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Are Former Professors As National Leaders More Prone To Black Swan Events That Overthrow Their Governments?

Summary:
Probably not, but recent events in Afghanistan suggest an example.  This would be the sudden departure just over two weeks ago on Aug. 15 from Kabul of then Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, which triggered the sudden collapse of his government and the unexpectedly sudden takeover of Kabul by the Taliban. Even they did not see this coming.  What was the black swan event involved?  It was reported in the Aug. 29 Washington Post that Ghani was told early in the afternoon that Taliban were in his palace searching room by room for him, which led him to leave almost immediately with his family and a few aides off the roof in military helicopters for Uzbekistan where they took a plane to the UAE.  He basically informed nobody of his exit.  In fact the Taliban were not even in Kabul at the time

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 Probably not, but recent events in Afghanistan suggest an example.  This would be the sudden departure just over two weeks ago on Aug. 15 from Kabul of then Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, which triggered the sudden collapse of his government and the unexpectedly sudden takeover of Kabul by the Taliban. Even they did not see this coming.  What was the black swan event involved?  It was reported in the Aug. 29 Washington Post that Ghani was told early in the afternoon that Taliban were in his palace searching room by room for him, which led him to leave almost immediately with his family and a few aides off the roof in military helicopters for Uzbekistan where they took a plane to the UAE.  He basically informed nobody of his exit.  In fact the Taliban were not even in Kabul at the time and were sitting outside awaiting the outcome of an ongoing negotiation in Doha, Qatar that was supposed to facilitate a peaceful transfer of power by August 31.  Indeed, only the day before Ghani did not even want to discuss defense arrangements with US military leaders because he was planning to give a talk on digitizing the economy.  Not even the Taliban foresaw what was coming, although all kinds of columnists are given President Biden heck that he did not foresee it. As it is, no one has yet explained why those guards engaged in the black swan event of informing President Ghani of this false report about Taliban in his palace.

As it is, Ashraf Ghani is indeed a former academic, who was a professor of anthropology at Johns Hopkins University before going to work for the World Bank.  He would later serve as Minister of Finance before becoming president. He was often accused of not being completely on top of practical things and too concerned with more abstract issues and policies.  He was also accused of overseeing a highly corrupt regime, which undermined popular support for it and encouraged such support in the countryside for the Taliban.  He has also been accused of being corrupt himself, with there being rumors, denied by his spokespeople, that he left the country with over $100 million in cash.

Where I feel the sorriest for him is how former President Trump completely cut him out of negotiations that Trump had carried out with the Taliban in Doha, resulting in essentially a surrender to the Taliban in Feb. 2020.  This got barely above zero publicity at the time, with major TV networks only spending on average 5 seconds per week on Afghanistan, although now they have nonstop 24/7 coverage. The agreement involved Trump getting Pakistan to release 5000 prisoners, one of them, Baradar, now apparently the main Taliban leader, with some of these people also ISIS-K who are fighting both the US and the Taliban and carried out the suicide bombing at Kabul airport two days ago that killed 13 US military personnel.  The US was to get out by May 1 this year, with the Taliban promising not to attack any US forces, a promise kept, which would help Trump with his reelection campaign, even as it completely undercut and destroyed all confidence in the Afghan government of Ghani.

As it was, President Biden did move that removal date to August 31 from May 1 in negotiation with the Taliban, and it was ISIS-K that killed the US troops, not the Taliban. On April 27 the State Department told Americans to leave Afghanistan, and most have been gotten out, although apparently about 250 are still left who reportedly want out. Criticism that efforts were not made sooner to identify locations of them and also that paperwork to help out departing Afghan allies was not speeded up look valid. Complaints that these people were not moved out sooner face the problem that it was clear that such a move would precipitate the fall of the Ghani regime.

As it was, everybody, even the Taliban, thought the Afghan government would last longer than it did, even those who were forecasting that the removal of US troops would bring about its collapse quickly.  But even those people gave it several months or at least a few weeks.  Heck, the government in place after the Soviets left lasted for several years.  It was only nine days from when the first provincial capital fell on Aug. 6 to the Taliban in the far southwest to the fall of Kabul so suddenly on Aug. 15.

Now we again must recognize that former professor Ghani was not facing the reality of the situation then.  The WaPo story reports how soon after that US military tried to convince him that he needed to make a plan to let some of the capitals go while concentrating on a few that were crucial to the defense of Kabul, especially Jalalabad in the east. But he would have none of it, optimistically declaring they all could be defended even as they began to go in an accelerating wave with Jalalabad falling on Aug. 14. Even then he did not wish to discuss such matters, preferring to plan talks on economic policy. It did not help that his National Security Advisor was a 33-year old former ambassador with no military or intelligence experience.

As it was, apparently in the end he did recognize reality somewhat.  Late in the evening on Aug. 14 apparently he agreed to a negotiation with the Taliban about a power transfer, and on the morning of Aug. 15 an envoy of his actually flew out of Kabul to Doha to engage in that negotiation, which was what had the Taliban sitting outside the gates of Kabul.  But the black swan of guards misinforming Ghani arrived, and it was all over, and we have had a chaotic situation since, even as over 100,000 have been evacuated.

I supposed in the end even a non-former-professor might have fled suddenly if given the false information by guards that Ghani was.  I am seriously wondering if we shall learn what really lay behind this peculiar and unforecastable black swan event.

Barkley Rosserr

Barkley Rosser
I remember how loud it was. I was a young Economics undergraduate, and most professors didn’t really slam points home the way Dr. Rosser did. He would bang on the table and throw things around the classroom. Not for the faint of heart, but he definitely kept my attention and made me smile. It is hard to not smile around J. Barkley Rosser, especially when he gets going on economic theory. The passion comes through and encourages you to come along with it in a truly contagious way. After meeting him, it is as if you can just tell that anybody who knows that much and has that much to say deserves your attention.

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