In the field of economics, a “sunk cost” is a cost that has already been incurred and cannot be recovered. It’s spent. Gone.
The “sunk cost fallacy” is a logical fallacy based on “sunk cost,” in which people continue with an endeavor after an investment has already been made. Whether the cost comes in the form of money, time, or other resources, people will carry on solely because of the “amount” already invested. “I can’t walk away from this Blackjack game! I’ve already lost thousands!”
In the context of the war in Afghanistan, the “sunk cost fallacy” would be demonstrated by an unwillingness to withdraw based entirely on the resources and lives already lost. “We can’t leave, because we’ve already spent billions of dollars and lost thousands of lives.”
However, the argument being promoted by the Biden administration regarding the withdrawal from Afghanistan is equally fallacious.
“How many more generations of America’s daughters and sons would you have me send to fight Afghans — Afghanistan’s civil war when Afghan troops will not?” Biden asked during his address on Afghanistan. “How many more lives — American lives — is it worth? How many endless rows of headstones at Arlington National Cemetery?”
Setting aside the fact that Afghan troops are indeed willing to fight — with at least 70,000 killed since the conflict began — this argument dangerously presumes that limiting “cost” in the immediate short term is the primary objective, with no consideration of the consequences.
There are now tens of thousands of American citizens trapped behind enemy lines in Afghanistan, and the Biden administration has yet to articulate their plan to help them escape. Given the Taliban’s known violent tendencies — demonstrated by the ensuing chaos surrounding the Kabul airport alone — President Biden is facing three options.
- Abandon the American citizens in Afghanistan.
- Send in military support to forcibly protect the remaining evacuees.
- Bribe the Taliban to prevent further harm to the remaining evacuees.
Let’s consider the “cost” of these options.
- Abandoning the American citizens in Afghanistan will almost certainly result in the torture and eventual murder of those left behind.
- Sending in military support will likely result in loss of life if violence breaks out during the evacuation efforts, let alone the financial cost necessary to mobilize such a force.
- Bribing the Taliban will, by definition, be financially costly — let alone ideologically damaging.
Given Biden’s “How many more lives is it worth” justification for his disastrous decision to withdraw from Afghanistan, how are any of these options comparatively valid? How can he possibly justify the cost of his decision, given the logic he used to make that decision?
Such a justification is simply impossible.
Ian Haworth is an Editor and Writer for The Daily Wire. Follow him on Twitter at @ighaworth.
The views expressed in this piece are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Wire.
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