enabled participants to embrace change and leaders to set a clear sense of direction.” Given such an easy buy-in, one wonders why this approach has not enabled more sides, such as the Maronite Christians and the Shia and Sunni Muslims in Lebanon, to make peace given the many opportunities they have had to ‘embrace change’.

My review concluded that Fixing Failed States failed as an academic book. Now Ghani failed as the head of the state, together with the state he was the head of.

To be fair, Ghani took on a very difficult, indeed impossible task. Everything that I know of nation building suggests this.

So, is nation-building impossible? Of course not, or we wouldn’t have nations. But successful cases of nation-building are always a result of self-help by the national populations and the elites themselves (if readers of this blog have suggestions on counter-examples, I’d like to hear them).

So how would I build a successful state in Afghanistan? (Not that I would ever agree to take on this dirty and dangerous job, for which I lack any practical experience). I actually talked a little about it in my review. For example, one of the important elements that I touched upon was the example of China:

history suggests that external pressure applied to a society may increase internal cohesion and cooperation. National humiliation of China, first from the European great powers in the nineteenth century and then from Japanese occupation during the Second World War, played an important part in its post-war reunification, for example.

The policy implications of historical outcomes are doubtful. We can hardly subject societies to horrific stresses deliberately.

But Afghanistan was subjected to such an external stress, and from the world hegemon, no less. So one condition fulfilled.

Another potential problem that needs to be resolved is elite overproduction. Taliban is taking care of that, also. A few of the supporters of the old regime have been executed, according to reports. The main ones ran away. The rest will be demoted and replaced by the Taliban cadres.

In other words, the United States has been nation-building in Afghanistan for nearly 20 years, although not quite in the intended way. The new governing elites, especially the younger ones who fought in the field, rather than directed things from Pakistan, share great asabiya (Ibn Khaldun’s term for group solidarity). They are also consolidated by their religion (which is another important factor, according to Ibn Khaldun and modern social science). The previous regime, led by Karzai and Ghani, has been thoroughly discredited as corrupt and dysfunctional. Finally, don’t forget the war fatigue factor. After 20 years of social and political instability the overwhelming majority of the population just wants it to end, even though many may not like the harsh version of Islam that Taliban will impose. This, clearly, explains why the take-over by Taliban was so rapid and, to a large degree, with so little resistance. In short, I fully expect Taliban to be successful in building the new state in Afghanistan. We may not like it, but we will have to live with it.

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Note on the margins: My apologies for being AWOL on social media lately. I’ve been immersed in finishing one book, and starting the next one… details in a future post.

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Ummon

“ But successful cases of nation-building are always a result of self-help by the national populations and the elites themselves (if readers of this blog have suggestions on counter-examples, I’d like to hear them).”

Are we not counting colonial governments here? The commonwealth countries (and the US) seem to have inherited functioning governments from British rule.

William

Two points. First, whether failure by Ghani was inevitable. Corruption is said to have been widespread in the government, leading them, for example to stint on food and equipment for the troops. This is said to be a major reason for the complete lack of confidence of troops in the government. I don’t know how difficult it is to establish a clean government, but Singapore under Lee Kwan Yew did it successfully, and succeeded. So to me what Ghani could have done is an open question.

Second, on your expectation of Taliban success “in building a new state”. I expect warlordism, and I’m told that’s already started in places they control. This is not a nation-state, but decentralized autocracies, with occasional inter-warlord battles and coups. If my fear is realized, I don’t think you can call it a ‘success.’

Olivier

Fascinating tidbit about Ghani! What ever happened to the Northern Alliance, though: did it also fold completely?

Sarah E Murray

The rapid collapse of the American-sponsored state reveals once again the hubris of the US in its belief that it can impose democracy on other cultures through military action. As you point out, the US occupation has instead served to create a unity of identity among Afghans who oppose the occupation and helped create the conditions for the re-emergence of the Taliban as a nation-building force. History suggests that as the outside pressures reduce, internal infighting and fractured alliances will emerge among what now seems a unified front of Taliban forces. I can only hope that happens and that ordinary Afghans will find in those fractures social spaces in which they can survive.

Bob Pero

Thank you for the succinct analysis – looking forward to your next book.

