You describe something obviously heading for disaster and then add, "What could possibly go wrong?" Such is the Middle East today.
The US-led international response to the Islamic State's advances in Iraq and Syria is more extensive and fraught with danger than the war on terror declared by former President George W. Bush in the wake of the 9/11 attacks.
Extolling the virtues of a ceasefire in the Gaza war that collapsed barely two hours after it took effect, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry inadvertently highlighted the root cause of the failure of international efforts to silence the guns in the Palestinian territory and resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
But more importantly it highlights a growing realization that Hamas is emerging politically strengthened from the death and destruction in Gaza while Israel is fighting a rear guard battle to turn military success into political victory.
Think of Barack Obama's recent return to West Point at graduation time to offer his approach to an increasingly chaotic world as a bookend on an era. George W. Bush went to the Academy in June 2002 and laid out his vision of "preemptive war."
If the United States does not take an unambiguous position and demonstrate unmistaken resolve against Egypt's current undemocratic path, and if your administration decides to resume suspended aid programs in the face of growing repression and brutality, your words on democracy and human rights will ring hollow.
Last year I had the opportunity to speak with former Clinton, George W. Bush, and Obama White House officials about the history of efforts at diplomacy with the Iranian regime.
After 12 years of inconclusive war, the moral imperatives of the situation dictate that the human suffering must cease. It is high time that a judicious decision is made that is consonant with President Barack Obama's repeated promise that the war in Afghanistan will end in the year 2014.
The only country in the region that seems to bear much resemblance to its pre-Obama self is Iraq, where violence has reached its highest level in half a decade.
By losing our influence with Cairo, the United States is on a path to becoming marginalized in this critical part of the world. Leaders in other American allies, including Israel, Jordan and Saudi Arabia are frustrated by Washington's unwillingness to assist itself in the Middle East.
Some in the U.S. concluded that at long last, Tehran desires a thaw in its relations with Washington and a normalization. I remain skeptical, hoping they are correct, but unwilling to make that leap for a number of reasons.
Obama has repeatedly called for other Middle Eastern governments to respect free expression, and he should do the same with the UAE.
If realists are really as businesslike as they claim, then foreign policy ought to look something like investment. And while short-term profitability is clearly one important element in choosing which countries to support, another is stability.
It seems idiotic and self-destructive for either Turkey or Israel to lose the other as an ally. These two countries can potentially do so much good for their citizens, as well as the Middle East.
Invoking the wisdom of Gandhi, Obama told the Israeli students that they must become and create the change they want to see. He could have also told them that Gandhi said, "in matters of conscience the law of the majority has not place."
By failing to give priority to bringing the Syrian civil war to an end as quickly as possible, and instead playing these clever games whose net effect (if any) will be to prolong it, we are undermining our own key interests.