Analysis of Decisions

Table of Contents

  1. Did Mike Huckabee make a bad decision?
    1. Two Senses of “Bad Decision”
    2. Does Huckabee bear some responsibility?
  2. Iraq War
    1. To Start a War: How the Bush Administration Took America into Iraq, Robert Draper
    2. US justification for invading Iraq
    3. Assessment of Premise 1
    4. Assessment of Premise 2
    5. From John E. Farley’s 2002 paper Why the United States Should Not Attack Iraq
    6. Most Americans Jumped to the Wrong Conclusion
  3. Vietnam War
    1. Decision Graphic
    2. Arguments for War
    3. Arguments against War
    4. Two theories of North Vietnam’s Geopolitical Objectives
    5. In Retrospect: The Tragedy and Lessons of Vietnam, 1995, Robert McNamara, Secretary of Defense from 1961 to 1968
  4. Afghanistan War
    1. Questions
    2. Timeline
    3. Objectives of the War
    4. How the war turned into a 20-year military commitment?
    5. Biden’s justification for ending the war
    6. Potential Resurgence of Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan
    7. Chaotic Departure
    8. Generals Contradict Biden
    9. Why Biden decided against the Middle Ground Option
    10. Biden’s Argument against the Middle Ground Option
    11. Arguments for Middle Ground Option
    12. Other Arguments against Middle Ground Option
  5. Green Tree Financial
  6. Going on a Cruise
  7. Withdrawing from the Iran Nuclear Deal
  8. Building a Border Wall
  9. Withdrawing from the Paris Climate Accord
Did Mike Huckabee make a bad decision?

As governor of Arkansas, Mike Huckabee granted Maurice Clemmons clemency in the year 2000 after Clemmons had served 11 years of a 95-year sentence for robbery and burglary, making him eligible for immediate parole.  In Nov 2009 Clemmons shot and killed four police officers in Washington State in a coffee shop while they were on their laptops.

  • Did Mike Huckabee make a bad decision?
  • Does he bear some responsibility for the deaths of the four police officers?
Two Senses of “Bad Decision”
  • Outcome Sense
    • A bad decision is a decision with a bad outcome.
  • Decision-Making Sense
    • A bad decision is a decision not rationally based on the reasons for and against the options.
  • A rational decision is more likely to have a good outcome.
  • An irrational decision is more likely to have a bad outcome.
  • A bad decision in the outcome sense does not logically imply a bad decision in the decision-making sense.
  • A good decision in the outcome sense does not logically imply a good decision in the decision-making sense.
Does Huckabee bear some responsibility?
  • Does Huckabee bear some responsibility for the deaths of the police officers? Is he partly to blame?
    • Only if Huckabee’s decision was not rationally based on the arguments for and against granting Clemmons clemency.
Iraq War
To Start a War: How the Bush Administration Took America into Iraq, Robert Draper
  • It was Bush, the commander in chief, who saw no need for rigorous debate among his war council. Not on the advisability and necessity of invading Iraq. Not on the composition of the invasion force. Not on what would follow the invasion.
  • Bush, more than anyone else in the administration—more even than Wolfowitz—lived by the unassailable credo that all humans deserved to be free. Proceeding from that belief were several unfortunate leaps of logic. Iraqis yearned for freedom above all else. All sectarian grievances would give way to the desire to preserve a free Iraq. The Middle East would take note of this new blossoming; its deserts would erupt in a flowering of freedom. And along the way, to any tactical question, freedom served as the strategic answer.
US justification for invading Iraq
  1. A country is justified in launching a war against another country if it has clear and convincing evidence that the other country possesses WMDs that might be used against it.
  2. The US had clear and convincing evidence that Iraq possessed chemical and biological WMDs that might be used against it.
    • National Intelligence Estimate 2002
      • We judge that Iraq has continued its weapons of mass destruction (WMD) programs in defiance of UN resolutions and restrictions. Baghdad has chemical and biological weapons as well as missiles with ranges in excess of UN restrictions; if left unchecked, it probably will have a nuclear weapon during this decade. (See INR alternative view at the end of these Key Judgments.)
  3. Therefore the US was justified in launching war against Iraq
Assessment of Premise 1
  • The principle justifies initiating war against another country based merely on what the other country might do, not on what it’s about to do or what it’s likely to do. Mere possibility is not sufficient grounds for starting a war.
  • The principle would justify North Vietnam attacking the US and justify Pakistan and India attacking each other.
  • Argument by Analogy: Suppose you cause a car accident, no one is hurt, but the other guy’s brand new Corvette is smashed up.  As he yells in your face, you notice he’s got a holstered handgun. You too are armed. You quickly draw your gun and shoot him on the grounds that he possessed a weapon that he might have used against you. 
  • Britannica on Preemptive Force
    • Scholars and politicians sharply disagree on the ultimate legitimacy of the use of preemptive force. However, most do tend to agree on several fundamental prerequisites for a preemptive strike to be conceived as potentially justifiable.
      • The attack has to come as a reaction to a perceived threat that is both absolutely credible and immediate.
      • The state that reacts to the threat needs to make the case that a preemptive attack is the only effective way to defend itself.
      • The preemptive action needs to be proportionate in scope and scale with the perceived threat.
    • The wholly subjective nature of these judgments, however, places the burden firmly on the attacking state to justify its actions to the international community.
Assessment of Premise 2
  • Report On the U.S. Intelligence Community’s  Prewar Intelligence Assessments on Iraq 2004
    • Conclusion 1. Most of the major key judgments in the Intelligence Community’s October 2002 National Intelligence Estimate (NIE), Iraq’s Continuing Programs for Weapons of Mass Destruction, either overstated, or were not supported by, the underlying intelligence reporting. 
    • Conclusion 2. The Intelligence Community did not accurately or adequately explain to policymakers the uncertainties behind the judgments in the October 2002 National Intelligence Estimate. 
    • Conclusion 3. The Intelligence Community (IC) suffered from a collective presumption that Iraq had an active and growing weapons of mass destruction (WMD) program. This “groupthink” dynamic led Intelligence Community analysts, collectors and managers to both interpret ambiguous evidence as conclusively indicative of a WMD program as well as ignore or minimize evidence that Iraq did not have active and expanding weapons of mass destruction programs.
From John E. Farley’s 2002 paper Why the United States Should Not Attack Iraq

