The problem with insanity is that it varies between contexts and cultures. A Norwegian killing Taliban fighters in Afghanistan is a hero, but Anders Breivik is mentally ill. If an American governor thinks he’s been “elected to decide who can live or die”, it’s a simple factual statement, but if Breivik thinks so, he’s a madman. Why is it so?
Defining insanity rises from the needs of society: how to otherwise understand a person who starts shooting people quite randomly? Breivik simply had to be defined ill because “no one in their right mind would do such things”. Insanity is a tool for the society to define to itself what it is: what is healthy (the somehow “natural state”) and thus acceptable, and what mental structures and attitudes are not favorable.
In this point the reader rises up and shouts: “But it’s totally different thing! You can’t compare NATO troops to Breivik. And he really is mentally ill.” Well, again: the basic axiom of any discourse (or culture) is that there is no truth outside the discourse. When the truths of the discourse are given as premises, the logical thought is exactly the common man’s response: “This analysis is false and it insults X, Y and Z”. There is no way to judge how things actually are unless all of the participants are able to also evaluate the initial premises.
Some questions to do the evaluation could be: Does the concept of “insanity” exist so that the society can define itself as sane, and thus all that is done is morally justified? Can whole cultures be insane? Is sanity something that is on or off in people or can it be that the level of sanity usually differs between life areas?
Maybe the biggest question is: Do you consider yourself mentally sane? Try to think beyond the initial “Of course!” response. Where do you base your evaluation? On the fact that you wouldn’t do those kinds of things? If that is the case, read this post again.