Kevin Drum has an analysis of the recent failures in Iraq that merit some serious consideration. His point is that where many see the Iraq war as a good idea that was ruined by incompetent leadership, there is a more fundamental problem. Setting up the regime people thought they were installing in Iraq would certainly have required the kind of financial resources and force commitment no one has seen since WWII. Was Saddam Hussein really a threat of Hitlerian magnitude? It seems unlikely that many folks would have agreed.
But the more general question is the more interesting one. How do you respond to a world where actually fixing problems is beyond the resources available?
This more general problem goes beyond Iraq to places like Bosnia and Kosovo, where the minimum preconditions for peace – a secure and basically content populace – would stretch the limits of the most generous foreign aid programme. Disrupting peace and security is always far cheaper than establishing it. The economics of insurgency easily favour the insurgents. If vast numbers of troops and truckloads of money can’t bring peace to tiny Kosovo, is there any hope at all for Congo?