Morally and ethically, an attack against Iraq would be wrong, because it is not acceptable in a civilized world for one country to attack another when neither it nor its allies have been attacked. What is being proposed here is to attack Iraq because of what it might do, and this is wrong. Such an action would violate the historical principle that the United States does not attack other countries unless it, or one of its allies, is attacked.

Most Americans Jumped to the Wrong Conclusion
  • According to polls conducted at the time, most Americans in 2003 and 85% of U.S. troops in Iraq believed, or thought it likely, that Saddam Hussein “was personally involved in the September 11 terrorist attacks.”  How could so many Americans believe something for which, as President Bush later admitted, there was no evidence? 
  • After 9/11 President Bush declared a Global War on Terror.  The following year the U.S. invaded Afghanistan as part of that War, on the grounds that the Taliban harbored the terrorist organization responsible for the attacks.  A year later the U.S. invaded Iraq, again as part of the War on Terror. Iraq would even become the “central front” in the War.  Many Americans jumped to the conclusion that the US invaded Iraq in retaliation for what they mistakenly inferred was Hussein’s role in the 911 attacks. After all, the invasion was part of the War on Terror declared in response to the 911 attacks. Why else would the U.S. invade a country halfway around the globe?
Vietnam War
  • In late 1964 and early 1965, the situation in Vietnam having deteriorated, the US had to finally decide a course of action.  The options:
    • Americanize the war
    • Negotiate a peace settlement with North Vietnam
    • Make a face-saving withdrawal of US advisors from Vietnam
Decision Graphic
Arguments for War
  • Communist North Vietnam invaded South Vietnam.  The US thus had an obligation to aid its ally in fighting Communist aggression.
  • Territorial Domino Theory
    • If the Communists were victorious in Vietnam, they would expand Communism to the rest of of Southeast Asia, Indonesia, and beyond.
  • Credibility Domino Theory
    • If the US did not take a stand in Vietnam, other nations would lose confidence in the credibility and commitment of the United States to defend its allies.
Arguments against War
  • There was a real risk the US would get bogged down in Vietnam as the French had from 1946 until they were defeated in 1954
    • As De Gaulle warned, nationalism would prevail even over a super-powerful United States
  • A reunified Vietnam under Communist control would pose no threat to the US
  • The government of South Vietnam was unstable, corrupt, and repressive.
  • The South Vietnamese Army (ARVN) suffered from low morale and poor leadership. 
  • South Vietnamese civilians were war-weary and lacked the will to fight.
  • The US had no business intervening in a civil war between North and South Vietnam
  • US interests in Vietnam were “not worth the life of a single American boy” (Senator Wayne Morse).
Two theories of North Vietnam’s Geopolitical Objectives
  • Expand Communism
    • The objective of North Vietnam (along with China and Russia) was to expand Communism into South Vietnam and beyond
      • The conflict was part of the Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union and their respective allies.
      • The conflict was a Communist “war of liberation.”
  • Expel Colonial Occupiers
    • Ho Chi Minh’s objective was to expel colonial occupiers from Vietnam and reunite the country
      • In the French Indochina War Ho Chi Minh led a guerrilla war from 1946 to 1954 against the French, ending in a Vietnamese victory at Dien Bien Phu in May 1954.
      • The 1954 Geneva Accords created a temporary demarcation line between North and South and scheduled nationwide elections to decide the future of Vietnam for 1956.
In Retrospect: The Tragedy and Lessons of Vietnam, 1995, Robert McNamara, Secretary of Defense from 1961 to 1968
  • “We misjudged then — as we have since — the geopolitical intentions of our adversaries (in this case, North Vietnam and the Vietcong, supported by China and the Soviet Union), and we exaggerated the dangers to the United States of their actions.”
  • “We viewed the people and leaders of South Vietnam in terms of our own experience … We totally misjudged the political forces within the country.”
  • “We underestimated the power of nationalism to motivate a people to fight and die for their beliefs and values.”
  • “Our misjudgments of friend and foe, alike, reflected our profound ignorance of the history, culture, and politics of the people in the area, and the personalities and habits of their leaders.”
Afghanistan War
  • What were the US objectives in invading Afghanistan?
  • How did the war turn into a 20-year military commitment?
  • What was Biden’s justification for ending the war?
  • Why was the departure so chaotic?
  • Why did Biden decide against leaving a small contingent of US troops in Afghanistan indefinitely?
  • After the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the US invaded Afghanistan with the objective of destroying al-Qaeda and overthrowing the Taliban government, which had given sanctuary to al-Qaeda and refused to hand over bin Laden. Pentagon officials were concerned that the US might get into a protracted occupation of Afghanistan, as the Soviets had decades earlier.
  • By the end of December 2001:
    • American troops had toppled the Taliban government and defeated its fighting forces
    • Osama bin Laden and other top commanders had fled to Pakistan
    • The US force had grown to 2,500 troops.
  • Bush decided to keep a small force in Afghanistan to make sure al-Qaeda did not return. To that end, the US began the project of establishing a stable Afghan government that would enable US troops to eventually depart without fear of al-Qaeda and the Taliban returning. 
  • In April 2002 Bush announced a “Marshall Plan” for Afghanistan, promising substantial financial assistance. On April 17, 2002 Bush said:
