A sobering editorial from the right-wing Claremont Review. Money quote:

It is a judgment of prudence, not of categorical moralism, which countries are worth our blood and treasure. (In principle, most neocons would agree, but they do not draw the right conclusion regarding Iraq.) Germany and Japan after World War II were worth it. We did not want a third world war with them, and besides, they stood at the ramparts of the actual third world war, the Cold War, that was then about to begin. We wanted and needed to keep them on our side. And finally, they were good candidates for democratization, having enjoyed high levels of economic and social development and national unity, and having had some experience of parliamentary government.

As an abstract matter, Americans would like to see every nation in the world enjoy the blessings of liberty and democracy, because we know how fine these are. But the matter at hand is a question not of good will but of good policy. Is Iraq worth it?

President Bush and the neocons make a strong case that Iraq is important to America's own security, but the case for toppling Saddam was much stronger than the one for staying indefinitely to buy time for the Iraqis to democratize.

But the case for toppling him was made a lot weaker by the absence of WMDs; and the case for democratization has been rendered moot by the disintegration of Iraq under American occupation. So what else do they have left but categorical moralism? (Hat tip: Pacopond.)

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