by Patrick Appel

Douthat hones in on the big one:

[W]hat the war in Iraq has really impressed upon me is the bluntness of military force as an instrument of state, and the difficulty of predicting any of the long-term consequences that flow from a decision to make war. We can spin out complicated counterfactuals that justify the Iraq invasion, and complicated counterfactuals that make it look even worse. We can hope for long-range developments that make the Bush administration’s decisions seem prescient, and worry about long-range developments that would undercut the fragile achievements of the last few years. But I’m more and more convinced that when it comes to judging a decision for or against war, it’s actually better to confine yourself to the short-term consequences rather than the long-term fallout, and at assess the war based on its immediate military objectives rather than its deep strategic goals.

Exum is on the same page:

Andrew Bacevich says "The United States leaves Iraq having learned nothing." I disagree. I think we have learned a lot, tactically, operationally, and strategically, and I think the American people will in the future be more wary of the kind of military adventurism that led to the invasion and occupation of Iraq. Bacevich should take heart in this. But honestly, does anyone out there see a U.S. administration ever embracing the kind of neo-isolationism that Bacevich is apparently demanding? And is it just me, or is he crankier than normal lately?

More from Bacevich here.

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