Gene Anderson

1) Yet another proof that von Clausewitz was wrong about God being on the side of the heavier artillery. God, or success, is on the side of the more united and committed force. The Mexican government couldn’t crush the Yaqui and the US couldn’t crush the Vietnamese or Taliban.
2) Afghanistan is in for a ride. Women will be back to prior conditions under Taliban. Lots of executions will take place. Ethnic groups other than the Afghans are in trouble. And on down to the final total destruction of the archaeological sites, art, everything in the museums, and so on.

Roger Cooper

The key element of the collapse was that Ghani stole the money that the army needed to operate. Unpaid, unsupplied, unfed soldiers fled. An army that in theory had 300,000 men in practice only had 50,000 men.

A few years ago, there was a cease-fire for Ramadan. The Taliban leadership was shocked to discover their soldiers wanted peace and fraternized with government forces. They did not show any sign of high “asabiya”.

Dude

A fiver says Ghani has a nice fat Swiss bank account.

paolo ghirri

interesting as usual. when you can find same time, i’m still curious about your thinking of inflation: missing in the old economic blog.

also is 48 years of social and political instability, not 20: 17 July 1973 the military coup, followed by islamic revolt and Carter executive order 3 July 1979 and soviet intervention in december 1979

Juan Alfonso del Busto

Thank you for this post, Peter. You always show up when most needed.
So, could the 20 years of western occupation count as pressure from a transcultural border and therefore contribute to the formation of a unified Taliban state (as opposed to a tribal Taliban region)?
I wonder what the implications for China, India and Russia are.

Vanbakkam Vijayaraghavan

One thing Turchin fails to take into account is that it was Pakistan’s army that fully supported Taliban due it’s strategic priorities and would take it’s pound of flesh in terms of soveriegty and resources. That does not auger well for Afghanistan state . Basically Pakistan would treat Afghanistan as a client state, Client state of an unstable state does not give good prospects

David Hurst

You write “So, is nation-building impossible? Of course not, or we wouldn’t have nations.” Watch the “design and build” metaphor. For, as you point out, successful nations are the result of self-help and effective elites. Shouldn’t we describe them as “cultivated and grown” rather than as “built”. This requires an ecological rather than an engineering framework. It would start by looking for examples of successful development already taking place in the focal context and build on those…. Typically these will be in communities of trust, as Ibn Khaldun suggests. That means this means that the whole cultivation effort must scale on its own timetable, not that of the social engineers….

Morris39

The British, Russians and now Americans failed to take a 2000 year old lesson from the Romans. Don’t mess with the Pashtuns, any possible gain is not worth the trouble.

Juan Gabriel

I have recently read your book War and Peace and War. In Chapter 14 I underlined the following heading:

“The occupation of Iraq by the U.S. and allied forces expanded the zone of direct contact/conflict between the Western and Islamic metaethnic communities. It is now Americans who have to deal with Islamic martyrs, homegrown in Iraq as well as flocking from all over the Muslim world. Was the invasion wise? The theory—the American Creed—is that bringing democracy and the rule of law to the Middle East will transform the Arab societies there and place them on the road to freedom and prosperity. It might work. The metaethnic frontier theory, however, predicts that the Western intrusion will eventually generate a counter-response, possibly in the form of a new theocratic caliphate, because that is the traditional way in which Islamic societies have responded to challenges from other civilizations”.

It seems that this is what is happening in Afghanistan.

Peter van den Engel

I roughly agree with the explanation.
However when a religion foretells that by choosing death in order to reach one’s designated goals, it therefore will become a reality in future, it has mixed up two things in its reasoning: by not being there, there is the least garantee the proclaimed future will happen when you are outnumbered. .

It uses a blind equation, presuming every contradictory opinon remains the same 1:1 equation everywhere and all the time.
While this is impossible when you are outnumbered.
Although islamic culture is famous for its algebra, something went wrong in the translation when it came to religion.
You cannot equalise a dumb fysical action with that of language, when religion can only be language.
Talk to the world instead of killing it.

