We have a tendency to think that for any given issue only two options are possible. I believe this lazy thinking is a factor behind our easy acceptance of arguments like “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” and “the friend of my enemy is my enemy.”
Consider Saddam Hussein. From 1979 through about 1991, Iran was our big enemy in the Middle East. During those years, Iran & Iraq fought a big war. Since Iran was our enemy, we decided their enemy, Iraq, must be our friend. This is why critics of Republicans and the current war with Iraq can point to pictures of current administration leaders being chummy with Saddam. We shared a common enemy, so he was our friend.
Not leaving that part of the world, we see a similar phenomenon. Those who hate George W. Bush have decided that whoever is HIS enemy, must be their friend: thus the common defense of some radical Islamists whose apparent misogyny and homophobia are overlooked so that hatred (or opposition) to GWB can be extended.
We have other ways of oversimplifying and seeing only two options. WHen GWB said, vis-a-vis the war on terror, “You are either for us or against us,” he over simplified a comlex reality. When John Kerry was attacked for not approving the 87 billion dollar bill for work in Iraq, a complex reality (when bills stretch to over a thousand pages and congress people regularly pass them without reading them, I’d call it complex) has been oversimplified. Even today, opponents of the current Intelligence Reorganization bill are labeled as “Soft on terror,” when their motivation is nothing of the sort.
In the first case the assumption is: There is one way to be against terror, the GWB way. If you don’t do it this way, you must be pro-terror.
In the second case the assumption is: There is only one way to support the war and reconstruction of Iraq. This particular bill is it. Therefore if you vote against this bill, you are saying you are against the war and do not support the troops who are fighting it.
In the third case the assumption is: The 9/11 Commission has spoken. A bill has been created that puts their suggestions into place. This is the only way to solve the problems that led to 9/11. If you are against this bill you are for another 9/11.
All are examples of faulty reasoning.