I’m already hearing the term ‘insurgent math’ being tossed around in the news again (the idea that you can control the retaliation by the local populations by ‘only killing the bad ones’ or by rebuilding the infrastructure that you destroyed in the first place). Honestly, that’s not a great way of looking at it. These interactions are not mathematical, they are intensely personal, human, actions and reactions. And revolutionary activity is difficult to predict or quantify, as are human beings.
A better way of looking at it, a better analogy, would be that of margin trading, financial speculation, of the bubble. That is what capitalists, empires, colonizers, aggressors, or even everyday bullies, do. They gamble (with lives or quality of life) that what they take from every interaction will keep giving, and will not bring the house down upon them.
When you’re on top, it feels like you can’t lose. But then a day comes when the bubble bursts, and you’re fleeing Afghanistan in disgrace, either throwing good money (people, material, reputation) after bad or you’re out of the game with nothing. The best moment, in any game, to establish a new equilibrium is when you’re up, at the height of your power. Wait too long and the tables WILL turn on you. And a century-long blood feud is no game, and the stakes are way higher.