    • “We know that true peace will only be achieved when we give the Afghan people the means to achieve their own aspirations. Peace — peace will be achieved by helping Afghanistan develop its own stable government. Peace will be achieved by helping Afghanistan train and develop its own national army. And peace will be achieved through an education system for boys and girls which works.” (
  • For the next four years Afghanistan was relatively peaceful.
    • A pro-Western government was installed. New schools, hospitals and public facilities were built. Thousands of girls, barred from education under Taliban rule, attended school. Women, largely confined to their homes by the Taliban, went to college, joined the workforce and served in Parliament and government. A vigorous, independent news media emerged.
  • But corruption was rampant, with hundreds of millions of dollars in reconstruction and investment money stolen or misappropriated.
  • In March 2003, U.S. forces invaded Iraq. Afghanistan became an afterthought.
  • On May 1, 2003, U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld announced an end to “major combat” in Afghanistan. On the same day Bush announced that “major combat operations in Iraq have ended.” At that time, there were 8,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan.
  • After serving as interim leader, Hamid Karzai was elected president in Afghanistan’s first national democratic election in 2004. He built a personal rapport with Bush, but relations gradually soured. The U.S. military continued its nation-building campaign by training the Afghan national police force.
  • Beginning in 2005, violence increased as the Taliban reasserted its presence with new tactics modeled on those used by insurgents in Iraqi, such as suicide bombings and the use of IEDs.
  • By the end of 2007, there were 25,000 US troops in Afghanistan. Iraq remained the priority, however. Security in Afghanistan worsened. Parts of the country grew increasingly unstable.
  • Karzai won reelection in 2009, avoiding a runoff thanks to a massive ballot-stuffing. 
  • In December 2009, Obama launched a “surge,” increasing troop levels to nearly 100,000 by mid-2010. NATO and other U.S. allies increased their forces to 50,000. As VP, Biden argued against the surge.
  • But the Taliban grew stronger, inflicting heavy casualties on Afghan security forces despite American combat power and airstrikes. U.S. troops suffered more casualties in 2010 than in any other year of the war.
  • In May 2011 a Navy SEAL team killed Osama bin Laden in a compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan.
  • In June of 2011, Obama announced he would start bringing American forces home and hand over responsibility for security to the Afghans by 2014
  • Ashraf Ghani was elected president in September 2014.
  • Obama ended major combat operations on Dec. 31, 2014. US forces transitioned to training and assisting Afghan security forces.
  • By the time Obama left office in January 2017, there were 8,400 U.S. troops remaining in the country.
  • In February 2020, the Trump administration signed an agreement with the Taliban calling for all American forces to leave Afghanistan by May 1, 2021. In return, the Taliban pledged to cut ties with terrorist groups such as Al Qaeda and the Islamic State affiliate in Afghanistan, reduce violence, and negotiate with the American-backed Afghan government. The agreement also called for a prisoner exchange of 5,000 Taliban prisoners for 1,000 Afghan security force prisoners.
  • In January 2021, the US reached its lowest troop level since 2001, 2,500 personnel. The Afghan army had 300,000 troops compared to an estimated 75,000 Taliban fighters.
  • On April 14, 2021 Biden announced he would withdraw all 2,500 U.S. troops from Afghanistan by Sept. 11, 2021.
  • On May 1 American troops began to withdraw.
  • On July 8 Biden moved the deadline for full troop withdrawal to Aug. 31.
  • On August 8 the Taliban captured its first provincial capital.
  • On August 15 the Taliban entered Kabul.
    • Interactive: 20 Years of Defense, Erased by the Taliban in a Few Months NYT
  • On August 26, an ISIS suicide bombing near the Kabul Airport killed 13 U.S. service members and as many as 170 other people.
  • As the war wound down, the US airlifted more than 120,000 Americans, Afghans and other allies from Afghanistan
  • The war ended on August 30, as the last US troops left.
Objectives of the War
  1. Destroy al-Qaeda, which had its base of operations in Afghanistan.
  2. Overthrow the Taliban government, which had given sanctuary to al-Qaeda and refused to hand over bin Laden.
  3. Prevent al-Qaeda from using Afghanistan as a base of operations to launch future attacks on the US.
How the war turned into a 20-year military commitment?
  • To prevent al-Qaeda from returning, the US decided to establish a stable Afghan government that could defend itself against al-Qaeda and the Taliban.
  • The alternative was to keep US troops in Afghanistan indefinitely, perhaps with no nation building.
Biden’s justification for ending the war
  • Remarks by President Biden on
    • We went to Afghanistan almost 20 years ago with clear goals: get those who attacked us on September 11th, 2001, and make sure al Qaeda could not use Afghanistan as a base from which to attack us again.
    • We did that. We severely degraded al Qaeda in Afghanistan. We never gave up the hunt for Osama bin Laden, and we got him. That was a decade ago.
    • Our mission in Afghanistan was never supposed to have been nation building. It was never supposed to be creating a unified, centralized democracy.
    • Our only vital national interest in Afghanistan remains today what it has always been: preventing a terrorist attack on American homeland.
    • Today, the terrorist threat has metastasized well beyond Afghanistan: al Shabaab in Somalia, al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, al-Nusra in Syria, ISIS attempting to create a caliphate in Syria and Iraq and establishing affiliates in multiple countries in Africa and Asia. These threats warrant our attention and our resources.