Jakob

@Juan Gabriel

He essentially predicted ISIS. But just because they were defeated does not mean the pressure cooker which creates states has subsided

Akshat Khandelwal

As a student of history, who widely resents the theoretication of humanistic endeavours (such as state-building – which is probably an art more than a science), here is what I would recommend:

a) An acceptance that Aghanistan has always been a land of tribal nomadic pastoral steppe types. And building a state and discplining such folks is as hard as it was for the Han to discipline Xiongnu nomads or the Romans to discipline the multilpe germanic tribes across the Danube and the Rhine. .
b) In such a culture, to even think about democracy before a strong bureacratic steel frame is built is astonishingly stupid. That there can be no democracy without a strong state is true of most civilised regions of the world, it frankly is a dreamwish in places like Afghanistan, where frankly centralised rule has been weak and shifty for as long as history as existed. Any democracy here will end up as anarchy. Afghanistan has always been the frontier, where barbaric impulses reign over displined state-building.

c) And that while modern technology might allow Afghanistan to have potential for state building today; it requires an amazingly ruthless force at the centre that will brook no opposition, and be ready to do away with any feudalistic elite impeding the process. European (Early Modern Europe state building), Chinese (Qin State building) and the Indian state (rise of British) was built on set of ruthless and borderline genocidal maniacs who cared little for opposition. The more barbaric a people, the more ruthlessness required.

d) Statebuilding is greatly eased by asabiya (as Turchin notes as well); and clearly the Taliban project strength with their tenacity, cohesion and purpose and clear ideology. The Afghan national government seems to have no clear national idea except some globohomo garbage that they borrowed from the West.

In other words, if Afghanistan is to be de-Talibanised then a ruthless popular charismatic Pashtun warlord inspiring Pashtun-based army and screwing the Taliban with national idea of Pashtunness would have been the best possible option (but still with a low probability of success). But instead they got the weak, intellectual Westernised Ghani, who frankly had NO LEADERSHIP experience and was an academic almsot entirely before he took on the reigns in Afghanistan. And who was ready to compromise and ‘have elections’ (almost universally taken by Afghan people and Taliban as a sign of weakness).

The fall seems to inevitable once the prop is withdrawn.

Akshat Khandelwal

As a student of history, who widely resents the theoretication of humanistic endeavours (such as state-building – which is probably an art more than a science), here is what I would recommend:

a) An acceptance that Aghanistan has always been a land of tribal nomadic pastoral steppe types. And building a state and discplining such folks is as hard as it was for the Han to discipline Xiongnu nomads or the Romans to discipline the multilpe germanic tribes across the Danube and the Rhine. .
b) In such a culture, to even think about democracy before a strong bureacratic steel frame is built is astonishingly stupid. That there can be no democracy without a strong state is true of most civilised regions of the world, it frankly is a dreamwish in places like Afghanistan, where frankly centralised rule has been weak and shifty for as long as history as existed. Any democracy here will end up as anarchy. Afghanistan has always been the frontier, where barbaric impulses reign over displined state-building.

c) And that while modern technology might allow Afghanistan to have potential for state building today; it requires an amazingly ruthless force at the centre that will brook no opposition, and be ready to do away with any feudalistic elite impeding the process. European (Early Modern Europe state building), Chinese (Qin State building) and the Indian state (rise of British) was built on set of ruthless and borderline genocidal maniacs who cared little for opposition. The more barbaric a people, the more ruthlessness required.

d) Statebuilding is greatly eased by asabiya (as Turchin notes as well); and clearly the Taliban project strength with their tenacity, cohesion and purpose and clear ideology. The Afghan national government seems to have no clear national idea except some globohomo garbage that they borrowed from the West.

In other words, if Afghanistan is to be de-Talibanised then a ruthless popular charismatic Pashtun warlord inspiring Pashtun-based army and screwing the Taliban with national idea of Pashtunness would have been the best possible option (but still with a low probability of success). But instead they got the weak, intellectual Westernised Ghani, who frankly had NO LEADERSHIP experience and was an academic almsot entirely before he took on the reigns in Afghanistan. And who was ready to compromise and ‘have elections’ (almost universally taken by Afghan people and Taliban as a sign of weakness).

The fall seems to have been inevitable once the crutch of US support is withdrawn. Might as well happen right away than in another 5 years.

