30th March 2011
So much for the hope that Iraq and Afghanistan might actually have taught the West anything lasting about trying to impose democracy at the point of a gun. Instead, it is as if Iraq, which, in the United States, was initially welcomed by most liberal internationalists and neoconservatives alike as a war of liberation, had never happened, and, instead, we have traveled backward in time. Remember those halcyon days of the late 1990s when Tony Blair was promising the world that in the future the West would fight wars in the name of its values, not just of its interests, in effect promising that the wars of the twenty-first century would be noble wars of altruism? If you don’t, well, don’t worry: If the war in Libya is any indication, you’ll have the chance to live them all over again. Of course, the catastrophe in Iraq was supposed to have sobered us, and made even the most ardent liberal interventionists realize that Pascal’s great phrase, “He who would act the angel, acts the beast,” expresses the stark truth about what we self-flatteringly call humanitarian interventions. But instead, here we go again.