This NRO column by John Derbyshire has been getting quite a bit of attention. In short, Derbyshire is sorry that he ever advocated intervention in Iraq. In the juiciest passage he writes:
One reason I supported the initial attack, and the destruction of the Saddam regime, was that I hoped it would serve as an example, deliver a psychic shock to the whole region. It would have done, if we’d just rubbled the place then left. As it is, the shock value has all been frittered away. Far from being seen as a nation willing to act resolutely, a nation that knows how to punish our enemies, a nation that can smash one of those ramshackle Mideast despotisms with one blow from our mailed fist, a nation to be feared and respected, we are perceived as a soft and foolish nation, that squanders its victories and permits its mighty military power to be held to standoff by teenagers with homemade bombs—that lets crooks and bandits tie it down, Gulliver-like, with a thousand little threads of blackmail, trickery, lies, and petty violence.
What to make of this? For one, I have trouble understanding why destroying a regime and leaving would have really improved the U.S. position in the Middle East. The question that begs to be asked is what would emerge as Saddams successors? The most likely answer is, whoever had the best organization and the most guns. The best case scenario would have been another Lebanon or Sudan, the worst would have been a country wholly owned by Al-Qaeda or Iran.
But leaving this aside, if Derbyshire really thought that the United States was going to perform the equivalent of a drive-by shooting in Iraq, he must be extremely naive. What precedent is there for the United States destroying an enemy regime and then going home? I cannot think of a single instance of this. Indeed, I cannot think of a single example of ANY country doing so in the modern era. Either a military victory ends with concessions from an enemy regime, or, if that regime is destroyed, with occupation or outright conquest of the defeated nation. "You break it, you own it," appears to be as solid a principle as any in international affairs.
If Derbyshire wants to avoid taking the blame for how the war is going, thats fine. But his attempt to do it while simultaneously hanging on to his credentials as a hawk--indeed, by seemingly out-hawking the administration--strikes me as disingenuous.