FOUR YEARS LATER….I don’t know that I agree with everything Mark Danner writes today in the New York Times Magazine, but this strikes me as exactly right:

Four years after we watched the towers fall, Americans have not succeeded in “ridding the world of evil.” We have managed to show ourselves, our friends and most of all our enemies the limits of American power.

….In Iraq, the insurgents have presided over a catastrophic collapse in confidence in the Americans and a concomitant fall in their power….While the American death toll climbs steadily toward 2,000, the number of Iraqi dead probably stands at 10 times that and perhaps many more; no one knows.

….In the midst of it all, increasingly irrelevant, are the Americans, who have the fanciest weapons but have never had sufficient troops, or political will, to assert effective control over the country….”The illusionists,” Ambassador John Negroponte’s people called their predecessors, the officials of the Coalition Provisional Authority under L. Paul Bremer III. Now, day by day, the illusion is slipping away, and with it what authority the Americans had in Iraq. What is coming to take its place looks increasingly like a failed state.

Immediately after 9/11, as neocon influence over the Bush administration reached its peak, they finally got what they had long wanted: a war in Iraq to serve as the centerpiece and final vindication of their distinctive notions of “national greatness” and American power. Several years on, though, it’s clear that what they’ve really accomplished is just the opposite: an unmistakable demonstration of the limits of American power, as well as the limits of the American public’s tolerance for overseas wars that have only veiled and esoteric connections to national security. In the end, I suspect that the war in Iraq will be for neoconservatism what the war on poverty ended up being for 60s liberalism: its Waterloo.

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