Akshat

As a student of history, who widely resents the theoretication of humanistic endeavours (such as state-building – which is probably an art more than a science), here is what I would recommend:

a) An acceptance that Aghanistan has always been a land of tribal nomadic pastoral steppe types. And building a state and discplining such folks is as hard as it was for the Han to discipline Xiongnu nomads or the Romans to discipline the multilpe germanic tribes across the Danube and the Rhine. .
b) In such a culture, to even think about democracy before a strong bureacratic steel frame is built is astonishingly stupid. That there can be no democracy without a strong state is true of most civilised regions of the world, it frankly is a dreamwish in places like Afghanistan, where frankly centralised rule has been weak and shifty for as long as history as existed. Any democracy here will end up as anarchy. Afghanistan has always been the frontier, where barbaric impulses reign over displined state-building.

c) And that while modern technology might allow Afghanistan to have potential for state building today; it requires an amazingly ruthless force at the centre that will brook no opposition, and be ready to do away with any feudalistic elite impeding the process. European (Early Modern Europe state building), Chinese (Qin State building) and the Indian state (rise of British) was built on set of ruthless and borderline genocidal maniacs who cared little for opposition. The more barbaric a people, the more ruthlessness required.

d) Statebuilding is greatly eased by asabiya (as Turchin notes as well); and clearly the Taliban project strength with their tenacity, cohesion and purpose and clear ideology. The Afghan national government seems to have no clear national idea except some globohomo garbage that they borrowed from the West.

In other words, if Afghanistan is to be de-Talibanised then a ruthless popular charismatic Pashtun warlord inspiring Pashtun-based army and screwing the Taliban with national idea of Pashtunness would have been the best possible option (but still with a low probability of success). But instead they got the weak, intellectual Westernised Ghani, who frankly had NO LEADERSHIP experience and was an academic almsot entirely before he took on the reigns in Afghanistan. And who was ready to compromise and ‘have elections’ (almost universally taken by Afghan people and Taliban as a sign of weakness).

The fall seems to inevitable once the prop is withdrawn.

Mike Waller

I wonder to what extent the pro-women agenda of of the occupying forces was (shamefully) a major recruiting sergeant for the Taliban. Certainly, we should not be complacent about its effects in our civilised world. We have just had one of our (very rare) mass shootings, this one in Plymouth, Devon, with 6 dead. The following is an extract from a BBC report.

‘In the online videos Davison [the killer] said he was socially isolated, struggled to meet women and made references to “incels” – the misogynistic online groups of “involuntary celibate” men, who blame women for their sexual failings and who have been linked to a number of violent acts around the world.’

Somewhere long ago I picked up the following quotation: ‘Men only fight wars to stop women laughing at them’. I am not suggesting that a highly depressed Englishman is a direct parallel with the now exultant Taliban; but I do think we need to be very concerned about the ‘incels’ in our own backyard and their extreme misogynistic creed.

Vladimir Dinets

Wow!
The Northern Alliance is trying to organize resistance in the mountains, led by ASM’s son. Their situation seems hopeless, but, of course, it also seemed hopeless the last time.
Ghani reportedly landed in Tajikistan in a helicopter overloaded with cash, was denied asylum, and flew to Oman. There are rumors in Tajikistan that the cash was appropriated by Dushanbe govt., according to my friend there.

Vladimir Dinets

Wow.
According to my friend in Dushanbe, there are rumors that Ghani landed there in a chopper overloaded with cash, but was denied asylum and sent to Oman with ten bucks in his pockets.
The Northern Alliance is trying to organize resistance in the mountains, led by ASM’s son. Their situation seems hopeless, but, of course, it also seemed hopeless the last time.

https://youtu.be

My relatives always say that I am wasting my time here
at net, however I know I am getting know-how all the time by
reading thes good articles or reviews.

Raymond Reichelt

Good post Peter, thanks

Vic K

Afghanistan was not an independent polity, though, it was a province of the Rainbow Empire. Its corruption was just a part of imperial corruption, Hopefully, Iraq is next.

