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What Will Matter Is How The War Ends, Not How It Started

I've just come back from a conference in honor of Michael Walzer at the Institute for Advanced Study. Many of the papers and much of the talk were devoted to Walzer's theories on just and unjust war. Of course, Michael, a very great scholar and political philosopher who has been associated with The New Republic (and his own magazine Dissent) for decades has a view of the war in Iraq, and it is not especially sympathetic. But his criticisms of the war are so refined -- by which I don't mean finicky -- that even sympathizers with the American military intervention can have a productive conversation with him. Reading Fouad Ajami's article, "Why We Went to Iraq," in this morning's Wall Street Journal, which includes a certain playful allusion to Walzer on the origins of war, made me think that Frank and I should ask Walzer to do an article on the conseqeuences of this particular war. Or the indications of what may well its results...for Iraqis.

In any case, that is what Ajami has written about. Some of his short essay is rooted in the elevation of Scott McClellan -- remember how silly we all thought he was when he was the mouth of the White House -- to strategic thinker, like Zbig and Brent, or even to political theorist like Walzer. Yes, McClellan will be read on the beach at Martha's Vineyard this summer, agreeably, very agreeably. "So wise, just what I always thought." 

But what will Iraq look like when the Crocker-Petraeus command has done its work? A lot better than anyone thought. That will be a problem for the Democrats over the next five months. There is some sense that Barack Obama now grasps this, too. But party stalwarts and those among the Democrats who are really isolationists and don't think that what happens in Islam or the Arab is a matter for us to care about at all will, as Ajami suggests, go back to the shady history of the war again and again. Alas for them -- and for us, because I very much want Obama to win and win big -- that will now longer be of interest to the American people.