I thought we had to go into Iraq because of WMDs and I still think so. I thought that's what we learned from all those dangerous documents the Pentagon put up on the web that the NY Times was complaining about. I just thought the idea of hanging around and building Athens on the Tigris was a lot of nonsense, inspired by people whose training included too much political theory and not enough political science. Just because you've read the Symposium in Greek doesn't mean you know how to cater a big party. So yes, we should not have de-Baathified so much, should have kept more of the Iraqi army, should have sent in more troops, planned to get out earlier all along, and probably let the Iraqis split up, but just left with a little promise to the Sunni and Shiite stans that we would be watching them, and would be back at the first sign of uranium enrichment or thousands of mysteriously dead goats. I put a lot of this down to an unwillingness to act like the hegemon we are. If some benighted dictatorship in the armpit of the world is working on a nasty surprize for us, we shouldn't have to promise that life will be wonderful for them after we finish blowing up their army and bioweapons seminar rooms. What's wrong with, it sucks to be the enemy of America? Nobody expects the French to make Africa better; we could learn something from them, as much as I hate to admit it. I personally thought the whole nation building idea sounded stupid, suspected it would fail, and still thought we should have invaded, and I'm glad we did. We are safer for it, not counting whatever stupidity we plan for the future. If failure to acheive the impossible in Iraq turns into a reason for propping up those whirling dervishes in Iran, that will really be the worst combination of farce, tragedy and disaster.
I've learned at least two things from the Iraq War: (1) Even I, who rarely underestimate the incompetence of the government, can underestimate the incompetence of the government; and (2) the U.S. is not cut out to be an imperial power, neither the public nor the elites have any stomach for the inevitable dirty work that goes along with exercising such power.