This just in from Ron Cole’s Informed Comment, William Polk echoes my sentiments, but does it a lot better: Let America be America, and Depart Afghanistan. He lists mistakes we have made that make it impossible to win, discusses the costs in lives and treasure of possible alternatives, and lists the one thing we can do to end up better off than we are now — get out, but do it in such a way that we encourage the AF traditions of governance that kept the country stable for hundreds of years.
There is a concept called Dynamic Programming. It’s more like linear programming than computer programming and is designed to find an optimum path from where we are now to where we want to be. It is used in finance (I have put X% of my money into stock A, what do I do with the rest), supply chain management (I have X% of my inventory in warehouse A, what do I do with the rest), and project management (I have completed X steps towards my goal, what’s the rest of the path). There are problems with its strict application, because formally it requires computing all paths. That’s not usually possible, and so you have Approximate Dynamic Programming. The key point behind it, the takeaway lesson for AF, is essentially a restatement of sunk cost. You are where you are. However you got there, whatever the decision process or cost, the only thing you can do now is to optimize the rest of your path to your goal.
Jump to a different topic — Cybernetics. Cybernetics isn’t computers, it is control of dynamic systems. A quick and dirty description would be that you compare goals and results. If the results are not moving towards your desired goals, you take action to move them that way (traditionally, we insert a discussion of thermostats at this point). If you are consistently failing to achieve your goals, your choices are to expand the range of possible actions, or to change the goals. I will have a longer post on this topic after the end of the quarter, but suffice it to say that in AF, we have established (depending on who you read) a set of impossible goals, or no coherent goals at all. Either way, our range of possible actions is limited. A simple change of goals to something simple — a stable AF — and a clear-eyed recognition of the actions that would bring it about, would be a preferred way to establish a path that will lead us out of that country.