Kirill Pankratov

There is another irony about Ghani – going back more than 30 years to the time of the Soviet withdrawal:

Cut Off the Arms Flow and Let Afghans Unite : With Soviets Gone, U.S. Should Demand a Referendum for Self-Determination
BY ASHRAF GHANI
FEB. 15, 1989 12 AM PT

ASHRAF GHANI, FORMERLY A LECTURER AT KABUL UNIVERSITY, IS AN ASSISTANT PROFESSOR OF ANTHROPOLOGY AT JOHNS HOPKINS UNIVERSITY
The Soviets have left Afghanistan, making the collapse of the besieged puppet regime in Kabul just a matter of time. President Bush has a unique opportunity to define a positive agenda for the future of that country, yet for now he has chosen to merely affirm that the United States will continue to supply the Afghan resistance with military assistance…
https://www.latimes.com/archives/la-xpm-1989-02-15-me-2299-story.html

William
Norman

This makes me think of North et al Violence and Social Orders (2009), which provides a very insightful mid-level framework for understanding regime change, which focuses on the dynamics of intra-elite competition. I believe it is entirely consistent with structural-demographic theory, but is at a somewhat lower level of generality—it fleshes out the specifics of elite conflict resulting from elite over-production. I’d be very interested to see their discussion integrated with structural-demographic theory. I know you don’t cite them in Ages of Discord, but perhaps one of your academic papers does?

Jed

The big question in my mind is: will this affect the US in the same way that it affected the USSR. that is to say will it further destabilize American society as you’ve predicted Peter. “ate 80’s early 90’s USSR is different from early 2020s US, but I can’t help but feel their institutions are in the same condition.

Even America bulls like Zeihan feel this, though he dismisses this as a new “culture war.” https://zeihan.com/the-return-of-american-narcissism/

As for Asabiyya, I’ll just say that the US is a good example of a state with near zero Asabiyya, and let the rest figure out the implications.

David Chan

Absolutely spot on Peter. I could not agree with you more. When a Government’s main focus is cronyism and stealing aid money, no good outcome will occur. What I find galling is that this was all forseeable! This does not need Systems Dynamics to model. It just needs people not to be believe their own propaganda and look at objective evidence.

Oliver Alexander

The issue is, Afghanistan probably has to bee seen as a Pashtun colonial empire in as much as eg., Indonesia has to be regarded a Javanese colonial empire. Therefore the next thought would be, how much did the minorities, when they aided the US and its vassals, annoy the Pashtuns, and how much do the minorities feel betrayed by the US. And after a few more thoughts here and there, we ponder that each European after the war state blew apart on ethnic fault lines when given half a chance.

The thing, that really amazes me: the US spent in total up to 2.25 tn on Afg. This would amount to give each and every of Afghan, baby or 80 year old, 3K a year, which for a family of six would be 18K. Note, that 20 years ago there were only 21 m Afghans.

The main difference between Vietnam and Afg. is imho, that after Vietnam the gold standard and Bretton Woods fell apart.

cabby phil

at least 3 counter-examples come to mind off the top of my head…..

israel – would not exist w/o mainly white european and american support.

taiwan – would not exist w/o american, british and japanese support.

post-war philippines – would look something like afghanistan if not mainly for american and japanese efforts and the fact that it sits in the middle of the pacific rather than the heart of mackinder’s eurasia.

your theory is boring….

[…] Le 15 aout 2020 – Source Peter Turchin […]

Juan

Cabby, the Philippines was at one point a major trade hub because of the Spanish (300 years). So no, it would not look ‘like afghanistan if not mainly for american and japanese efforts.’ Overall, the japs and the murricans have had less of an effect on the Philippines than Spanish.

As for the other two examples, yes, on Taiwan. Israel has nukes. So one out of three is a good try, I guess.

But please continue to praise the rainbow flag transexual imperium.

cabby phil

ill take 1 outta 3 all day; better than turchin’$ avg…

Juan

@cabby Turchin’s projections about the US is holding true – mass instability, elite overproduction, and we’re barely into the 2020’s

Your arguments, on the other hand, are coping mechanisms

Cabby phil

Israel has nukes ergo they’re special? I dont get it. Israelis stole whatever technology they have and/or it was simply handed over to them.

The Israeli state does not exist due to elites and commoners (as turchin posits); Israel exists due to the efforts of white european colonialists and americans and american and european Jews. Period.

Without such outside support the state of Israel would cease to exist faster than the fall of Kabul.

As it stands Iran can wipeout Israel with 1500 ballistic nonnuclear missiles ( same exact argument applies to the Saudis and emiratis both would not exist w/o outside actors propping them up and both would be wiped off the map in war w iranis; a couple hundred missiles would end Riyadh and dubei).

