Thursday, August 12, 2021

Goodfellows returns


The goodfellows video and podcast returns! Direct link, in case the above embed doesn't work for you. 

This week's show is about covid and Afghanistan -- America gives up. 

One reason I love doing this show is that I get to ask questions about things like Afghanistan, military history, what is the nature of military defeat, and so on that I don't know much about, but Niall and H.R. know a lot about! There is little in life I enjoy so much as spouting off a hare-brained opinion and then someone really knowledgeable like Niall and H.R. swats it down and turns me around. 

Don't miss Niall and H.R. starting at 56:45. I wish I were this eloquent, and I'm proud of my fellow panelists for their deeply knowledgeable empathy. 


  1. Excellent discussion. I can’t believe I agree with all that HR says. Niall and John are excellent too. Thanks John. HR is like LBJ here, dishing out numerous assists and making all his teammates better.

  2. Thanks for posting that session of Goodfellows--it was the real McCoy! You have two excellent debate opponents in Niall Fergusson and H.R. McMaster, both of whom demonstrated a thorough-going grasp of the subject matter. They are clearly very engaged in both subjects on this week's debate agenda.

    On COVID-19, Fergusson confirmed my own supposition that we have a very long road to travel before this disease dials back to an ordinary epidemic. The population today is roughly seven billion individuals; and, only a small fraction of that population is fully vaccinated. Delta is a variant that came first to light in India (ca. 1.366 billion as of 2019) in October of last year. That is the 4th variant of concern to appear in less than eight months. It may not be the last. The discussion on anti-vaxxer propaganda was illuminating. But, it's not necessary that 100% of the population be vaccinated or have naturally acquired immunity to break the back of the pandemic. If basic reproduction number, R₀ is 6 to 9, and the unprotected proportion of the population is X, then to bring the pandemic to the point where reproduction rate is declining, X must be less than 1/R₀ , or less than 16-²/₃% to less than 10% (vaccinated proportion of the population is greater than 84% to greater than 90%. These are very difficult vaccination levels to achieve if vaccination remains a voluntary activity. If the R₀ = 9, then fewer than 32 million out of a population of 325 million can be allowed to go unvaccinated. Roughly 163 million have been fully vaccinated in the U.S. (~50%). It will require vaccinating a further 130 million adults and youths to achieve 'herd immunity' if R₀ = 9. World-wide, the task is stupendously more difficult, essentially requiring vaccination of 6.3 billion people. If vaccination of 163 million individuals in the U.S. took four months, then vaccinating 6.3 billion individuals at the identical rate of vaccination will take 12.9 years to accomplish. Clearly, this is untenable as an acceptable duration. The vaccination rate should be constrained only by the vaccine manufacturing rate, and that rate should only be constrained by the rate of duplication of vaccine manufacturing facilities. Well, you can easily see the difficulties from this very simplistic example. The novel coronavirus will be with us for a long time.

    Afghanistan is another matter. If H. R. McMaster's figures that he cited during the Goodfellows' discussion are correct, and the annual 'burn-rate' was as low as $22 million and the casualty rate was de minimis (~ 0, if I heard him correctly), then the decision to depart Afghanistan was clearly based on a political calculus, possibly a facile political calculus. H. R. McMaster's observation that Afghanistan's population was doing materially better with the U.S. forces in country suggests that contrary to common misperceptions, an American presence is not the negative factor that the popular press would have us believe it to be. H. R. McMaster and Niall Fergusson expressed what not a few observers have stated recently--that the decision to exit was wrong and it will be paid forward in blood and treasure, in Afghanistan and elsewhere. The geopolitical implications could not be worse. H. R. McMaster's point that all is not irredeemably lost at this point, presumes that the current president would be willing to eat his hat in public. He might be; but, it seems unlikely given the dynamics of his political party and sway that the progressive faction appears to hold over him. It also appears that Pakistan is at risk of being destablized if the Taliban can secure Afghanistan. This harks back to the domino-theory of the 1960s, with a change in players and location. We'll now have an opportunity to see whether this turns out to be the case with Pakistan. It should be noted that Pakistan is a nuclear weapons power. Destabilization of that country would be a major issue for all concerned. That particular point was not raised during the debate. It ought to be.

  3. Nial's counterfactual on a world without COVID vaccines at 30:00 is a very good point. His and H.R.'s points on Afghanistan are prescient, but also deeply poignant.
    Well worth an hour to listen, regardless of one's political views.

  4. Can you please interview Jordan Peterson or Yeonmi Park? They are amazing!

  5. Good fellows is a new find for this Brit. Fantastic output. Love the stick John gets for invariably jummping in asking the questions Thanks.


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