An important point
Josh Marshall brings something up that should be kept in mind while discussing Iran (and should have been kept in mind during the run-up to the invasion of Iraq).
...let me offer a few observations based on the lessons I think we've learned from the experience in Iraq and those I have myself.I remember being puzzled about this at the time. Everyone was talking about how great things could be for Iraqis if the US removed Saddam, but no one seemed to remember that the group that was going to be running the show had never shown the slightest indication of being willing or capable of doing what would need to be done.
Let me start with one: I'll call it the fallacy of foreign policy abstraction.
During the two years between 9/11 and March 2003, there was a group of commentators (I'd include myself among them) who bought into the basic argument about the danger posed by the Iraqi regime (though not the extremity of it), were willing, at a minimum, to put military force on the table as a means of resolving the problem, were perhaps willing to go as far as supporting an invasion...
Looking back on that debate, what didn't make sense about 'my' position was that folks like myself were debating Iraq policy in the abstract. How would I deal with Iraq if I were president? What would be the sensible approach if we had a president and foreign policy team which we thought was acting in good faith and competent at handling the issue.
The problem was that there was no Iraq policy in the abstract. That was just a fantasy. There was Iraq in 2002 and 2003 with President Bush et al. calling the shots. Any discussion of the issue which didn't take those key facts into account was just a parlor game, no more than words. What's more, the existence of a cadre of commentators from the political opposition who espoused a policy that looked a lot like the president's actually gave him a great deal of cover. It made his policies look more reasonable. It greased the skids for its implementation.
So-called 'liberal hawks' seemed especially prone to this. They talked about how awful Saddam was, how it was a moral imperative to 'free' the Iraqi people, all the while ignoring the fact that even if the invasion of Iraq was a good idea in theory, the actual execution of the invasion - the war in practice - was going to be in the hands of an administration that no one in their right mind should have trusted.
All of the liberal hawks' lofty visions for Iraq were irrelevant; the discussion should have centered on the morality and prudence of a Bush-led invasion. Let's not make the same mistake with Iran.