Sunk Cost in War
By David Henderson
I am used to people making the sunk cost fallacy when discussing war, that is, in one of the most important cases in which not to commit the fallacy. So I was pleasantly surprised by a segment on The O’Reilly Factor last night. One of O’Reilly’s regulars, when he wants someone to discuss foreign policy, is a hawkish retired Colonel named Ralph Peters. Here’s how hawkish he is: he advocated that the U.S. government murder Julian Assange.
O’Reilly, pointing out that things seem to be breaking down in Afghanistan, asked Peters what he would do if he were in charge. O’Reilly set it up by mentioning all the “blood and treasure” that has been lost so far in Afghanistan. Peters answered that the U.S. government should pull out the U.S. troops. (Peters also wanted to keep some U.S. soldiers and drones there.) O’Reilly said words to the effect, “But then all that blood and treasure would be wasted.” Peters answered, “But you can’t get it back by spending more blood and treasure.” I’ve seen Peters a number of times and have never been impressed with his intellect. But this time I was impressed with his clear thinking.