If you think you’re conservative, and more importantly, if you think you’re really, really smart you just might write for Commentary Magazine, whose intellectual post WW II journey reads from left to right. That means a lot of fussy intellectual debating on great matters in religion and politics, as well as culture. At least that’s what we are told – those of us who only dip into it’s articles every once in a while. We can only imagine the grand tectonic shifts that it’s offices must have witnessed.

So when Commentary’s Noah Rothman goes squiggly, nerdy, and negative – in a thoughtful way that is, however, continually undercut by his hostility towards the Donald – on Trump’s foreign policy speech in Washington, it can be a little bit much. Yes, he points out contradictions in Trump’s rough sketches. And sure, they’re pretty rough sketches. And Rothman’s warnings on Putin’s Russia are well-taken.

But on Trump’s attack on the Iraq War, Rothman returns to the false analogy of Germany and Japan, whose post War II reconstructions began precisely when Commentary was founded in 1946. The problem is Rothman and all those who believed that Iraq and by extension it’s neighbors could be turned into stable democracies were dead wrong when they pointed to Germany and Japan as the way forward in the Middle East.

Germany was at the heart of Western European culture for – arguably – a couple of centuries before Hitler’s crazed ideology hijacked the nation. A hijacking in which a clear majority of Germans gladly and willingly took part. But as soon as Germany signed the terms of surrender, the process of rebuilding began. By the Germans themselves more than anyone. As much as it never should and never will be forgotten that Nazi Germany was the work of a majority of Germans and not merely a fanatical, crazed few; it must be said that Germany has atoned for it’s horrifying sins like few modern nations have. Similar arguments can be made with regards Japan.

None of this holds true in the Middle East. Germany and Japan were, and clearly are even more so today, centers of innovation and creativity on multiple levels. Iraq was cobbled together after WW I by an Englishwoman named Gertrude Bell who literally sketched out the shape of the country for the United Kingdom. Not the same. A tribal coalition that was later held together by Saddam Hussein’s brutality is not an industrial society with large bodies of knowledge and creativity that can be put to work building a nation. And one prone to civil wars along tribal lines absent such brutal authority.

Maybe in several decades and with thousands and thousands more American lives sacrificed, as well as resources spent, Iraq could arrive at some sort of stable democracy. Maybe. Should this be America’s obligation?

Noah Rothman and those who inspired him – like Bill Kristol – stubbornly continue to proclaim the possibility of nation building in the Middle East. It would be instructive to know how Israel’s leaders truly feel about the results of nation building in their hate-filled neighborhood in which they have had to defend their homeland. Whether the neo-con movement will ever admit it’s fatal analogy is another matter.

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