MORAL CLARITY. Via Drum, I see that in his new LA Times column ("Iraq Needs a Pinochet") Jonah Goldberg argues that you can't make an omelet without throwing a few people out of planes, and that the baseline for measuring the quality of a country's leadership should be Fidel Castro. (This must have been the grading curve his colleague John Podhoretz was using when he called George W. Bush a "great leader.")

Of course, if one was inclined to be charitable -- and when it comes to people who supported this disastrous war for many years, I'm not -- it could be pointed out that the current situation in Iraq proves that pretty much any state is better than having no effective state, which is true enough. But consider how much is being conceded here. Evidently, it was never plausible to think that Iraq was magically going to turn into a stable, pro-American democracy after the invasion, which means that the immense cost in lives and resources was going to be expended in a war in which the best-case scenario was a mildly less repressive dictatorship, and the rather more likely scenario was a theocratic quasi-state that would be worse for the Iraqi people and far worse for American interests. Somehow, I don't think this argument would have flown during the run-up to war -- and Goldberg, who has said he bought the argument that "standing-up a stable, democratically inclined government was supposed to be comparatively easy," certainly wasn't invoking a claim that the invasion might produce a state marginally better than Castro's Cuba when it mattered.

--Scott Lemieux

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