When the United States invaded Afghanistan in October 2001, polls showed a remarkable nine in ten Americans supported the action. After all, we had just been attacked by an organization headquartered there, so it seemed only natural that our military would go in, hunt down the culprits, and punish them and those who helped them. But the years dragged on and on, and it eventually became clear that we weren't rooting out al Qaeda but trying to establish stability and democracy in a country that is a stranger to both. Meanwhile, over 2,000 American servicemembers have given their lives, and half a trillion dollars of our money has been spent on a war whose original purpose is all but forgotten.
When he was a congressman, Anthony Weiner didn't make a lot of friends in Washington. Widely known as abrasive, as overly ambitious even in a town full of ambitious people, and as a notoriously difficult boss, Weiner didn't find too many people rushing to the media to defend him when he was discovered tweeting photos of his junk to women who were not his wife, and he quickly resigned his seat in Congress.
Today is the 150th anniversary of the final day of the Battle of Gettysburg, and with that in mind, it’s worth remembering the particular actions of Confederate soldiers a week earlier, as they marched north into Pennsylvania.
In the movement that culminated in Gettysburg, Robert E. Lee’s men kidnapped free blacks by the hundreds—men, women, and children. Up to a thousand were captured and forced into labor with the Confederate Army. And during the eventual retreat from Pennsylvania, they were sent South. Once in Virginia, they were returned to their former owners, or if born free, sold into slavery.
When George W. Bush delivered his State of the Union address in 2005, a number of Republican members of Congress showed up with a finger colored purple, in solidarity with the Iraqi voters who were required to dip their fingers in ink upon leaving the polls. Iraq had held an election, the purple digits testified, and therefore invading two years prior had been a swell idea, the transition to democracy was on its way, and everything would turn out great.
The triumphalism turned out to be a bit premature; thousands of Americans were still to die there, not to mention hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, and the country is riven by religious strife and violence to this day.
We often think of business leaders as hard-nosed pragmatists, guided by dollars and cents with little regard to emotion. But the truth is that corporate executives are human just like the rest of us. They can be as irrational as anyone, and frequently make business decisions on the basis of things like spite.