What ought to be - but absolutely isn't - obvious to any thinking person is one thing: we have not got the foggiest. We didn't know before, and nothing indicates that we know now.
By "we", I mean Western society.
Our finest minds, spread through our institutions of learning, charity and government - in parliaments, UN, EU, think-tanks, militaries, etcetera - have been chewing on a number of thorny problems over the last decade or two.
All the assumptions and ideas which shape and describe modern Western thought - all our ideas about democracy, intervention, the best future for the world, how to aid suffering peoples in remote places, the overthrow of tyrants, etcetera, etcetera - have gone to work on the problems in a lot of places.
Iraq. Afghanistan. Libya. Egypt. Syria. Ukraine. Gaza. Iraq again. I am probably missing others.
What can we conclude? There have been enough now that we can't say "post-Enlightenment Western thought hasn't had a chance to show if it knows the answers, or what it can achieve". Quite the contrary. It is now obvious to anyone who isn't wilfully blind. We know exactly what it will achieve. Chaos. Bad situations made much worse. Very bad situations made immensely worse. Death, suffering and upheaval all around (except for us).
Peter Hitchens has a few things to say in this area here: http://hitchensblog.mailonsunday.co.uk/2014/08/something-must-be-donethis-is-somethingok-well-do-that.html. One point he makes - and which we won't be hearing our societies' leaders, the ones in charge of taking action, making - is this (capitals his): "ADMIT YOUR PAST MISTAKES BEFORE MAKING ANY NEW ONES". Hitchens says:
But until we admit our past mistakes, how can we possibly be fit to take new actions which are equally likely to have unintended consequences? Oh, but surely everyone now admits the Iraq invasion was wrong. Well, in a way, they do. But only symbolically. Politicians and their media allies who cheered for the war, and in some cases helped propagate the lies that started it, may have mumbled some admissions of error. But they are still prominent in public life, and in many cases are still listened to seriously.Without indicating whether he is in jest or deadly serious, he continues:
In my view, every politician and columnist who backed the Iraq war should have that fact displayed, in large red letters, next to everything they write, should be forced to admit it, before they make any policy statement or call for any actions. If they speak in public, especially for a fee, a large red notice should be displayed on the podium reminding the audience that this person supported the Iraq war. Likewise, the same label should be prominently displayed on screen whenever they speak or are interviewed on TV, and should be mentioned at the beginning and the end of every appearance they make on radio.It gives you something to think about, doesn't it? Imagine if there were consequences for being drastically wrong about major issues that involved vast numbers of deaths, maimings and bereavements. Imagine if being mistaken about such serious matters was a matter for shame, dishonour and withdrawal from public life.
That hasn't happened, and won't happen. Why not? Because post-Enlightenment Westerners have been trained from birth to believe that their distinctive doctrines - those of secular humanism, and individual autonomy - are the answer to the world's problems. It is the very air that they breathe. They know that they have the answers to the worlds problems. Democracy, education, human rights, sexual "freedom", globalism, "benevolent" intervention to overthrow tyrants - these things must and will bring peace on earth, if we just try them again: our modern religion has told us so.
Except: they won't. They have been tried. Weighed. Tested in the balances: and found wanting. Not just a little bit wanting. Completely wanting. Rank amateur as-wrong-as-you-could-be wanting. Again and again; and all at other peoples' expense. All paid for, not by the people who made these decisions, but by soldiers who signed up to promote the rightful and legitimate interests and defence of their country in just war, and by legion upon legion of innocents. Our interventions have brought most of the subjects of our experiments into worse situations than they started off in.
Where is the repentance? Where is the heart-searching? Who is crying out "How could we be so wrong? Where did the mistake begin? What is rotten in the foundation, that it has caused the building to collapse like this?"
God does have a plan to put the world right. It is not all hopeless. But that plan is not our current leaders' plan. God's plan begins with repentance. It begins with admitting that our autonomous attempts to make it all right ourselves - whether that's personally, nationally or globally - are doomed to failure. It begins with submitting to God, and his plans for the world. Submitting to God, and the King he has appointed for the world. Until that is done, the modern West will continue to blunder through this succession of disasters until God puts us out of our misery, one way or another: either we'll bankrupt ourselves and lose our ability to carry on, or someone else will rise up with a bigger stick than ours and we'll lose the ability to carry out such ill-conceived schemes, or somesuch. When it happens, many people in the rest of the world are quite likely to find it a mercy.