James Traub and Fareed Zakaria each contribute book reviews to the Times this week, and each fall prey to one of the more obnoxiously naive fallacies surrounding the Iraq war: attributing the administration's failure to a surfeit of idealism.
A simple proposal - wars are fought for material reasons first and ideological reasons second, and often the latter is simply a rationalization of the former. Any democracy-building enterprise in Iraq is a rationalization (after the fact, I might add) for the invasion itself, which is not the same as being the primary purpose and inspiration. This is what I mean: the architects of the war believe it is beneficial to remodel the Middle East into an area more friendly to the US, an area more economically beneficial to the US and less hostile to US world hegemony (it's not as if I'm making this up, its publicly stated policy). The best way to make the Middles East more amiable to the US is to make the Middle East more like the US, i.e. more democratic. This is the actual rationale for war, as I see it, and it is quite apart from florid idealism. Installing democracy in Iraq is expedient to the goal of angling US power into a more secure position. It annoys me to see the two equated so carelessly by people like Traub and Zakaria.