Americans -- left, right, Democrats and Republicans -- are all sick of thankless nation-building in the Middle East. Yet democratization was not our first choice, but rather a last resort after prior failures.
The United States had long ago supplied Afghan insurgents, who expelled the Soviets after a decade of fighting. Then we left. The country descended into even worse medievalism under the Taliban. So after removing the Taliban, who had hosted the perpetrators of 9/11, we promised in 2001 to stay on.
We won the first Gulf War in 1991. Then most of our forces left the region. The result was the mass murder of the Iraqi Kurds and Shiites, 12 years of no-fly zones, and a failed oil-for-food embargo of Saddam's Iraq. So after removing Saddam in 2003, we tried to leave behind something better.
In the last 10 years the United States has spent more than $1 trillion and has lost thousands of American lives in Iraq and Afghanistan. Both places seem far better off than when ruled by the Taliban and Saddam Hussein -- at least for a while longer.
Yet the Iraqis now bear Americans little good will. They seem friendlier to Iranand Syria than to their liberators. In Afghanistan, riots continue over mistaken burning of some defaced Korans, despite serial American apologies.