Parents know how often they are tempted to remind children that life is unfair. Consider how often adults need to realize that life is illogical, messy, and complicated. Recall the grand pronouncements that followed the end of the Cold War. Much of the gushing related to technological advances but you would have thought some of the gushers would have cracked a history book or two. As one savvy wag put it, when surveying world history it is more accurate to say that on rare occasions peace broke out.
Someone is always off-stage, waiting to run on and upset the furniture and kill members of the cast. We may have written a tidy little script but those folks have scripts of their own. In his book on terrorism, Lee Harris observes that there was nothing the Ethiopians could have done to change Mussolini's desire to add them to his new Roman Empire. In his mind, they were relevant only so far as they advanced his aims. He was reacting to nothing they did.
Another blunder is the wish to ascribe one major driving force behind the ways of the world. Hitler and his cult members had their wacky concept of race. The Communists smugly cited economic motives and bragged that History was on their side.
Cynics like to joke that "Whenever someone says 'It's not the money, it's the principle of the thing,' you can bet it's the money." That's a pretty shallow reading of human behavior and history. In reality, a variety of motives can combine to spur action and people often act unselfishly. And yes, sometimes it is the principle of the thing.
As James Madison warned us, however, we shouldn't assume that men are angels. That's why savvy governments (and organizations) have checks in place to protect people from leaders both wise and foolish. It's also why relying upon reason instead of the lessons of human experience can be a risky endeavor.
To modify a concept of Michael Novak's, many of us would probably expand our perspective if we could work as a street cop or run a shoe-shine stand for several years.
It's a marvelous world out there but it can resist simple explanations.