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Is there an Iraq syndrome?

Bloody wars beget caution. As after Korea, as after Vietnam, the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have made Americans battle-averse. In 2005 John Mueller, a professor of political science at the Ohio State University, predicted in Foreign Affairs that an â??Iraq syndromeâ? would eventually make America more sceptical of unilateral military action, especially in places that presented no direct threat to it, and less inclined to dismiss Europeans and other well-meaning foreigners as wimps. - Lexington

It has always puzzled me why much of the Washington foreign policy community saw the "Vietnam Syndrome" as a bad thing, as if the U.S. had curled up into a geopolitical fetal position, unwilling to use force even to protect vital interests (not true: when push came to shove we ejected Saddam from Kuwait). But to the extent that a "Vietnam Syndrome" prevented policymakers from blundering into an unnecessary conflict, so much the better, I would argue.

The trouble is, of course, that the definition of a "necessary" conflict is quite elastic. If the Iraq war has made at least some cross-section of elite opinion more wary about plunging American power into a Middle Eastern country about which it knows next to nothing, it should be regarded as a good thing.