If we learn nothing else from the bitter tragedy of the war in Afghanistan, it should be that we should put an end forever to the self-indulgence of thinking that we can engage in "nation-building" and creating "democracy" in countries where nothing resembling democracy has ever existed.
It would be a feat to achieve one of these objectives, but to achieve both at the same time is a gamble that makes playing Russian roulette look like a harmless pastime.
F.A. Hayek said, "We shall not grow wiser until we learn that much that we have done was very foolish." Nothing is more foolish -- and immoral -- than sending men into battle to risk their lives winning victories that are later lost by politicians for political reasons.
That started long before the war in Afghanistan. Vietnam was a classic example. Years after that war was over, the Communist victors themselves admitted that they lost militarily in Vietnam, as they knew they would. But they won politically in America, with the help of Americans, including the media -- as they also knew they would.
The war in Iraq was more of the same. American troops won that war but our politicians lost the peace. Terrorists have now taken over, and raised Al Qaeda flags, in some Iraqi towns that American troops liberated at the cost of many lives.
How did this happen? It happened much the same way it happened in Afghanistan. We insisted on trying to create a "democracy" in the Middle East -- a place with a history going back thousands of years, without a single democracy.
What we created instead was a local ruler, placed in charge as a result of the blood and treasure of Americans, but independent of us, because he won an election that we insisted on holding -- as if there are no prerequisites for democracy.
To compound the problem, we had members of Congress constantly talking about pulling out of Iraq, and demanding a timetable -- despite what military madness it is to tell your enemy when you will be gone.
With American military support likely to be temporary and Iran's military presence next door certain to be permanent, how surprising is it that Iraq's leadership took Iran much more seriously than it took the United States?