Shorter Roger Cohen: Because US policy in the Middle East before 2003 was in some respects unsatisfactory, the invasion of Iraq must be considered a good thing independently of its actual consequences.
This business where “Totalitarian hell – malign stability – holds no hope” whereas “violent instability is unacceptable but not hopeless” and therefore the invasion is great is just moronic. The Iraq adventure was, among other things, massively costly both in dollars and in American lives. Once you start thinking about whether or not we should engage in massive expenditures for humanitarian purposes it makes sense to hold ourselves to a higher standard — we might ask, for example, that our massive humanitarian expenditures have some clear benefits and not result in large-scale death and destruction.
On the Cohen standard, by contrast, if we take any bad situation and just render it very chaotic that counts as a good idea. So that, maybe, a massive preemptive nuclear first strike on Beijing would be a good idea because, hey, it would hold out “hope” of democratic change in China. Sure it would probably result in mass death and chaos leading to more mass death, but if we use a little “imagination” we can see that it might all be okay in the end.
Defense Department photo by Staff Sgt. Dennis J. Henry Jr., USAF.