    • We conduct effective counterterrorism missions against terrorist groups in multiple countries where we don’t have a permanent military presence.
    • If necessary, we will do the same in Afghanistan. We’ve developed counterterrorism over-the-horizon capability that will allow us to keep our eyes firmly fixed on any direct threats to the United States in the region and to act quickly and decisively if needed.
  • In short, Biden’s justification for ending the war was that the US no longer had a vital national interest in keeping US troops in Afghanistan. The justification for a military presence had been to prevent a resurgence of Al Qaeda in Afghanistan, but that objective could be attained using the military’s over-the-horizon capabilities.
Potential Resurgence of Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan
  • Milley illustrates challenges for Biden’s strategy to combat terrorism from afar WaPo
    • “We have what’s called over-the-horizon capabilities, which means we can strike terrorists and targets without American boots on the ground — or very few, if needed,” Biden said Aug. 31, after the last U.S. troops left Afghanistan.
    • But confidence in U.S. abilities to strike from afar is complicated by geographic realities. Al-Qaeda remnants are in Afghanistan and interested in growing, Milley said, but the United States no longer has military or intelligence assets on the ground to keep tabs on the militants. Bombers and surveillance aircraft must now come from the Middle East and the Persian Gulf in the “air boulevard” through western Pakistan, he said.
    • The withdrawal “makes it much more difficult for us to conduct intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance,” Milley said, including missions to locate militants. “It’s not impossible, but it’ll make it more difficult.”
  • McKenzie suggests the U.S. may not be able to prevent Al Qaeda and ISIS from rebuilding in Afghanistan. NYT
    • The top U.S. military commander in the Middle East expressed reservations about whether the United States could deny Al Qaeda and the Islamic State the ability to use Afghanistan as a launchpad for terrorist attacks now that American troops have left the country.
    • “That’s yet to be seen,” Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie Jr., the head of the military’s Central Command, said in response to a question at the Senate Armed Services Committee hearing. “We could get to that point, but I do not yet have that level of confidence.”
    • Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III said the military could monitor and strike Al Qaeda and Islamic State cells from bases far away, if necessary. “Over-the-horizon operations are difficult but absolutely possible,” he said.
    • Testifying alongside Mr. Austin and General McKenzie, Gen. Mark A. Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said that a “reconstituted Al Qaeda or ISIS with aspirations to attack the United States is a very real possibility.”
    • General Milley added, “And those conditions, to include activity in ungoverned spaces, could present themselves in the next 12 to 36 months.”
Chaotic Departure
  • Collapse of the Afghan Army
    • Top defense officials acknowledge they advised against withdrawing all troops from Afghanistan. NYT
      • Mr. Austin, a former four-star Army general who served in Afghanistan, conceded that the collapse of the Afghan army in the final weeks of the war — in many cases without firing a shot — took top commanders by surprise.
      • “We need to consider some uncomfortable truths: that we did not fully comprehend the depth of corruption and poor leadership in their senior ranks, that we didn’t grasp the damaging effect of frequent and unexplained rotations by President Ghani of his commanders, that we did not anticipate the snowball effect caused by the deals that the Taliban commanders struck with local leaders,” Mr. Austin said, referring to Ashraf Ghani, the former president of Afghanistan who fled the country as the Taliban took control.
      • “We failed to fully grasp that there was only so much for which — and for whom — many of the Afghan forces would fight,” Mr. Austin said.
  • Extending the airlift beyond Aug 31
    • Top defense officials acknowledge they advised against withdrawing all troops from Afghanistan. NYT
      • The secretary also defended the administration’s decision to end the frantic 17-day evacuation airlift by Aug. 31. “The Taliban made clear that their cooperation would end on the first of September, and as you know, we faced grave and growing threats from ISIS-K,” Mr. Austin said, referring to the Islamic State branch in Afghanistan. “Staying longer than we did would have made it even more dangerous for our people and would not have significantly changed the number of evacuees we could get out.”
      • General Milley echoed the danger that staying past the Aug. 31 withdrawal deadline posed to U.S. troops.
      • “On the 1st of September we were going to go back to war again with the Taliban,” he said. “That would have resulted in significant casualties on the U.S. side and would have put American citizens still on the ground there at significant risk.”
  • Closing Bagram
    • Top defense officials acknowledge they advised against withdrawing all troops from Afghanistan. NYT
      • Mr. Austin defended the Biden administration’s decision to close the sprawling Bagram Air Base, the military’s main hub in Afghanistan, in early July and instead focus on defending Kabul’s international airport as the main gateway in and out of the country, and acknowledged that the Pentagon badly misjudged the Afghan military’s will to fight.
      • “Retaining Bagram would have required putting as many as 5,000 U.S. troops in harm’s way, just to operate and defend it,” Mr. Austin told the Senate Armed Services Committee in the first of two days of congressional hearings on Afghanistan. “And it would have contributed little to the mission that we had been assigned: that was to protect and defend our embassy some 30 miles away.”
