Schizophrenia in Politics: Delusions and Deceptions

Leaders from 180 countries gathered last week at the United Nations, as the bombing in Syria begins. Confusion reigns. Who among them will stand against us? Who will support the United States? Bizarre rivalries -- and bizarre alliances are forming. Yes, nations that have traditionally been allies maintain those alliances. But former enemies -- nations that never before considered themselves to have mutual interests -- are united now, too. It sounds like insanity. Maybe it is. But this is the world of 21st century international politics. This is the face of a new international regime.

What exactly is unifying them? We helped rid the world of Saddam Hussein, Muammar Gaddafi and Hosni Mubarak. Those nonreligious dictators once flourished in the Middle East, confident that their secular militarism was enough to maintain power. Now, we engage Syria. Here, we are told a virulent international force threatens another secular dictator, Bashar al-Assad.

What notion, what ideology, what interest motivates us to rescue Assad now? Are we delusional to think we're really helping the people within that broken nation? Or are we merely lying? If we vanquish ISIS, it is only obvious that Assad will tighten his iron grip. When we were busy supporting the Arab Spring, or compelled to invade Iraq, what stopped us from taking a stand and stating: brutal dictators will not be tolerated anywhere. Maybe it wasn't realistic. Or maybe we knew we could stretch the lie only so far.

We see the outcomes today of implementing a half-baked policy, for lying in the name of only certain people, and certain causes. We could have taken a larger stand. Instead, we participated in the Middle East falling apart. Egypt is in turmoil, after a failed election and the subsequent takeover (again) by military leaders. Libya too is battling religious extremists, after a promise of true democracy. Iraq, already a puzzle of a nation is, as we all know, in the midst of a war. These countries are in shambles collectively, as the product of some attempt at liberation. And individually, they all face the stark task of not only overcoming the radicals that threaten them, but the process of rebuilding afterwards (if that day comes). This is their reality. No delusions are necessary.

Schizophrenia, in the mind of the individual suffering from it, believes before there is proof to believe something. That is a delusion. The sky is not falling. Maybe one person can convince a few people it is. But most will look up, quickly realize the statement was false and continue with their day. The schizophrenic individual will continue believing; they're not lying to anyone. It's a conviction, albeit a false one.

We see -- in Qatar, and Egypt, in the United Kingdom and France -- a willingness to put aside past differences and stand behind the battle against ISIS. We are, collectively, pushing our "split minds" (the literal translation of schizophrenia), our irreconcilable perspectives aside and committing to working together. We're not really insane to do so, are we? Perhaps we're just being realistic: without the help of these nations, we can't achieve what we want to. So what if Qatar is its own kind of dictatorship. So what if Egypt is run by the military. The reasons pushed upon us are supposedly obvious. ISIS is a frightening force. On this, we hear no claims of delusions. It is simply fact.

Or so they tell us these are facts -- only for the public to be informed recently that there are other terrorist groups within Syria that are far more dangerous.

Yes, politicians lie. They lie to us, to one another and to the world. What lie today tells the United States to reach out to Iran for support? What lie tells the people of this country we're justified in bombing Syria? Even if we're not convinced, the falsehood is there. The propaganda has been spread. And soon, the lie that told us we were "freeing" Iraq after we were told we were fighting "weapons of mass destruction" reappears.

It's a tale as old as man.

If you lie, don't admit it. If you're caught, twist it. Then it's not a lie. Then it's a half-truth, or a partial-truth or maybe just a lie that was justified by the ends. Yes, many politicians will say the means justify the ends. Do we believe them? Do we even need to? They can just as easily perpetuate the lie. Lying is inconsequential if everything works out in the end. Right?

For politicians, they're aware they're lying. But they're also aware that they can vindicate their actions, through deception or by taking more action with ostensibly the same cause. Soon, the lie spirals. Soon, the lie becomes reality. If the ends justify the means -- then it really doesn't matter. Anything can be validated. And thus, it becomes a delusion, and a dangerous one.

But there's a little contradiction here. If enough people believe the delusion, it may not be a delusion any longer. No, the average person walking by the schizophrenic individual on the street won't listen to his ramblings about the sky falling. But the leader has legitimacy. He has respect. If we all believe what began as a lie, what transformed into a delusion, it can't be a delusion any longer. It's pervasive. It's as good as saying the sky is blue.

So whether our leaders are reaching out to an Ayatollah, or merely justifying a war with different evidence than it began with, politicians are bringing their own schizophrenic mind into the mix. After all, if enough people believe we're attacking from this falling sky to destroy ISIS, it may just become true. We'll have to ask ourselves who's really schizophrenic. It might already be too late.