Afghanistan 2050: The Future’s Just Not That Into You

EEvn beefoor thu 80 Yeerz ‘ Woor ended, selfkonfidenz fyuuld bii FIL luld 3 Reepublik intuu unuthr rownd uv intrvenshnz, thoo theez reemaand dwoorft bii thu intrvenshnz uv thu preeceedng rownd. Startng with Grenaadu (BR43), this finl rownd inkluuded intrventshnz in thu fyuuchr KPS (SAU (BR46-BR37), Gron Kooloombeeu (BR37), Ispanyoolu (BR32)) az wel az owtsiid it (EEtheeoopeeu (BR35-BR34, BR25-BR15), Srveeu (BR31-BR14), Midl EEzt (BR43-BR44, BR36-BR15), sentrl Wrld IIland (BR25-BR14)). Az 2 Reepublikz‘ fiinl intrvenshnz ended aftr 2 Korekshn, 3 Reepublikz‘ fiinl intrvenshnz ended aftr 3 Korekshn. Thu xpeereeunz uv theez intrvenshnz, howevr, led tuu frthr deevelopmentz in popuulaashn kontrool and roobotikz.

–  Birth and Deth uv 3 Republiks, R21


[Legacy encoding: Even before the Eighty Years’ War ended, self-confidence fueled by FIL lulled the Third Republic into another round of interventions, though these remained dwarfed by the interventions of the preceding round. Starting with Grenada (BR43), this final round included interventions in the future CPZ  (CAU (BR46-BR37, Gran Colombia (BR37), Hispaniola (BR32)) as well as outside it (Ethiopia (BR35-BR34 and BR25-BR15), Servia (BR31-BR14), the Middle East (BR43-BR44, BR36-BR15), central World Island (BR25-BR14)). As the Second Republic’s final interventions ended after the Second Correction, the Third Republic’s final interventions ended after the Third Correction. The experience of these interventions, however, led to further developments in population control and robotics.


– Birth and Death of Three Republics, R21]

On the outbreak of the War with Spain, Commodore Dewey and the American Consul at Singapore had helped a Philippine leader, Emilio Aguinaldo, return to Luzon to lead a revolt against the Spanish authority. Aguinaldo succeeded so well that he and his forces were besieging Manila when American troops occupied the city.


The Filipinos wanted independence, not merely a transfer of sovereignty to a new foreign master. When it became obvious that the United States intended to impose its own authority, Aguinaldo and his forces raised anew the standards of revolt on February 4, 1899. So stubbornly did the Filipinos fight that McKinley eventually had to send some 70,000 troops to the islands, and before “pacification” was completed, American commanders had resorted to the same primitive tactics that the Spanish had unsuccessfully employed in Cuba. Aguinaldo’s capture on March 23, 1901 signaled the end of resistance and the beginning of a long era of peaceful development of the islands.


– American Epoch: A History of the United States Since the 1890’s
Volume I 1897-1920
Arthur S. Link with the collaboration of William B. Catton

This third excerpt is from a college textbook my dad used in college in the mid-1960’s. It was written about 50 years after the Philippine Insurrection by the leading authority of the time on noted war criminal Thomas Woodrow Wilson in collaboration with the son of another famous historian who himself was a college professor. The war they were writing about was the largest foreign insurgency the U.S. Army faced between Wounded Knee and Vietnam. It lasted, with varying degrees of intensity, from June 2, 1899 to June 15, 1913, at fourteen years one of the longest wars ever fought by the United States. 4,165 Americans lost their lives, mostly from disease, and another 3,000 were wounded. About 2000 native Filipino auxiliaries were also killed. About 34,000 to 1 million Filipino citizens were killed along with 12,000 to 20,000 insurgents.

Estimates vary.

And yet it merited only a few paragraphs fifty years later. Today, it’s forgotten in the United States.

This is Monorail Cat:

Monorail Cat
Monorail Cat

At any given point, a larger percentage of the American people are concerned with Monorail Cat and feeding the LOLCat-industrial complex by tormenting kitty with a digital camera than are concerned with the War in Afghanistan.

This is Ms. Lindsay Lohan:

Future Train Wreck
Future Train Wreck

Someday, she would grow up to occupy the minds of more Americans at any given time than the War in Afghanistan for no discernible reason.

