The perfect world syndrome

One of the means to challenge some argument is to highlight something that contradicts it. When it comes to matters of politics and war and governance, such a tactic often presumes a perfect world. Things are either right or they are wrong. Efforts either succeed or fail. When a law is passed then order will follow. Every problem has a clear, clean, and complete solution.

You can see this with those who passed a law to authorize the use of force in Iraq. They now seem to think that that should have been followed by a quick bang-bang, a surrender, and peace forever more. It’s a perfect world. All decisions are fully informed and provide definitive outcomes else they were fraudulent. There is no provision for learning as you go or any changes in circumstances.

Betsy’s Page on Not studying military history discusses one potential source of this perfect world syndrome.

Given that our nation is at war, and the long war against terrorists won’t end anytime soon, there are lessons from past history of wars that would be enlightening for young people. One lesson they could learn is how no war ever was fought without setbacks and mistakes, sometimes massive mistakes. Changes in strategy are quite common. Replacement of generals as we searched for better results is common. And people would remember the importance of morale on the homefront and how that affects the ultimate success or failure of the fighting on the battlefront. People would have more context by which to evaluate the fighting that is going on today. Instead, many seem to judge this war against some ideal that has never existed in the world’s history. Perhaps this idea that there is a perfect, ideal way to fight a war would disappear if people knew more about war’s history.

This, of course, is also a perfect world syndrome. We hope that those who express their own ideas about perfect generals, perfect wars, and so forth are doing so in all honesty. They truly believe that there is a perfect, ideal way to fight a war. Then, again, maybe not and perhaps their view about the fraudulent source of the current real, flawed, and ugly war are just a projection of their own behavior.

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