When we are not presented with a dystopian vision, we are encouraged to be implausibly optimistic. This misleads us in several respects simultaneously: minimising differences between cultures, exaggerating our fears, aggrandising our ambitions, inflating a sense of moral obligations and power, and confusing our goals. All these attitudes are aspects of a single worldview and create an almost irresistible illusion.
It is a language that exploits tautologies and negations to suggest inexorable solutions. It makes our policy seem a moral obligation, makes failure unacceptable, and alternatives inconceivable. It does this so well that a more moderate, minimalist approach becomes almost impossible to articulate. Afghanistan, however, is the graveyard of predictions.
It is unlikely that we will be able to defeat the Taliban. But the Taliban are very unlikely to take over Afghanistan as a whole.
My First Dictionary:
Today's word is disillusioned.
If you're not failing all the time, you're not creating a situation where you can get super-lucky.
From the archive:
The average Afghan spends one-fifth of his income on bribes.
"You Westerners have your watches," the leader observed. "But we Taliban have time."
“Is the boy a Talib?” I asked. “Future Talib,” he said.
Elizabeth Rubin, from the Korengal Valley:
It didn’t take long to understand why so many soldiers were taking antidepressants.
Nora Johnson, from 1961:
An Englishman said to me recently, "You Americans live on a much higher plane of expectancy than we do. You constantly work toward some impossible goal of happiness and perfection, and you unfortunately don't have our ability just to give up. Really, it's much easier to accept the fact that some things can't be solved." He is right; we never accept it, and we kill ourselves trying.
Rory Stewart, from today:
Americans are particularly unwilling to believe that problems are insoluble.