... If I had been vociferously, prominently, moralistically, and disastrously wrong on the major foreign-policy issue of the time -- that is, if I had been all-out in favor of invading Iraq and had been withering in my dismissal of those not man enough to support that step or who said "what's the rush?" -- then I might, conceivably, be a little hesitant before striking similar cocksure poses about new issues as they came up.


But apparently this is just me. Because there is an emerging overlap between those who were 100% sure about the need to invade Iraq, and the certain success of that endeavor, and those who are 100% sure about the need to teach China a lesson about its coddling of the Burmese junta, and the moral righteousness of getting tough with the Chinese.

The generals who tyrannize Burma are indeed terrible. By my lights (and as I was saying back in "axis of evil" days), they are at least as great a menace to their own people as Saddam Hussein was to his, though it's hard to cook up any scenario in which they menace the world.

But the direness of a situation is not a reason to become blind to its its practicalities -- as happened with Iraq (Shiites? Sunnis? Kurds? Who cares!) and is happening with China and Burma now. It's a reason to understand the realities more thoroughly.

In Burma's case, this would mean being sure we had answered questions like: how much leverage, exactly, does China have over the brutal generals? What other countries -- India? Singapore? Thailand? Their neighbors in the region who chose to welcome Burma as a member of ASEAN? -- should be part of a coordinated anti-junta effort? Which approach -- ultimata in public, consultation in private -- is most likely to get the Chinese to do what they can? Etc. Again, think how nice it would have been if people had spent more time before the Iraq invasion asking comparable questions about what we were stepping into there.

But as I say, this may be just me.

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