I'm not even going to touch on Shea's complete inability to read Krauthammer for his actual content before immediately rushing to the straw-man caricatures -- "ingrates" -- that is the crack he apparently is addicted to. One reader says he misreads or mischaracterizes Krauthammer, and I believe him without looking at the column. To which Shea's only response is "read Larison," blissfully oblivious to its incompatability with his point.
Larison says upfront:
Observing the Iraqis’ lack of any history or habits suitable to the kind of government they were being called on to run is not condescension or chauvinism. It seems to me to be a blunt assessment of the unequal states of different cultures around the world with respect to having the necessary habits and history to cultivate a functioning representative government under a rule of law. There is nothing inherent in any particular people that makes them eternally incapable of such a political regime, should they for some reason actually want to create it, but there are a great many things in various peoples’ cultures or religions that will always take precedence (and, in some sense, absolutely should take precedence) over the question of how legislative bodies shall be selected or what kind of protections against the state will be enshrined in law. Sometimes this culture or religion will proscribe the attempt at having a representative government as we understand it all together, which would be rather normal and in keeping with most of human history. Perhaps it is regrettable, and perhaps it would be better in certain ways if that were not the case, but conservatives, at least, are supposed to be good at facing up to things as they are. Many have either become very bad at doing this, or they are revealing their lack of a conservative mind every day they continue to run away from a clear assessment of things as they are.
Now, there are several things to be said for and against this view. But Larison is at least speaking from a POV that I take seriously and cannot entirely dismiss -- that institutions build on cultures, which are unchangeable givens (at least within the time frames of pragmatic policy, compounded by the shortness of the American attention span and the perfidy of the Democrats).
But nevertheless, Mr. Larison is still cited in support of this point:
A few days ago, a cloud no bigger than a man's hand appeared in the punditocracy. Charles Krauthammer informed us that the problem with Iraq was not that we attacked the country, smashed it to pieces, and then didn't bother to give any thought to what happened to it after that. Nope. The problem is that the *Iraqis* are insufficiently grateful for the opportunity for democracy we generously bestowed on them. So, you see, at the end of the day, the fault lies not with generous us, who prosecuted a war whose tenuous relationship with Just War teaching grows more tenuous by the day. No, the fault lies with the Iraqis. They were a people who sadly proved themselves unworthy of the war we gave them.
I frankly doubt that Shea is even capable of seeing how incompatible Mr. Larison's point is with his. If culture conditions politics to the extent that the Iraq invasion was a fool's errand (which is Mr. Larison's point), then it's a doubleplus-fool's argument to claim that Iraq is screwed up because "we attacked the country, smashed it to pieces, and then didn't bother to give any thought to what happened to it after that," as Shea sarcastically implies. Further, if you wish to argue this POV, then you would never have been interested in 2002 in the narrowly-operational and contemporary questions of what WMDs may have existed or what ties to terrorism may have existed. The postwar status quo we have, regardless of Saddam Hussein's order of battle, would have been the same because nobody disagreed about the particulars of Arab-Muslim-Iraqi political culture. Or if they did, WMDs and terrorism wouldn't have been relvant to those disagreements over political culture.
Further, the difference between what Larison calls "bizarre" ...
that many Americans assume that what we were offering to the Iraqis ... was what all normal societies should want and which their societies failed to create because their societies were dysfunctional. (They may be dysfunctional in many important respects, but if so they are dysfunctional by our lights in ways that many societies have been dysfunctional.)
... and the sarcasm-boiled-away space from which Shea ridicules the claim in his inimitable style ...
The problem is that the *Iraqis* are insufficiently grateful for the opportunity for democracy we generously bestowed on them. So, you see, at the end of the day, the fault lies not with generous us, who prosecuted a war whose tenuous relationship with Just War teaching grows more tenuous by the day. No, the fault lies with the Iraqis. They were a people who sadly proved themselves unworthy of the war we gave them.
... is effectively nil. If Mr. Larison is right, and the Iraq war was just America's bid to impose an eccentrically liberal vision of the good that few societies, and certainly not Iraq, either should have taken to or could have been expected to take to ... then it isn't wrong to "blame the Iraqis" (set aside the negative connotations of the word "blame"). Mr. Larison's view is that Iraqis, did, should have and could have been expected to, refuse to or been unable to adopt liberal Western ways. In other words, it IS their "fault" (ditto last parenthesis). But Shea can't see that, rushing for the negative descriptors like a crack whore to the pipe she can't give up.
Aside: This is a rarely-remarked-on tension between (1) paleocon views of foreign policy, with its emphasis on the particular and the historical as defining politics, and (2) the Vatican's recent pronouncements and the Church's post-V2 teachings, which partake freely of talk of universal rights and a universal human nature. Either there is a politically-relevant human nature (the Vatican) or there is not (the paleocons). There really is no finessing this matter.
Or to put the same point another way: When Shea struttingly proclaims that "I have this bizarre notion that human rights are for humans" and proclaims his interlocutors to be the equivalent of abortionists (or at least, this is what he says when the subject is the Geneva Conventions and the claim to universal human rights can be cited against the US, the Bush regime and the End to Evil Neocons) ... I doubt that Shea even realizes that what he is saying is incompatible with a Larison-like claims that culture (not "human nature") sets the boundaries of politics. (There is one way out of this contradiction: Shea could be saying that free elections, free speech, equality of the sexes, the rule of law, etc., are not among the things meant by "human rights.")