Generals Contradict Biden
  • Generals Contradict Biden on Afghanistan Advice,
    • Joint Chiefs of Staff Chair Gen. Mark Milley and Gen. Kenneth McKenzie, commander of U.S. Central Command, contradicted President Joe Biden’s claim last month that top military advisers didn’t recommend keeping a residual force in Afghanistan. 
    • In a Sept. 28 Senate hearing, both generals said they believe the U.S. should have left a residual force of at least 2,500 troops, and that Biden received those recommendations.
    • But in an interview with George Stephanopoulos of ABC News on Aug. 18, Biden denied that his decision to withdraw all troops from Afghanistan went against the advice of his top military advisers.
Why Biden decided against the Middle Ground Option
  • The Middle Ground Option was to leave a small contingent of US troops in Afghanistan for the foreseeable future
Biden’s Argument against the Middle Ground Option
  • Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Meet The Press:
    • “During the time from when the agreement was reached to May 1st, the Taliban had stopped attacking our forces, stopped attacking NATO forces. It had not sought to take over the country, the entire country, by going at these major provincial capitals. Come May 2nd, if the president had decided to stay, all gloves would’ve been off. We would’ve been back at war with the Taliban attacking our forces. The offensive you’ve seen throughout the country almost certainly would’ve proceeded. We would’ve had about 2,500 forces in country, with air power. That would not have been sufficient to deal with the situation.”
Arguments for Middle Ground Option
  • All in or All Out? Biden Saw No Middle Ground in Afghanistan. Peter Baker NYT
    • Some, including the current military leadership of Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III and Gen. Mark A. Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, asserted that keeping a relatively modest force of as few as 3,000 to 4,500 troops along with the extensive use of drones and close air support could have enabled Afghan security forces to continue holding off the Taliban without putting Americans at much risk.
    • “There was an alternative that could have prevented further erosion and likely enabled us to roll back some of the Taliban gains in recent years,” said Gen. David H. Petraeus, the retired commander of American forces in Afghanistan and former C.I.A. director who argued the mission was making progress while serving alongside Mr. Biden under President Barack Obama.
  • Excerpt (paraphrased) from This Week with George Stephanopoulos, August 15, 2021 ABC
    • CHENEY: We were able to prevent the Taliban from establishing safe havens with 2,500 to 3,500 troops on the ground, with air power, and working with the Afghans.
    • There’s one question, one question that matters when it comes to Afghanistan or any other deployment of U.S. Forces, and that question is, “What does American security require?”
  • The debacle in Afghanistan is the worst kind: AvoidableWaPo Editorial
    • A small U.S. and allied military presence — capable of working with Afghan forces to deny power to the Taliban and its al-Qaeda terrorist allies, while diplomats and nongovernmental organizations nurtured a fledgling civil society — not only would have been affordable but also could have paid for itself in U.S. security and global credibility.
    • Mr. Biden might have renegotiated the withdrawal deal his predecessor, Donald Trump, cut with the Taliban. Certainly the Taliban’s repeated violations of that pact gave Mr. Biden a legitimate reason for doing so. A regional diplomatic push for a more sustainable political deal was outlined in February by the congressionally authorized Afghanistan Study Group
  • America was finally using Biden’s Afghanistan strategy. Then he pulled the plug.  Rory Stewart WaPo
    • Biden was right to question the unworkable aims of the early intervention. But by the time he became president, he inherited exactly the [small] footprint for which he had argued, and with it an opportunity to demonstrate that the United States could find an alternative to the extremes of over-intervention and total withdrawal, with a sustainable long-term role supporting American allies.
  • Condoleezza Rice: The Afghan people didn’t choose the Taliban. They fought and died alongside us. WaPo
    • Twenty years was not enough to complete a journey from the 7th-century rule of the Taliban and a 30-year civil war to a stable government.
    • More time for the Afghans didn’t have to entail combat troops, just a core American presence for training, air support and intelligence.
Other Arguments against Middle Ground Option
  • We lost the war in Afghanistan long ago, Fareed Zakaria WaPo
    • As we watch the tragedy unfolding in Afghanistan, let us first dispense with the fantasy that the United States was maintaining the peace there with just a few thousand troops and that this situation could have been managed with this small commitment. For the past couple of years, it looked that way to Americans because Washington had made a deal with the Taliban and, as a result, the Taliban was deliberately not attacking U.S. and coalition forces.
    • For the Afghans themselves, the war was intensifying. In the summer of 2019, the Afghan Army and police force suffered their worst casualties in the two decades of fighting. It was also the worst period for Afghan civilian casualties in a decade. In 2018, when the United States had four times as many troops as this year, the fighting was so brutal that 282,000 Afghan civilians were displaced from their homes in the countryside. Frustration with the Afghan government and its U.S. patrons was rising. A U.S. government survey done that year showed that Afghan support for U.S. troops was at 55 percent, down from 90 percent a decade earlier.
Green Tree Financial

