The neocons aren't back. They never left.

In truth, the war was popular before it started, as most American wars are. Are Americans to blame for being suckers? Or are their leaders and ideologues to blame for suckering them? Or for being suckered themselves? You see, our republic’s intellectual and political life is pretty complicated if you give it more than a cursory glance.

And even if the public were in a more accusatory mood, ideologues can move back to sweeter-sounding premises. Neoconservatism isn’t about the invasion of Iraq. It’s about the benign nature of American power. It’s about the superiority of democracy to tyranny. It’s about shoring up the world order that allows trade and relative peace. What’s your problem, bub? You gonna deny the good intentions of freedom-fry-eating Americans?

I’m not pleased about this. I not only believed that the Iraq War was wrong; I believed that Republicans would run away from neoconservatism in a big way, especially after their 2006 thumpin’. That is to say, I was young, dumb, and thought they’d succumb.

But stable nations are not in the habit of settling a debate once and for all time. They just move on to other ones: a financial crisis, a big health care law, religious liberty.