Mentally Unscripted
Mentally Unscripted
Ep33 – Hubris and Misaligned Incentives: Mental Models in a Time of War

Ep33 – Hubris and Misaligned Incentives: Mental Models in a Time of War

In this episode of Mentally Unscripted, Paul and Scott talk about the mental models that we can use to make better decisions in our foreign policy with a focus on military conflict.


Top Takeaways

  • Mental Models can help clarify complex situations plagued with conflicting information, lack of an objective, and competing interests.

  • Our moral foundation may differ from that of another person or group of people. No one has the blanket authority to impose their morality on others.

  • Misaligned incentives and hubris combine to create a no-win situation.

  • In any case, we must make sure we’ve accurately defined the problem. Then we must seek out the optimal solution for solving that problem.

  • Decisions have tradeoffs that we must consider.

[0:20] Introduction.

[1:15] Did the U.S. fail in Afghanistan? Was the only failure for some interested parties that they couldn’t keep the war going?

[3:51] Military as a business.

[5:42] Why we invaded Afghanistan.

[7:01] Did the U.S. have an end in mind?

[9:11] Some models we can use when politicians and media tell us we need to consider armed conflict.

[13:04] Can we impose our morals on other cultures?

[18:21] The lesson is that we cannot and should not nation-build. Nation-building is a failed experiment.

[18:46] Cost/benefit analysis of invading the “Graveyard of Empires.”

[23:16] For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction and reversibility.

[26:49] Framework for rational decision making. Have we defined the problem correctly, and do we have the best solution for solving that problem?

[31:46] Bayesian casino. How much are you willing to bet on a given outcome happening?

[32:29] How over-optimism leads to bad decisions.

[35:28] Don’t keep going because of sunk costs.

[37:40] How shifting goalposts muddied the waters.

[38:55] Models for exiting 20 years of armed conflict.

[41:35] Did Biden make a mistake by not priming the U.S. for the difficulty in leaving Afghanistan?

[43:11] Logistics failures.


Engage with Scott and Paul on the Twitter thought control machine.

Follow Scott at Strength and Reason.

Mentally Unscripted
Mentally Unscripted
Discover how to use critical thinking to tear complex issues down to their simple basics and have productive conversations with friends and family about any topic under the sun.