As Spencer Ackerman notes, this $1 trillion in deposits seems likely to set the stage for a lot of bad arguments about forward-looking military policy. He focuses on the fact that war for cell phone batteries makes a better conspiracy theory than more outlandish tales about oil pipelines. The reverse, however, is also the case and Risen’s piece already features evidence of military officials floating the theory that we need to stay in Afghanistan indefinitely lest China get its hands on vast quantities of copper. In general, though, waging war for control of natural resources makes a lot of sense for third world bandits & militias or would-be coup leaders, but doesn’t cost out for citizens of a developed market oriented democracy.
You think a president Palin would examine the "cost-out"? Thoreau:
For my part, I would be content to leave Afghanistan alone and say that if somebody there somehow finds himself in control of minerals and manages to dig them out of the ground, we are willing to pay cash on delivery. We are NOT, however, willing to do our own pick-up or provide armed escorts for those who do the pick-up or the mining. The terms are cash on delivery.
The way in which the story was presented -- with on-the-record quotations from the Commander in Chief of CENTCOM, no less -- and the weird promotion of a Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense to Undersecretary of Defense suggest a broad and deliberate information operation designed to influence public opinion on the course of the war. Indeed, as every reader of Jared Diamond's popular works of geographic determinism knows well, a country rich in mineral resources will tend toward stability over time, assuming it has a strong, central, and stable government.
Katie Drummond asks everyone to calm down:
The military (and observers of the military) have known about Afghanistan’s mineral riches for years. In a 2007 report, the Geological Survey and the Navy concluded that “Afghanistan has significant amounts of undiscovered non-fuel mineral resources,” including ”large quantities of accessible iron and copper [and] abundant deposits of colored stones and gemstones, including emerald, ruby [and] sapphire.”
Not to mention that the $1 trillion figure is at best a guesstimate. None of the earlier U.S military reports on Afghan’s mineral riches cite that amount. And it might be prudent to be wary of any data coming out of Afghanistan’s own Mines Minestry, which “has long been considered one of the country’s most corrupt government departments,” the Wall Street Journal reports.
One mechanism by which resource wealth translates to negative economic outcomes is the so-called “spending effect”...An example of this would be a huge growth in the diamond industry driving up the prices of haircuts and homes because they are non-resource tradeables whose prices are determined locally. These higher consumer prices then increases the reservation wage high enough that the costs in the local clothing industry, a non-resource tradeable whose prices are determined on the world market, go above world prices and thus the industry suffers.