Is Planet Earth Afghanistan?


By Jerome H. Barkow, Member of METI International’s Board of Directors


Everyone seems to want to conquer Afghanistan, perhaps because its location is strategic. Wikipedia lists some 9 invasions (or 13 if we count each of both Britain and the Soviet Union’s three attempts separately).  Success is always temporary, as the most recent invaders have learned.  Geography in large measure explains why Afghanistan is so expensive to invade and conquer and why any conquests are temporary. The country consists of mountains, with fertile valleys between them where farming villages can thrive, and also of various deserts. Defenders can hide in their familiar mountains, attacking at will, and sooner or later the invaders withdraw.

Is Earth Afghanistan? Suppose the critics are right and METI is a dangerous enterprise. Perhaps there really is an exoplanet with deadly extraterrestrials who want to invade the homes of other intelligent beings and destroy them. If so, they will likely meet the fate of the invaders of Afghanistan. Attempting to conquer or wipe out an intelligent species would be difficult and expensive, even for a very high technology people. Logistics will always be on the side of the defenders, and long-range attacks, such as sending a massive asteroid on a lengthy journey to collide with a planet of intelligent beings is chancy; preparations to destroy dangerous asteroids would likely permit early identification and deflection of even well-aimed space rocks. If not, well, an intelligent species may have spread to other planets, or made homes in space. Space, for threatened intelligences, can play the refuge role the familiar mountainsides of Afghanistan play in that country. And the threatened may eventually return the favor once the would-be destroyers are identified. One could even envision a number of attacked species cooperating in the extirpation of their common enemy. The habitual destroyer species may find itself facing attacks from as many planets as it has menaced. That species will either cease its aggression or itself be cancelled. 

Let us not be too frightened about the remote possibility that METI or “I Love Lucy” will attract an attack. We are, or soon will be, Afghanistan.