4. US military intervention was far more aggressive than was necessary. Not at all. The most cogent criticism of the 2003 action against Saddam is that it was required because we failed in 1991 to pursue our interests to their appropriate conclusion. Had we liberated Kuwait and then marched to Baghdad to overthrow Saddam, the world might have been spared considerable agony, and Iraq would actually have had a greater chance to build a peaceful, democratic society before the rise of al-Qaida and Islamic radicalism took their toll. We can obviously never know the truth, but the lesson for Washington is not to stop short just because of criticism from the international chattering classes.

Ironically, the more accurate criticism of US policy is essentially the opposite of the left’s conventional wisdom: our inconstancy has too often caused us to stop short before achieving objectives that were both desirable and obtainable. In Iraq, for example, twice in just 10 years, we had to mobilize international coalitions and powerful military forces to deal with the same basic threat, namely Saddam’s unrestrained aggressiveness toward his neighbors. Similarly in Afghanistan, after helping the mujahedeen force a humiliating Soviet withdrawal and contribute to the USSR’s collapse, we turned away in the 1990’s and Taliban took power. After overthrowing the Taliban-al Qaida clique ruling Afghanistan, we are poised to turn away again, with every prospect of Taliban returning to power. And in Iran, we have watched the nuclear threat grow for twenty years while missing repeated opportunities to do something about it.