Despite its neoliberal fawning-fanboys (i.e. bloomberg) elite ovrpxn is an empty and asinine idea full of experiential bias and without any basis in fact. It doesnt exist. Never has existed. It is an oxymoron; it hasnt predicted anything and is not falsifiable.

Please tell me to me how ‘elite overprodxn’ applies to the Saudis or emiratis? Surely! They are in elite overprodxn’? If it applies to anyone it should work and apply in those 2 case studies but it utterly and completely fails and falls on its face and by extension so does ‘structural demographic theory’.

At this point reagan’s astrologer joan Quigley or strauss and howe’s the 4th turning (another pseudoscientific nonesense) have just as much if not more efficacy than turchin’s work.

In short, ‘elite overpxn’ is useless tautological clap trap drivel.
also boring.

Cabby phil

Israel has nukes ergo they’re special? I dont get it. Israelis stole whatever technology they have and/or it was simply handed over to them.

The Israeli state does not exist due to elites and commoners (as turchin posits); Israel exists due to the efforts of white european colonialists and americans and american and european Jews. Period.

Without such outside support the state of Israel would cease to exist faster than the fall of Kabul.

As it stands Iran can wipeout Israel with 1500 ballistic nonnuclear missiles ( same exact argument applies to the Saudis and emiratis both would not exist w/o outside actors propping them up and both would be wiped off the map in war w iranis; a couple hundred missiles would end Riyadh and dubei).

Despite its neoliberal fawning-fanboys (i.e. bloomberg) elite ovrpxn is an empty and asinine idea full of experiential bias and without any basis in fact. It doesnt exist. Never has existed. It is an oxymoron; it hasnt predicted anything and is not falsifiable.

Please tell me to me how ‘elite overprodxn’ applies to the Saudis or emiratis? Surely! They are in elite overprodxn’? If it applies to anyone it should work and apply in those 2 case studies but it utterly and completely fails and falls on its face and by extension so does ‘structural demographic theory’.

At this point reagan’s astrologer joan Quigley or strauss and howe’s the 4th turning (another pseudoscientific nonesense) has just as much if not more efficacy than turchin’s work.

In short, ‘elite overpxn’ is useless tautological clap trap drivel.
also boring.

Juan

‘Israel has nukes ergo they’re special?’
Ergo it doesn’t need US support. Now, whether or not it will survive in the next century is a question neither you nor I can answer, but comparing it to Kabul is asinine, because Murrica.

The point is that America is not the all important pillar that you claim it to be. Even if America falls, the countries it supports have alternative: China, Turkey, Russia, etc…

“At this point reagan’s astrologer joan Quigley or strauss and howe’s the 4th turning (another pseudoscientific nonesense) has just as much if not more efficacy than turchin’s work.”

Did I hit nerve? You sound angry

The basis of any theory’s validity is whether or not it is supported by reality. Turchin’s leading theory is that America and maybe the global system is undergoing a crisis in the 2020’s. Looking at America now, reality supports his thesis.

cabbt phil

if turchin’s work applies in america as you state that it does (it doesnt) then it should apply and work elsewhere (it doesnt); i dont think you have a clear understanding of how science works and in particular you lack a clear understanding of turchin’s work in context and are therefore unable to form a proper critique of it.

Juan

‘As it stands Iran can wipeout Israel with 1500 ballistic nonnuclear missiles.’

Yes, it can. The big question is would they actually are they willing to risk Israel doing the same to them.

‘Please tell me to me how ‘elite overprodxn’ applies to the Saudis or emiratis?’

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-saudi-arrests/purge-of-saudi-princes-businessmen-widens-travel-curbs-imposed-idUSKBN1D60S6

‘A campaign of mass arrests of Saudi Arabian royals, ministers and businessmen expanded on Monday after a top entrepreneur was reportedly detained in the biggest anti-corruption purge of the kingdom’s affluent elite in its modern history.’

cabby phil

what is ‘elite’?
how do you define it?
how is it defined in one society/system/nation/culture vs another?

what is the threshold?

what determines when a system/society/country/culture is in or out of ‘elite overproduction’?

how do you define it quantifiably?

what % of the population must be considered and defined as ‘elite’ and in ‘overproduction’ (2 separate factors) for a country or system or society to be in ‘elite overproduction’?

