The End of a Bad Idea

It challenges the imagination to believe that anything good could come out of an awful month in Iraq. But amid the rubble of Fallujah and the gruesome images from the Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad, a bad idea has died. That is something.

The idea was neo-imperialism. In the past few years it has become fashionable in the U.S. to think that failed states could be reformed by the imposition from the outside of order and the trappings of democracy, as if Americans could pick up the mantle of empire laid down by European powers. The dream of...

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