Iam a bit of a chess enthusiast, and as one, I find it interesting to read about alternative forms of the game, of which there are many. Recently, I came across something called kriegspiel. Invented in 1899 by a South African, the chess derivative, which means “war game” in German, is based off of a German game of the same name that was developed to train Prussian army officers. The rules of the game are simply: it is just like chess, except one cannot see his opponent’s pieces, and vice versa. A third party referee helps determine if moves are legal and ensures no one cheats. The point of the game is to simulate the fog of war where one does not necessarily know where his enemies are. While reading about kriegspiel, the thought occurred to me how much one would be able to dominate if they could know their opponent’s positions in kriegspiel. How foolish would it be if one were to somehow figure out his enemy’s positions, but willfully ignore that knowledge? Surely this is the height of folly. Yet this is exactly what America seems to be doing: whilst we know that our enemies are operating throughout the Middle East, North Africa, and East Africa – take the recent disaster in Fallujah as evidence – we are acting as if they are not. Indeed, we are making foreign policy decisions in the shade of ignorance, without consideration as to where our foes lie, even though such knowledge is readily available.

After a long summer in 2004 of sieging the Iraqi city of Fallujah, American soldiers, lead by marines, along with British and Iraqi counterparts, went about the bloody and arduous process of clearing the city of insurgents. The battle, the bloodiest of the Iraq War, lasted nearly two months and resulted in the death of 95 American soldiers, and left 560 wounded. Again, although most of the insurgency was cleared from the city, another final push was made in late 2006 and early 2007 as part of the Great Sunni Awakening. Finally, the city was free of Islamists.

The taking of Fallujah, far short of a decisive victory in the war, is still an extremely significant moment in its history. Although the victory carried strategic importance, it, to me, was more a symbol. It was the first battle of the war where Americans were engaged primarily with insurgents and not Bath Party loyalists. It signaled a turning point in the war, not in terms of momentum, but in terms of style. And after a long, painful battle, America proved that it was competent to win this style of war. True, it would be hard, and true, America might not have the stomach for it, but also true was that America could handle it.

This makes it all the more painful to now read that Fallujah has been overtaken by Al-Qaeda affiliates in Iraq, and that the black Al-Qaeda flag flies in the city. It is perhaps fitting that the most violent year in Iraq since 2008, 2013, with over 7,000 deaths, a year without Americans, was followed immediately by an Islamist takeover of Fallujah. It is clear, in other words, that our Islamist opponents are still in Iraq. And yet we are doing nothing, acting as if no one were there.

Something similar is going on in Afghanistan. American troops are slated to leave the country by the end of the year. The Taliban are still active and alive within Afghanistan however. A National Intelligence Estimate, which consults all 16 of America’s intelligence agencies, says that much if not all of the gains American and coalition forces won in Afghanistan will be lost to the Taliban by 2016. It goes on to say that this will happen even if a few thousand troops are left behind. America must make a serious commitment to Afghanistan, both security and financial, for the foreseeable future. If not, the war which resulted in the death of some 2,271 Americans will ultimately prove to be for naught – at least in regards to the Taliban, as it is perhaps conceivable that Al-Qaeda will not return to the country.

The point I am trying to make with these two examples – and there are many more examples – is that America is playing kriegspiel when it could be playing chess. We know that Al-Qaeda is active in Iraq, but we refuse to act. We know that the Taliban are active in Afghanistan, and will likely retake much of it, but we do nothing. Other examples of willful American ignorance abound: we know that the Chinese are buying up natural resources in Africa, and we know that they are buying significant parts of Latin America, but we do nothing. We know Russia has interests in Eastern Europe, but we do little to counter them.

What motivates one to ignore such information? Perhaps it is cowardice, the belief that if you ignore a problem it does not exist. This is like the person who refuses to see a doctor for fear that the doctor will find something; it is the camp of ignorance is bliss. Or perhaps it is lethargy. America does not want to continue fighting two long, hard wars, and it does not want to engage itself globally any longer. Maybe this is the case, but how pitiful it is that America wanes due to its slothfulness. Regardless of the reason, one thing is certain: that America is acting as if it had no idea what is actually going on in the world.