Step 2: Observe new post positing a simple graphical model for Chinese and Iranian engagement in Afghanistan
Step 3: Immediately assume that this model is fundamentally flawed in extremely simple, easily illustrated way
Step 4: Second-guess, equivocate, hedge, rethink, repeat
Step 5: Sink an hour into playing around with your own draft
Step 6: Refresh browser, notice that Ex has appended explanatory update that basically resolves concerns
Step 7: Review Step 3, revise conclusion to reflect that Gulliver's brain is fundamentally flawed in an extremely simple, easily illustrated way
Step 8: Choke yourself
Seeing as I've now spent so much effort demonstrating my high nerd quotient and talent for auto-distraction, I suppose I ought also own up to being a blowhard and a popinjay by sharing the product of my scribblings. (N.b.: the time I spent carefully modifying Ex's graph was meant to have been dedicated to a far more substantial post, one illustrated by yet another semi-original visual aid. That one will have to wait.)
|I promise this made sense a few hours ago|
First of all, I think the original depiction suffers from a well-intentioned attempt at parsimony and elegance. The concept being depicted is too complex to be accurately rendered with just two lines. I understand the attempt, and the logic behind it is so simple as to be nearly self-evident: as U.S. engagement in Afghanistan decreases, other states will likely become more involved in the country so as to protect their interests. In the near term, those states that view the U.S. as a competitor will try to bandwagon off American efforts -- taking advantage of the stability dividends of NATO presence in Afghanistan to serve their own economic and geopolitical interests -- while enjoying the relative benefit of reduced U.S. readiness and flexibility attendant to the commitment of a substantial force. As the American footprint shrinks, countries like China and Iran will seek to assert themselves in Afghanistan so as not to suffer an interruption to the largely beneficial status quo.
Ex lays all of this down in two simple assumptions. (There are certainly more implicit in the model, but it's a good beginning.)
Let's start by assuming both China and Iran have an interest in U.S. military assets remaining in Afghanistan at great expense. Let's also assume that neither country, both with interests in Afghanistan, wants more instability.