That’s the underlying problem with “humanitarian” foreign policy. We cannot react to every humanitarian crisis in the world, and most of the time, such a crisis is merely a symptom of a much bigger problem. But “humanitarians” react to these symptoms ad hoc and emotionally, with no consistency and no follow-up. Often, as in the case of Iraq, this seems to be intended as guilty compensation for the strategic indifference that allowed the country to descend into bloody chaos in the first place.
What would a strategic humanitarianism entail? It would involve a long-term campaign to eliminate the kind of terrorist groups and dictatorial regimes that commit acts of mass slaughter and to replace them with governments that represent their people and have some respect for their rights. Such an approach is generally know by the label “neoconservatism.”
What would be better would be the big-picture approach of the neoconservatives—one that addresses the underlying causes of global threats rather than just the symptoms—combined with a focus on regimes and terrorist groups who pose the greatest threat to the United States. Which would be, more or less, the foreign policy of George W. Bush—who actually did achieve, for a while, a period of peace and stability in Iraq that was consistent with American interests.