From the editorial essays in today's Financial Times (hardly a bastion of liberal thinking), a comment on the Iraq war's consequences:
sitting ducks troops, to "fix" Afghanistan. And, as Ahmed Rashid argues (also in the FT), General Messiah Petraeus is making the case for a stay much longer than July 2011. Lucky Afghans.
The reality is that the political space the surge was meant to open up created a vacuum that remains unfilled. Iraq’s elections are the Arab world’s freest, but nearly six months on from the last polls politicians have still not managed to form a new government. And not only the state, but Iraqi society is broken. One in six Iraqis, disproportionately middle-class professionals, have fled their homes, around half for other countries.And now we move on (well, except for those huge embassies and consulates, and those 50,000 "advise and assist"
This is the result of two neoconservative conceits: that shock and awe made an extended presence of large troop numbers superfluous; and that liberal-democratic states spontaneously spring up where old institutions are razed even if new ones are not built.
Beyond human suffering, the collateral damage includes America’s stature. Humiliated in Iraq, the US is less feared by enemies and less loved by friends. Another casualty was the case for liberal interventionism. Though the US rid Iraq of Saddam’s tyranny, the incompetence with which it did so makes it harder to defend future military action even when the cause is just.
In a better world, the US would stay to fix what it broke. As it has proved itself incapable of that, a slow withdrawal is the least bad option. A brighter Iraqi future now depends on two unlikely things. A regional modus vivendi must be found that lets Iraq prosper and does not turn it into Tehran and Riyadh’s battling ground; and Iraqi leaders must stop the politics of spoil-splitting, and work to make the country attractive to the professional class – Iraq’s true wealth.