The chaotic rout of the U.S. in Afghanistan has got the chattering classes all agape and gawking.
One of the poorest countries in the world with virtually no GDP has defeated one of the richest.
A low-energy spender humbled a high-flying petro consumer.
Bearded men with time outwaited technocrats with ticking watches.
Another “weak actor” with AK 47s bested “a strong actor” with drones and AI.
And on it goes.
But America’s disastrous intervention and ignoble retreat illustrates some uncomfortable if not random truths that are left out of the chatter.
They include the perils of intervention, cycles of imperial collapse, economic theft, energy limits, the power of demographics and ecological degradation.
Here are seven truths we have been taught, yet again, in Afghanistan.
1. Interventionistas by definition do harm.
The straight-talking philosopher and risk expert Nassim Nicholas Taleb lays out the disastrous hubris of interventionista thinking in his excellent book Skin in the Game. Interventionistas, he says, not only lack practical sense, but they never learn from history. They also fail at pure reasoning and cannot imagine complex interactions let alone consequences. (Author Wendell Berry called such unaccountable people “itinerant professional vandals.”) These vandals tend to symbolize the adage that experience is making the same mistake over and over again but with greater confidence.
American interventionistas, just like their Russian and Chinese counterparts, pretend that they can replace regimes, build nations, rewire economies and terrorize civilians with bombs and all without unforeseen consequences.
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