Illusions: Desperate Students

Peace in the Holy Land and a Balanced Budget,

This essay appeared in a substantially abridged form in The American Thinker.
It will appear shortly in The Land of the Free in the form here.

Too frequently, in my role as a University Professor, I encounter the following situation. Three quarters of the way through a semester, a student in a class that I am teaching shows up at my office. The student has done almost no work in the class and is failing badly. Yet the prospect of a failing grade in the course is so repellent to the student (e.g., because it will cause the loss of scholarship money, or expulsion from a degree program, or even just because Dad will be furious) that he (or she) absolutely cannot accept it as a possible outcome. The student fantasizes that it cannot and will not occur. However, he recognizes that perhaps some special effort must be made to ensure that, however slim the chance (in his mind), it does not happen. So he assures me that he really knows the material, that he will study hard, that he will submit the assignments that he has failed to complete and that he will get an excellent grade on the final exam. As he tells me this, I know that there is absolutely no chance that any of it will come to pass. But as he says it, he believes it. It is really very sad. I know, with 99.9% certainty, that I will be entering a failing grade for him at the end of the semester. He knows with equal certainty that I will not. He deludes himself because reality is too painful to confront and so he continues on in his deluded state until reality smacks him in the face.

Something similar is going on in the minds of effete, leftist, foreign policy “experts.” They claim that they want to see peace in the Holy Land. They acknowledge that the land to which the phrase applies is the home of two distinct and belligerent people who have not been able to agree on a formula for sharing the land. They also believe that the warring factions both have legitimate claims to residence in the disputed territory. Furthermore, they are convinced that an agreement to share the land can be achieved – just as soon as both parties to the conflict (albeit, especially the Israelis) finally recognize the futility of trying to exclude the other from his patrimony. And finally, they are certain that the agreement can be brought into existence by the right combination of outside pressure and internal reconciliation, and the correct mix of these ingredients will be concocted in the relatively near future.

These experts are absolutely and unmistakably WRONG! There is no peaceful reconciliation around the corner. There is no correlation of forces, spirit of cooperation or clever formula that will yield a settlement. The Arab/Muslim world is unalterably opposed to the existence of a sovereign Jewish State – indeed of any non-Muslim entity – in the heart of the Umma. Nothing is going to change that. The best that can happen is that Israel will be able to fend off the onslaught – through hot wars punctuated by cold interregnums – for the next 50-100 years. There is no need to outline the worst that can happen. Nevertheless, “objective” (actually, left-leaning) diplomats, statesmen and media-types are convinced – despite all evidence to the contrary – that a peace formula, which will defuse the stalemate, is right around the corner, soon to be uncovered.

In fact, they all pay lip service to the formula that has already been discovered: two states for two peoples. The mantra is repeated endlessly and accepted unquestioningly when they address the problem. It is absurd. The Palestinians in particular and the Arab/Muslim world in general have no interest in implementing the formula. First, they have no great desire to create yet another (23rd) Arab state – one that is rent with internecine hostility (Fatah vs. Hamas) before it is even constituted. But even more important, the mantra is inconsistent with the overarching goal of the Muslim Middle East: to bring about the destruction of Israel – if not physically, then at least as a Jewish State. The latter goal is painfully evident to any with open eyes, but myopic leftist internationalists do not see it. They continue to formulate programs and policies to implement the mantra in the face of its manifest impossibility.

Here is a third instance of this kind of frustratingly contradictory situation – in which an individual or group believes in a forthcoming scenario that has no chance of occurring. This one, like the second above, amounts to self-deception on a massive scale. It is the United States’ budget – specifically, the deficit and debt. Too many, but especially naïve (and sometimes duplicitous) liberals believe, or profess to believe that the unconscionable deficits the USA has run for most of the last 80 years, and the ensuing unsustainable debt that has accumulated – together pose a grave, even an existential danger to the republic. These twin problems must be dealt with, and they will be dealt with when the country elects the right people to implement the right policies to achieve the goal of eliminating the deficit and paying down the debt.

But it is patent nonsense. The history of the last century and especially of the last dozen years teaches that virtually all of the American people (not just liberals) have neither the will nor the desire to practice federal fiscal responsibility. Moreover, we pretend it is not so. We behave as if it is just a matter of time until we install the right political configuration of leaders that will get control of our fiscal delinquency. But in fact, we are racing inexorably toward the day of reckoning wherein a financial/political/cultural crisis of epic proportions will bring about a cataclysmic fiscal, and likely social, collapse.

How can people be so blind? So misled? So oblivious to the obvious? How did we reach the current status in the two latter situations – i.e., dealing with the US deficit and debt, and peace between Israel and the Arabs? In both cases, as with our delusional student, reality is just too painful to contemplate. If the US does not get control of its financial affairs, then eventually some major fiscal disaster awaits us. The debt is projected to grow to $20 trillion, then $30 trillion, then… As in a household or as in a business, unsustainable debt for a nation MUST lead to financial ruin. Will the result be widespread poverty? Political repression? Social chaos? The loss of freedom? Whatever occurs, it is certain to spell the doom of the American experiment and is therefore too horrible to contemplate. So we continue on in our reverie that we will manage our deficits and debt – soon, just as soon as we get the right players and right formulas in place.

The Middle East scenario is similar. If we accept that the Arab/Muslim world is inexorably opposed to the existence of Israel and determined to kill it, then it is rational to believe that sooner or later the correlation of forces will realign to the point that Israel will no longer be able to defend itself. What then: mass slaughter? Total expulsion oft he Jews? A Jihadist orgy of unimaginable proportions? Once again, too horrible to contemplate and therefore not acceptable as a legitimate vision. Instead theworld prances around in the self-delusion that the dispute can and will be settled as soon as the right players and policies are in place. It is an illusion.