Top Ten Bad Assumptions: 8 –The enemy of your enemy is your friend.

Alternate Assumption:  The enemy of your enemy may also be your enemy.

This was actually next on my bad assumptions list, even before Netanyahu gave his speech before Congress highlighting this point.  In Netanyahu’s speech he stated that even though ISIS is our enemy and Iran is fighting ISIS, that does not make Iran our friend.  Both ISIS and Iran want an Islamic Caliphate to rule the world.  Their fight is over who is going to rule over the caliphate.

The thought process behind this assumption is that we have a black and white world, that every issue has two sides.  In actuality, an issue may have many sides.  Just because we both oppose a solution, that doesn’t mean we agree on the same solution.  I see this a lot in the common poll question, “Do you think the country is on the right track?”  Very seldom does the majority of the country think we are on the right track.  Typically the party out of power uses this as evidence that the majority of the country supports them.  This is just silly.  If 60% of the country think that we are on the wrong track, that could mean that half of them think we are too liberal and half might think we are too conservative.

This assumption has its biggest implication in foreign policy.  It certainly did not start with Iran.  Many people in World War II thought that Stalin was our friend because he was fighting Hitler.  Both Hitler and Stalin wanted the world to be ruled by an iron-fisted dictatorship.  They just disagreed on who should be the dictator.  The United States just agreed on a new treaty with Iran, and now many are saying that we are really allies.  For example, ran a column titled “Iran and the U.S. Are Allies Against ISIS but Aren’t Ready to Admit it Yet.”   This is at the same time that Iran’s religious leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is shouting “Death to America!”  Iran and the United States may have a common enemy, but they are certainly not our friend.

While this assumption is most obviously seen in foreign policy, it rears its head in many places.  For example, two of the American left’s most fervent issues are gay rights and women’s rights.  They were furious when a baker wouldn’t bake a wedding cake for a gay marriage.  Certainly any candidate who is not pro-choice has no chances of winning the Democratic nomination for any significant office.  At the same time the left wing has been fervent supporters of Muslims, even radical Muslim groups such as Hamas.   These same Muslims often brutally suppress women and they kill gays.  Am I the only one who sees something unusual in this?  Why does the left so fervently support Muslims?

I have tried to figure this out for a while.  This is my current theory.  The radical Muslims state that the United States is an evil imperialist country.  The far left believes that the United States is an evil imperialist country.  The enemy of my enemy is my friend.   Therefore the left supports their friends, the Muslims.  Note that I don’t believe the radical Muslims have the same false assumption as they would be more than happy to remove the head of any American, regardless of political affiliation.

Now I realize that I certainly don’t have the evidence to support my theory.  I am offering it as a possible explanation.  I could be totally wrong.  If you think I am wrong, then don’t just say so.  Offer me a better explanation for this gaping contradiction.  I’m waiting.

Top Ten Bad Assumptions: 6 – Every problem has a good solution.

Alternate Assumption:  Some problems have no good solution.  We need to find the least bad solution.

I have an acquaintance who shall remain nameless.  In a recent election one candidate agreed with 90% of his views the other candidate agreed with 10%.  He refused to vote for the 90% candidate because of their differences.  I told him that if there was an election between Lincoln and Hitler he would say that Lincoln suspended Habeus Corpus so he wouldn’t vote at all or he would vote for Hitler.

We all like to think that every problem has a solution.  We strive for that perfect solution.  Unfortunately some problems are not soluble.  We seek to eliminate poverty, but there has always been poverty and there always will be.  There may never be peace in the Middle East.  The irony is that too often we reject solutions that might make things better because they aren’t perfect.  To quote Voltaire, “Perfect is the enemy of better!”

The perfect solution assumption hinders both the left and the right.  On the left, environmentalists predict that global warming due to carbon emissions will devastate the climate.  Lets assume for the moment that this is correct.  Cheaper natural gas produced from fracking has caused many power plants to convert away from high carbon emitting coal to clean natural gas.  So far, fracking has shown itself to be the only practical method for substantially reducing carbon emissions.  Environmentalists, however, oppose fracking because of environmental concerns about contamination.  Let’s assume now that these concerns are also valid.

The environmentalists predictions of the devastation caused by global warming far exceeds their predictions of damage caused by fracking.  To environmentalists, fracking should be the least bad of two bad alternatives.  Environmentalists though strongly oppose fracking.  Perfect is the enemy of better.

On the right, conservatives oppose Obamacare and want it repealed.  They wanted Congress to defund Obamacare which would of course result in an Obama veto and shutdown of the government.  Historical evidence shows that this would be very unpopular and it would reduce the chance of electing a Republican in the next election who might actually repeal it.  Perfect is the enemy of better.

The current Iran situation is a vivid example of this problem.  If economic sanctions don’t deter Iran from developing nuclear weapons, and there is no indication that they will deter Iran, then the world may have to choose between two horrible choices:

  • We can do nothing and let Iran, who supports terrorists, and has vowed to to annihilate Israel develop a nuclear bomb.
  • We can use military force to attack Iran to try to forcibly stop them.   This would throw the world into turmoil and might not even  be successful.

Both of these choices are terrible.  Which is worse?  If we do nothing, we have made a choice.

The search for the perfect solution often sounds very noble.  In real life, it can have devastating consequences.