"...indistinguishable from magic."

In the early part of the 20th Century, primitive tribesmen in the South Pacific saw Westerners come into their islands, build airfields, and receive airplanes from the sky that disgorged all kinds of goodies that made life so much better for the tribes. To them, it was magic, for, as Arthur C. Clark observed in 1962, "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic."

And so when the Westerners left, the Melanesian tribesmen would put on earphones (or coconut shells) unconnected to any working radio, and they would mimic the behavior of the air traffic controllers in the hope that those great birds would come out of the sky with their cargo of blessings an inaugurate a new era of bounty. It was a religion called the "cargo cult."

There is a hint of the cargo cult in the "nation" we built in Afghanistan over the past 20 years. Only, instead of an airstrip and some radio equipment, we supplied the Afghan National Army with a staggering amount of actual, working, lethal military equipment--all of which is now in the hands of the Taliban, as the ANA seemed barely to rise above cargo cult status in its command of all that stuff.

How staggering? This staggering.


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