“Order and stability” is what you say we need in Iraq. You must be careful what you mean by this. Do you mean that we need the ‘order and stability’ that comes from a Saddam Hussein, a Tito, or an Assad? Sure, that might bring ‘order and stability’ to a nation for a time, but no society will be under ‘order and stability’ very long with a strongman in power. Also, where has the ‘realist’ position (from Baker and friends) gotten us in the Middle East? Iraq’s society was ruined by Saddam Hussein and now is vulnerable to another strongman or (God forbid) an Islamic government like Iran’s. What is the end goal for us in the Middle East? If we let another strongman take power in Iraq to help bring ‘order and stability’, do you think this person will play nice with the West and forget about working with terrorists and forget about acquiring WMDs? I don’t think so. While I think that security should have been paramount after we overthrew Saddam Hussein, and we made several mistakes during the occupation these past few years, the goal of promoting democracy in the Middle East seems rational. What are the other options? The realist’s goal of ‘order and stability’ now, no questions asked, is a recipe for disaster down the road. Sure, it might bring us a few years of peace and happiness, but I guarantee it will not last. Either the Middle East will be transformed into cultures that tolerate other religions, and have the same freedoms we enjoy in the West, or else we will have to get used to living with nuclear strongmen who support terrorists. I think it’s delusional to think there’s some happy third way.
ME: These points are well-taken (and, of course, I wasn’t endorsing a return of Saddam). Again, I think a sensible conservative foreign policy has to draw the best from both the neos and the realists and have written about this at some length elsewhere.