Failure Is an Opportunity for Improvement

War failure invites assessment

War is failure. That’s an easy thing to say simply because nobody really wins at war except those that can extract a monetary advantage or stroke an immature ego. As it has been often said, “War is hell.”

War is also a failure in that it points to a breakdown in human (nations) relationships. We humans simply have not learned how to live with each other.

Withdrawal from Afghanistan after 20 years of war highlights the failings of its inception, its exercise, and its ending. Failure is currently big news!

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Danielle Pletka, writing for The Wall Street Journal, asks, “What Went Wrong in Afghanistan?” She reports:

We Americans like to deceive ourselves. We want to believe there is good war and bad war. World War II was a good war, varnished with the patina of history. Vietnam was a bad war, its reality overridden by popular cultural narratives. Once, in the decade after 9/11, Afghanistan was the good war and Iraq the bad, a war of “choice,” not necessity. Now they are both bad.

There are many things that went wrong in Afghanistan. The strategy was weak, and the enemy persistent. The U.S. was often unfocused in its goals, under-resourcing even our limited efforts. Our allies on the ground—not just the Afghans, but the members of a coalition theoretically pursuing Enduring Freedom—were often far less capable than they might have been. But none of these problems were fatal to our effort to ensure that extremists would not control the country.

War failure provides opportunity to learn lessons

The Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) recently submitted its 11th report, What We Need to Learn: Lessons from Twenty Years of Afghanistan Reconstruction. The lessons, as reported, are:

  1. Strategy: The U.S. government continuously struggled to develop and implement a coherent strategy for what it hoped to achieve.
  2. Timelines: The U.S. government consistently underestimated the amount
    of time required to rebuild Afghanistan, and created unrealistic timelines and expectations that prioritized spending quickly. These choices increased corruption and reduced the effectiveness of programs.
  3. Sustainability: Many of the institutions and infrastructure projects the United States built were not sustainable.
  4. Personnel: Counterproductive civilian and military personnel policies and practices thwarted the effort.
  5. Insecurity: Persistent insecurity severely undermined reconstruction efforts.
  6. Context: The U.S. government did not understand the Afghan context and therefore failed to tailor its efforts accordingly.
  7. Monitoring and Evaluation: U.S. government agencies rarely conducted sufficient monitoring and evaluation to understand the impact of their efforts.

While the stink and grime are still upon us as we extract tens of thousands from the Afghan war theater, it’s encouraging that the report points to what can be learned. It underscores the notion that this is an opportunity to improve.

And it begins with a clear-eyed diagnosis. The report is practical, hard hitting, and honest.

Election failure invites assessment

Another failure this nation faces is our undemocratic process of picking a president. Many point to the Electoral College as the source for the voting malfunction. It simply is not true! The Electoral College is actually an ingenious system to democratically capture the consensus of the nation’s citizens.

One remedy proposed is the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact (NPVIC). Sadly, it fails from the start because it does not diagnose what goes wrong in our presidential elections. Without an accurate diagnosis, any remedy is prone to failure. The NPVIC solution actually exacerbates the voting challenge as it exposes the voting public to even greater disenfranchisement than what we currently endure. NPVIC fails to leverage a learning opportunity.

Equal Voice Voting (EVV) recognizes why (the diagnosis) our popular voting and the Electoral College results fail to correlate. The problem is the adoption of the Winner-Takes-All (WTA) approach. It is used by all states and is beyond the reaches of the U.S. Constitution. WTA effectively disenfranchises, on average, 48% of the ballots cast in every presidential election. Over 69 million votes cast in the 2020 election (by all political parties) were never acknowledged by the Electoral College.

Here’s an opportunity for improvement!

EVV can be adopted to replace WTA with a proportional translation of popular votes into electoral votes, much as the Constitutional Framers imagined. Adopted on a state-by-state basis, EVV does not require a U.S. Constitutional amendment as it respects the sovereignty of states and makes All Votes Matter!

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By Jerry Spriggs and the Equal Voice Voting Team