Billion Dollar Lessons: What You Can Learn from the Most Inexcusable Business Failures of the Last 25 Years, 2008, Paul Carroll and Chunka Mui

  • Introduction: Can Fatal Strategic Flaws Only Be Recognized in Hindsight?
    • Yet, despite all the books written about how to improve performance by making individuals and companies more effective, we found that failures often don’t stem from lack of execution. Nor are they due to timing or luck. What we found, instead, is that many of the really big failures stemmed from bad strategies. Once launched, the strategies were doomed to fail, and these failures probably could not have been prevented by even spotless execution—unless the implementers were licensed to kill the strategy itself.
  • Green Tree Financial was successful over the years in selling mortgages to buyers of trailer homes, once financing over 40 percent of trailer homes sold.  Then the company had an “ingenious” idea: “to offer thirty-year mortgages instead of the fifteen-year terms that had been standard, thus making the monthly cost of ownership comparable to renting.   Buyers loved the new mortgages….Green Tree was lauded for making ownership an option for so many.”  
  • Carroll and Mui go on to observe:
    • “The innovation had a fatal flaw, however, one that should have been obvious to all concerned.  Unlike conventional homes, which generally appreciate in value, trailer homes lose their value over time.  Trailer homes are more like cars, which start losing value as soon as they leave the showroom floor. Trailer homes have a lifespan of ten to fifteen years – not thirty.”
    • “The value of a trailer home drops rapidly, but on a thirty-year loan, the principal balance shrinks very slowly.  On a typical $50,000 mortgage, after five years the borrower still owes $49,000 in principal. In other words, after a few years, the owners are ‘upside down’ in their loans; they owe far more than their homes are worth.”
  • So over time more and more borrowers defaulted on their loans.  Green Tree suffered huge losses, but was nevertheless acquired by another company, Conseco, for $7.6 billion in 1998.  Four years later Conseco filed for bankruptcy, the third largest in US history at the time.
Going on a Cruise

