One possible consequence of the disaster in Iraq is an America that is much less willing to intervene militarily in other areas of the world. In the short-run there are practical reasons for this: the military needs to be rebuilt and reequipped, and we’re low on money. But there may also be a change in the national zeitgeist away from the idea that America can impose its will with little risk and with unquestioned righteousness. This prospect is alarming to Ivo Daalder and Robert Kagan. Yet, they insist, such worries are misguided.

Is the United States out of the intervention business for a while? With two difficult wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and a divided public, the conventional answer is that it will be a long time before any American president, Democrat or Republican, again dispatches troops into conflict overseas. As usual, though, the conventional wisdom is almost certainly wrong. Throughout its history, America has frequently used force on behalf of principles and tangible interests, and that is not likely to change.

Or, they hope it won’t change, because they have plans for our armed forces.

Since Sept. 11, 2001, the situations in which an American president may have to use force have only grown, whether it is to respond to terrorist threats, to curb weapons proliferation, to prevent genocide or other human rights violations, or to respond to more traditional forms of aggression.

They’re like children that get caught sneaking out at night with the car and then ask that their regular driving privileges not be revoked. Daalder and Kagan recognize that their excellent Mesopotamian adventure has crushed American hegemonic legitimacy, but they have a solution.

Who decides whether the threat is directed against a specific state or whether it threatens regional or international security more broadly?

The traditional answer, the U.N. Security Council, no longer suffices, if it ever did…

…If not the Security Council, then who? The answer is the world’s democracies, the United States and its democratic partners in Europe and Asia.

In other words, if Daddy is going to suspend the driving privileges, they’ll just cut Daddy out of the deal. They propose that the UN Security Council be supplemented with a Concert of Democracies that can bestow legitimacy on U.S. intervention when the U.N. refuses to go along. It’s a repackaging of the New Europe Coalition of the Willing. Daalder and Kagan seem oblivious to the fact that the democracies of Europe either refused or quickly regretted aligning themselves with the neo-conservative plan.

Iraq’s lesson for America is that we cannot afford, let alone succeed, with a strategy of military intervention in the absence of truly compelling international consensus. If we gain nothing else from the debacle in Iraq, we should gain humility.

And we should know enough, now, to suspect the motives of those that argue against learning humility. Those that continue to rattle sabers and call for interventions…humanitarian, or otherwise, need to have a financial audit to see which war contractors and energy companies are financing their rhetoric.

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