There is a definition of insanity often attributed to Einstein. It is that insanity is doing something over and over again and expecting a different result. As an aside, there is no convincing evidence that the great man actually said it, though I am sure he would have agreed.
I have a passive corollary that rings true to me. It is a sign of psychosis to repeatedly make a prediction that never comes to pass and yet to act as though it will. There must come a time for the mentally competent when the basis of the prediction is questioned. A common example of this is the doomsday theorist. If the end of times is always nigh, when does that become a useless belief?
So how does this relate to current events, the topic of this blog? I think President Obama and his supporters are exhibiting this flaw in their policy for ISIS, specifically in Iraq. They repeatedly predict that there will come a time when the Shi’ite government in Baghdad will unite with their Sunni and Kurdish citizens to form a competent military force capable of combating ISIS. All it takes, they say over and over again, is a little more training and hand-holding, just a smidgen more military support, or a bit more time. Have patience, they argue.
This belief flies in the face of everything we know about Iraq. For the Shi’ite government to accomplish this reconciliation they must believe that it can actually succeed, and that creating a competent Sunni fighting force wouldn’t backfire upon them in time. But they have hundreds of years of evidence that tells them the contrary. Moreover their sponsors in Iran have even less motivation to support an Iraqi Sunni resurgence. As for training the Iraqi government forces, when does it stick? If our trainees drop their weapons and run away time after time, why should we think this will end?
And yet the President seems to seriously maintain this belief. My suspicion is that when he says “have patience” he is speaking in code. What he really means is “let’s all wait this out until the end of my term when it will become someone else’s problem.”