A Beloved Bar Owner Was Skeptical About the Virus. Then He Took a Cruise

  • On March 1, Joe Joyce and his wife, Jane, set sail for Spain on a cruise, flying first to Florida. His adult children — Kevin, Eddie and Kristen Mider — suggested that the impending doom of the coronavirus made this a bad idea.
  • “He watched Fox, and believed it was under control,’’ Kristen said.
  • On March 14, they returned to New York from Barcelona and headed to their house in New Hampshire. Their children were checking in from New York and New Jersey, and on March 27, when Kristen got off the phone with her father, she called an ambulance. He was wheezing. His oxygen level turned out to be a dangerously low 70 percent. On April 9, he died of Covid-19. 
  • When her father began to feel sick, he resisted getting tested. “He didn’t think that he could have it,” Kristen said, “because he wasn’t 100 percent confident that it was a thing.”
  • Seven days before he was admitted to the hospital, Joe and Kristen had an argument about the emerging public health crisis, which Kristen described as the only dispute she ever had with her father that she wished she hadn’t won. “He said, ‘Don’t you think this is fishy? Do you know anyone who has it? Do you know anyone who has died from it?’ And I said, ‘Dad, I don’t know anyone now, but give me a week and I bet I will.’”
Withdrawing from the Iran Nuclear Deal

View Decision to Withdraw from the Iran Nuclear Deal

Building a Border Wall

View Analysis of Decision to Build a Border Wall

Withdrawing from the Paris Climate Accord

View Analysis of Decision to Withdraw from the Paris Climate Accord