Here’s the winning monologue in full:
As much as I kind of use a little bit of a startup analogy, like America never really found product market fit with what we were trying to do in Afghanistan.
There’s some fantastic Gallup polling that’s been done in Afghanistan over the past 15-20 years already, and they’ve actually had people on the ground polling there.
And most recently, which has been consistent for over ten years, polling shown that 87% to 90% of Afghans said that the government is corrupt. This is the government put in power put in place by the United States. 90% say businesses are corrupt. And if you go back to a poll they ran in 2010, the question was —
“In general, which of these statements comes closest to your point of view? Sharia law must be the only source of legislation.”
- 56% of the Afghan population in 2010 believe that to be true.
- And another 38% said Sharia law must be a source of legislation, but not the only source.
- That leaves just 7% of people that think that Sharia law should not be part of the legislative process in defining the Afghan laws and Constitution.
It’s almost like when you start a company and you try and create a product and you sell it to a customer base, you got to figure out what the product is. You got to make sure the customers want it. And then the idea for the startup works. The problem here is our views as a nation and maybe Western democracy doesn’t necessarily fit with what that market wants. And we can certainly make the case that we believe that our ethics and our values are superior and provide more of an opportunity for individual freedom and Liberty, things that we believe should be available around the world. But if the market is not buying it, the customers don’t want it. You’re really just raising a ton of venture money trying to create a product that no one really wants. And at the end of the day, you’re a trillion dollars down and you have to shut the thing down and it goes bankrupt.
And that’s effectively what went down here. And if you look at the history of Afghanistan, remember, they were in the Soviet Afghan war in the 80s near the entire decade of the 80s. Then the Taliban came along and provided a degree of stability in the 90s. And then all of a sudden, this Al Qaeda 9-11 war began after Taliban had been in power for a year. And it’s been 20 plus years of strife and 20 years of stripe and challenge, where the population have increasingly viewed the government to be corrupt, businesses to be corrupt.
And here’s a really interesting statistic which also came out of this polling that Gallup does over the last ten years. The percentage of Afghans that are happy with their present household income has gone or not happy. Sorry, with their present household income has gone from 60% to 90% nine out of ten Afghans as of last year were not making enough money to make ends meet. So you put all of these facts together. You’ve got this long history of stripe with this company effectively coming in, trying to tell you how to run your government, how to run your country that doesn’t match with your beliefs on the way you think a government should be built. You’ve got all of this turmoil that’s happened historically. It really was, I would say, to some degree, this inevitable failure of the startup that got over funded, that never found product market fit, that never really got off the ground. Certainly the exit strategy on how do you win something down in this case? And it certainly relates to human lives. And the tragedy of the partners that we had on the ground was totally mishandled.
- David Friedberg, All In Podcast Episode 44