THE BLOG
09/12/2014 10:55 pm ET Updated Nov 12, 2014

A Perversion of Everything We Know

As I write, our elected government, spurred by President Obama, has declared an interest in training opposing militants to fight ISIS. Not only does this idea downright ignore context, but it neglects the current world order.

Haven't we seen this and done this before, enough times to know it doesn't work in our favor? We gave the Iraqis weapons to fight Iran; the same Iraqi leaders, like Saddam Hussein, we would later overthrow. Then we left. And a few years later ISIS started its incursion. Now Democrats and Obama want to go right back in? This is a vicious cycle, one we have to end.

In popular culture there's an often-used (perhaps overused) saying concerning insanity. When I worked in a jail with convicted or soon-to-be-convicted felons, we'd tell them that insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. The inmates would ask, "How are we doing the same things?" For them, the distinction between using heroin and smoking massive amounts of marijuana was pretty vast, even if it led to the same consequences. But those were individuals who -- regardless on your opinion of them or the penal system -- were being punished.

I don't expect the American government to be punished for this, not from a international perspective. We're not going to be stopped before we doom ourselves. Indeed, I can't imagine most people will think we're even broaching past behaviors. Many countries will, instead, laud us. It doesn't matter if it seems like we're doing something different. Our punishment will come -- as with the inmates I worked with -- in the consequences we'll face.

Everything we know and understand about the world tells us, intuitively, to hold back. It isn't just the cycle in Iraq. It's what we've done in Nicaragua, and across Central and South America. It's what we did in Vietnam, and Korea, Ethiopia and Eritrea. We've fought enough causes in the name of freedom and installed dictators and despots instead. We've done this before in the name of fighting communism or promoting democracy. With what cause -- or what greater enemy -- are we acting against now? Is fighting ISIS about a world threat, or is it our attempt to make up for past mistakes, mistakes we're doomed to repeat?

This is a perversion of everything we know. This is a perversion of everything history tells us. It's a maladaptation to our environment. We already lost Iraq twice: once by supporting Saddam Hussein, and once by deposing him and not doing what was necessary to prevent the current war. I'm not saying we should stand pat in the face of ISIS. But we can't repeat our mistakes. I can only call it insanity.