Everybody's for democracy in principle. It's only in practice that the thing gives rise to stiff objections. ~ Meg GreenfieldUnlike Afganistan, the Iraq Adventure was always a war of choice with no significant, or even insignificant, national interests at stake. Winning gains us nothing, losing deprives us of nothing except the spent lives of loyal servicemembers.
From the beginning I've denigrated the Iraq War by describing it as a "recreational war." It was engaged in because the President wanted to, not because the country had to. I knew it would be popular only as long as it was fun. As "Shock and Awe" devolved into a slow, bloody slog people rightfully asked "what are we fighting for?"
What are we fighting for? Even for the Bush Administration that answer has been a moving target. I've heard all of the arguments, all of the reasons that have been given over the years. They all amount to nonsense. We entered the war because we thought it would be easy; we are stuck because it wasn't. (Yes, I know the real reason was an obtuse neocon theory that conquering the Baathist Party in Iraq would create a cascade of democracy throughout the Middle East. That was always nonsense, and they thought it would be easy.)
It is one of the collective wisdoms of democracies that they do a cold cost-benefit calculation when it comes to war. We will fight as long as the benefit of victory outweighs the cost of achieving it. When the costs exceeds any potential benefit, democracies conclude it is best to just cut our loses. This is a calculation that any competent CEO would understand.
When wars are thrust upon democracies (as in WWII) they will fight with a fury dictatorships can't match. When democracies stumble into wars, either through ignorance or arrogance, they had better be successful because democracies do not suffer foolish wars for long.
This is a strength of democracy, not a weakness. The weakness is staying in a war through inertia long past the time it made even a feeble sense.