Dr. Wes: Mining Afghanistan for laughs
There’s lithium in them thar hills!
If only George W. had known that the Afghan War he started was being fought atop of some of the richest mineral deposits ever known, he wouldn’t have had such an itch to waste time over mere oil in Iraq. Oil is nice, but so is iron, copper, niobium, cobalt, gold, molybdenum, and lithium. In case you’re wondering what the freak is niobium, it’s stuff used to make gas pipelines, jet and rocket engines, and superconductors and superconducting magnets for, like, attaching super snapshots to super refrigerators, and stuff. Ha! I didn’t know that either!
Also, molybdenum is the element whose atomic number answers the Question about Life, the Universe, and Everything, is worth 25 points in Scrabble without any bonuses, and helps you have stainless steel salad forks. Lithium is really special. Every toy you never knew could exist, until Steve Jobs made you have to have it, is chock full of lithium. Lithium is expected to rise precipitously in price as electric cars gain acceptance and the demand for iPads spreads to Togo. Lithium is also used to keep all kinds of bipolars from exhibiting symptoms. It regulates their bipolarity with “ions” and boosts their tryptophan (turkey juice), so they can be productive members of various societies of boring people.
I first heard of lithium in high school, when I learned from Mister Edgerton that an isotope of it is combined with heavy water to make the key ingredient in your basic thermonuclear bomb, the main stuff that makes it blow up. That was so cool. I wrote the fusion formula on the cover of my notebook, illustrated it with my own drawing of a post-nuclear-holocaust wasteland, and never forgot it. I learned all the rest of those things mostly just today, helped by the fact that I use a search engine, not a decision engine.
Of course, you’ll need all the iron to build the tanks to fend off all the other folks in the world who are going to want your copper, niobium, cobalt, etc. Good luck with that.
It’s interesting that the United States was clued in to the existence of these vast mineral deposits worth at least a trillion dollars (that’s based on just what they’re sure is there now, at current prices, not taking future trends into account) by the discovery in Afghanistan of Russian maps to many of them. You see, the Russians, for some reason, gosh, hardly anybody remembers it anymore, invaded and occupied Afghanistan 31 years ago, and got themselves booted out a decade later. Don’t panic, our decade isn’t up yet!
At the time I think we all thought the Russians, who were actually not the Russians but were Soviets in those days, just wanted to prop up a Marxist government in Afghanistan because they, the Russians, were commies, and that’s the sort of thing commies do. But in retrospect one wonders if the Russians, who were not really the Russians, didn’t have other than ideological interests at heart.
If you still haven’t seen Avatar, don’t read this sentence: I can’t resist pointing out that in the Afghanistan movie the Na’vi are Pashtuns, unobtanium is lithium, Hometree is Tora Bora, Colonel Quaritch has to be Stanley A. McChrystal, who else, and this analogy is bad for our side.
The New York Times suggested a different analogy: “The Saudi Arabia of Lithium.” But there’s no foreign army in Saudi Arabia, so I think that analogy is to my analogy as hairballs is to chocolate. (Thanks to Anitra “Chocolate Beats Rocks, Paper, Scissors, Anything” Freeman, a bipolar, for the second half of that comparison.)
Now that the Taliban know that American corporations could make hundreds of billions of dollars bulldozing Afghanistan down to the Earth’s mantle, I’m sure they’ll say, “Oh well, in that case go ahead, have it, since it’s for such a good cause. We’d hate to stand in the way of your guaranteed American pursuit of happiness!”
Commenting is not available in this channel entry.