The Case For Callousness

Derb makes the conservative point:

[T]he argument that moral responsibility for whatever happens rests on us is not clear to me.  Where were our intentions not honorable?  At which point during the last four and a half years were we trying to incite Iraqis to kill Iraqis?  At which point were we doing anything other than try to help themhowever clumsily and sometimes wrong-headedlyto get their act together as a nation?  How long do we have to struggle with such efforts before our moral responsibility can fairly be considered to have been discharged?

You seem to be making an argument of unlimited moral responsibility.  I doubt there is a market for that.  Most voters, in their everyday lives, feel that if they make a blunder that causes someone distress, there is some finite and proportionate action they can take as recompense.  That is the common understanding of moral responsibility.  It seems, in any case, to have been the one that American voters applied to the horrors of post-1975 SE Asia.  My guess is that they will apply it to post-2008 Iraq likewise.

My only caveat is the notion that our motives have been entirely honorable. I certainly believe that many honorable people took an honorable stance in favor of war. I hope that crowd includes me. But I'm less and less sure that the actual architects of this war were honorable: that they were candid about our goals, that they were humane in their conduct of war, and that what they said they were aiming for was what they actually were aiming for. That mistrust has grown with the gradual exposure of their deceptions. But I don't think that this itself necessitates an open-ended occupation of Iraq, as this president clearly intends. An attempt to bring minimal peace and order to those regions we can, while redeploying to allow some kind of de facto partition seems to me to be a morally defensible response to the damage we have helped cause.

By the way, is anyone struck by the fact that the major candidate offering as bleak and brutal a vision of  Iraq as John Derbyshire is not a Republican but Barack Obama?