Reading/Listening Material – August 22, 2021

Must Read/Listen

In a prescient 2020 essay about the pandemic, Ed Yong observed that “instead of solving social problems, the U.S. uses techno-fixes to bypass them, plastering the wounds instead of removing the source of injury—and that’s if people even accept the solution on offer.” No need for good judgment, responsible governance, self-sacrifice, or mutual care if there’s an easy technological fix to ostensibly solve the problem. No need, in other words, to be good, so long as the right technological solution can be found.

I was introduced to L.M. Sacasas via Ezra Klein’s podcast.  This essay prompts me to remember that I became a scientist because I had a (not fully-formed) belief in “Science for Conviviality”. I contrast “Science for Conviviality” with making it an endeavor because it can serve as a basis for dominion over Nature – for the purpose of financial reward or just a feeling of control.

For those of you who don’t know me, here is my background — the perspective from which I write tonight.

I covered the fall of the Taliban for NPR, making my way into their former capital, Kandahar, in December 2001, a few days after the collapse of their regime…. I reported for a month or so…. Within another couple of months, I was back, not as a reporter this time, but to try actually to do something. I stayed for a decade. I ran two non-profits in Kandahar, living in an ordinary house and speaking Pashtu, and eventually went to work for two commanders of the international troops, and then the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff….  From that standpoint — speaking as an American, as an adoptive Kandahari, and as a former senior U.S. government official — here are the key factors I see in today’s climax of a two-decade long fiasco:

Afghan government corruption, and the U.S. role enabling and reinforcing it…. Pakistan…. Hamid Karzai… Self-Delusion.


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Ending on a Positive Note