History has three constants:

  1. It will surprise us.
  2. It will remind us of the past.
  3. It will be turned into fables.

That assumes, of course, that someone will bother to remember history at all.

I’m even less kind than Link and Catton. I’m assuming that by 2050 Monorail Cat, Ms. Lohan, and the War in Afghanistan will join the Philippine Insurrection in the Great American Memory Hole. Even the college textbook of 2050, assuming they have such things as colleges or textbooks or 2050s in 2050, will not be the wooden volume of yore but a hyper-linked medium of photons and electrons from somewhere in the cloud. Information on the War in Afghanistan will be some descendant of this page and the “textbook” will link to it. The “student” “browsing” the “textbook” will be able to “follow” the “link” to “learn more” about the “War in Afghanistan”.

I won’t hold my breath.

When students of 2050 think of our time (making the massive assumption that they will bother to think about our time), their thoughts would be more along the line of why didn’t Grandpa push Future Hitler under a bus when Grandpa had the chance. Our time is merely a connector between one vaguely memorable event (the death of Elvis) to another (the death of Michael Jackson). Events of the following decades will cast larger shadows than these small times with their small wars, small trivia, and small men. We’ll be the people in the gaps and accordingly will fall through them.

Our time and our actions will have an impact on the future but I doubt the future will bother to send a thank you note.

[cross-posted on The Committee of Public Safety]

6 thoughts on “Afghanistan 2050: The Future’s Just Not That Into You”

  1. Agree with all of the above. It is worthwhile to note that not only is this episode largely forgotten in the US (But NOT in the Philippines), but that there was bipartisan support for the effort. There was no ‘Exit Strategy'(to pound home a point).

  2. I always add that crucial caveat: forgotten in the U.S. In other countries, a U.S. presence can be a major part of their national memory.

    My youngest brother spent two years in Nicaragua. In northern Nicaragua, the locals pointed out, most of the roads were initially built by the Marines as they were hunting Sandino in the 1920’s.

    The locals remember. Americans don’t.

  3. We paid a high price in 2004-2007 for GHW Bush’s decision not to defend the Iraqi Shiites in 1991. In 1991 many observers thought that Bush’s decision was a mistake, but there was no good feedback mechanism to encourage him to do otherwise. He wanted us to disengage, no doubt for valid reasons, but it’s also true that democratic leaders whose time horizon extends at most a couple of election cycles tend to overdiscount the long-term costs of their decisions.

    Americans may indeed forget most of the small wars. But that’s hindsight (or anticipatory hindsight) and doesn’t necessarily help decisionmaking. You can’t always know ahead of time which small wars have to be fought to prevent big wars. So if avoidance of big wars is an important goal it will probably be necessary to fight more small wars than future historians will think necessary.

  4. I remember reading Mark Twain’s short “The War Prayer” in school and being told it was his reaction to the Philippine Insurrection. My history courses did vaguely address the Philippine Insurrection, but it was that Mark Twain story that I always stuck in my mind. So I guess some of us Americans do remember that era of our history, just not the way our teachers may of intended.

  5. Bush I was right in 1991. We had no interest in get into a long commitment in Iraq. The debacle his son caused is proof of that. Staying the Hell out of Iraq was good policy we should have stuck with. The fate of the Shia in the South of Iraq was none of our business and had nothing to do with our stated war aim of getting Saddam out of Kuwait. That was the basis for the war and Bush I had no mandate to do anything else. He was not authorized to do anything else. The American people had not been consulted on conquering and occupying Iraq in 1991 and I hope they would have had the sense to reject any such idea, as so many of us, including me, failed to have in 2003.

    I have long wondered if Bush I and his people encouraged the Shia in the South to rise up for the very purpose of allowing Saddam to kill them. After all, we were aligned with Saudi Arabia at that point. In fact, we invaded Kuwait to protect the Saudi regime. The Saudis openly referred to the Americans as their “white slaves” at the time. Why would we, or they, or anyone but Iran, want the Shia in Iraq to be more powerful, let alone take over? We spent the 1980s trying to prevent Iran from taking over Iraq. What possible reason would we have had for weakening Iraq after they had finally beaten the Iranians.

    Great powers do not deter major wars by fighting small ones. They deter major wars by preparing to fight major wars and not squandering their assets on small wars.

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