I think it’s crucially important not to allow these positive sentiments about soldiers and marines to deteriorate into sentimentality about the mission they were undertaking in Iraq. The Iraqi people didn’t ask to be liberarted conquered and occupied by a foreign power that destroyed their country and then immediately set about meddling in Iraqi politics and until just a month or so ago was struggling mightily for the right to permanently station military forces on Iraqi soil contrary to the will of the Iraqi public. Not only did Iraqis not ask for such services, but nobody anywhere has ever asked for them.Bolding's mine. And, like Matthew, I'm extraordinarily concerned that nobody's trying to "marginalize the bad actors" for reasons that should be quickly obvious: If there are no consequences, they'll do it again, since the rewards for being on "the right side" were so handsome.
The harsh reality is that this was not a noble undertaking done for good reasons. It was a criminal enterprise launched by madmen cheered on by a chorus of fools and cowards. And it’s seen as such by virtually everyone all around the world — including but by no means limited to the Arab world. But it’s impolitic to point this out in the United States, and it’s clear that even a president-elect who had the wisdom not to be suckered in by the War Fever of 2002 has no intention of really acting to marginalize the bad actors. Which, I think, makes sense for his political objectives. But if Americans want to play a constructive role in world affairs, it’s vitally important for us to get in touch with the reality of what the past eight years of US foreign policy have been and how they’re seen and understood by people who aren’t stirred by the shibboleths of American patriotism.
Hell, they still are. The biggest lesson I've learned from all of this--and it's a timeless one I should never have forgotten--is that being right is absolutely irrelevant. What matters is whether or not your position is popular. A position that's unpopular but correct will be marginalized; a position that is popular but incorrect will be apologized until the ends of time. Politics: it's the stereotypical high-school drama writ large.