Diana West

A few years ago, Harvard psychiatric instructor Kenneth Levin wrote "The Oslo Syndrome: Delusions of a People Under Siege." In this illuminating book, Levin examines the Israeli experience of concessionary negotiations with a "peace partner" openly dedicated to Israel's destruction. He also examines the historical Jewish Diaspora experience in which Jewish populations typically identified with their tormentors and even echoed their antisemitism.

Such interactions are driven by a permanent condition of siege mentality, Levin explains, and clearly manifest two kinds of delusional thinking.

First, there is the fantasy about the intentions of the aggressor (Arab Muslim or European Christian); then, there is the fantasy about changing the aggressor's intentions. Such thinking, Levin says, is common to victims of chronic abuse, particularly children. They fool themselves into thinking that they, the victims, control the abuser by linking the abuse they suffer to their own behavior.

In other words, they believe they cause their own abuse. This mind game, Levin says, actually gives victims a sense of control over situations beyond their control (an abusive parent, for instance). This allows them to avoid feelings of helplessness and despair.

And so the besieged victim pretends: Daddy doesn't really want to hurt me; if I'm a better girl, he'll stop. Israel pretends: Muslims don't really want to destroy our state, and so we'll give them land for peace. Jews in pre-Nazi Europe pretended: The anti-Semites are really right; we deserve a pogrom. Intriguingly, Levin writes:

"But the book's themes have a still broader relevance. Even ostensibly powerful and secure populations, under conditions that entail ongoing threat and vulnerability, can manifest similar trends."

I got a new one for the doctor: a trend of delusion so enormous as to beg for immediate hospitalization and a transfer of power of attorney. Problem is, the patient here is the United States government (USG), which now says: If we just stop talking about jihad, Muslims will neither become jihadis nor sympathize with them.

Such is the message of a crazy new government guide called "Words that Work and Words that Don't" urging federal agencies, including the Department of Homeland Security, to eliminate all references to Islam when discussing, well, Islamic terrorism.


Diana West

Diana West is the author of American Betrayal: The Secret Assault on Our Nation's Character (St. Martin's Press, 2013), and The Death of the Grown-Up: How America's Arrested Development Is Bringing Down Western Civilization (St. Martin's Press, 2007).