it seems that capitalism as a system is optimized for the creation of certain types of elites as defined by accumulation and concentration of material goods.

how does ‘structural demographics’ explain the survival of ~500+ years of uninterrupted capitalism (originally breathed into a few forms or into one) seemingly immune as systems, as societies/cultures and as post-westphalian nation-states to ‘elite overproduction’?

which country/society/culture/system during the past 500 years collapsed or experienced regime change directly and quantitatively as a result of ‘elite overpdxn’?

how many elites caused it to fall? what number? what types of elites? what % of total population were the elites? pre and post collapse?

answer: none. zero. no country or system or society or culture has ever fallen as a result of too many elites (whatever that is).

it’s reasonable to expect that ‘elite overproduction’ should somehow apply and explain the survival of a system that creates elites by virtue of its operation over time.

But it doesnt and cant; nor does it in any meaningful way describe the contemporary moment in america (or any other society past present or future).

Morris39

‘In short, I fully expect Taliban to be successful in building the new state in Afghanistan. We may not like it, but we will have to live with it.’
That is a strong statement in light of the history of tribal societies failing to successfully cohere. I would like to see some supporting argument for this case which must be an exception if true.

Juan

‘unable to form a proper critique of it.’

Is Turchin’s prediction of a US crisis true or not? Yes or no.

All arguments/thesis/concerns about replication are secondary to reality.

Turchin predicts that the US is suffering structural collapse/decay in the 2020’s.

The US is currently suffering:
– An impending inflation crisis
– An institutional trust crisis
– A pandemic crisis/vax crisis
– A southern border crisis
– Increasing political crisis
– Diplomatic crisis (Afghanistan)

https://img.ifunny.co/videos/25b4973587708dffce4facaaf8df59d2467e6d8a4cd1766bbf47093051feabed_1.mp4

Again, is Turchin’s prediction of a crisis true or not? Yes or no. Nothing else matters, and certainly not ‘your what about this or that’ examples.

‘what is ‘elite’?’

https://www.logicallyfallacious.com/logicalfallacies/Moving-the-Goalposts

You provided three examples Israel, Saudi Arabia and Philippines. I addressed them, so you decided to answer by ‘what is ‘elite’?’ and gish galloping about the nature of elites.

I have my own take, but you should ask Turchin for that answer. The site also has an Academic Publications section.

Further, this debate has gone on long enough, so this is going to be my last post. I’d like to review the whole exchange:

Our exchange began like this

Turchin wrote:

‘But successful cases of nation-building are always a result of self-help by the national populations and the elites themselves (if readers of this blog have suggestions on counter-examples, I’d like to hear them).’

Presumably you answered by stating:

“at least 3 counter-examples come to mind off the top of my head…..

israel – would not exist w/o mainly white european and american support.

taiwan – would not exist w/o american, british and japanese support.

post-war philippines – would look something like afghanistan if not mainly for american and japanese efforts and the fact that it sits in the middle of the pacific rather than the heart of mackinder’s eurasia.

your theory is boring….”

In retrospect, I was wrong in my initial answer. So I want to correct that:

What I should have written is: You’re examples of Taiwan, Israel and Philippines is comparing oranges to apples. When Turchin spoke about Nation Building, he was arguing for the creation of state institutions, and fighting internal enemies/non-state actors.

You on the other hand offered examples of nations that could be destroyed by external state actors. Can Iran destroy Israel? Yes. Can China take Taiwan? Absolutely. Who’s going to attack the Philippines?

But that is not what Turchin was arguing. His point is, nation building requires national cooperation. One needs cooperation for building institutions and for establishing certain norms. Asabiyya basically. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Asabiyyah

Israel, Taiwan and the Philippines has those. Afghanistan does not. Can these countries can be taken by larger states? Yes, but left on their own, they can survive, and comparing them to Kabul is asinine and disingenuous. Those countries also don’t need American or Western Support to sustain their institutions.

Now, is Turchin’s prediction that the Taliban can build a strong state when left alone? That’s a different matter.

cabby phil

there are no signals in the historical record that oscillate between low and high ‘elite overproduction’ delimiting a collapse; no such demographic record or pattern exists in any society, culture or nation-state.

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