I had meant to bring this to your attention earlier, but the article fell to the bottom of the briefcase for a while. In the wake of the Burmese government's lamentable (non) response to the cyclone a couple of months ago, Madeleine Albright (or Halfbright, as we used to call her when she was SecState) did an oped for the NYT lamenting what the headline writer rather apocalyptically, or at least exaggeratedly, titled "The End of Intervention." She argued that the inability of outside governments to do much to prod the Burmese junta to be compassionate (or at least minimally responsible) suggested that the era of "humanitarian" intervention, or perhaps any kind of overseas intervention, is over, at least for a while. Writing in sorrow, and perhaps a little anger, she writes that "many of the world's necessary interventions in the decade before the invasion [of Iraq] -- in places like Haiti and Bosnia and the Balkans -- would seem impossible in today's climate." She blames Bush's Iraq misadventure.
"At the heart of the debate," Ms. Albright writes, "is the question of what the international system is. Is it just a collection of legal nuts and bolts cobbled together by governments to protect governments? Or is it a living framework of rules intended to make the world a more humane place?" What she derides as "nuts and bolts" is what others might call the rule of law -- a set of predictable principles and rules that lay out what kinds of actions are permissible and what are discouraged. I think the nation-state system will fade away in time, hopefully replaced by simultaneously more localized and globalized (through trade) centers of authority (eventually to the level of the "sovereign individual"?). So long as it exists, however, respect for national sovereignty will ultimately yield more humane results than promiscuous intervention, even in good causes as determined by politicians with more ambition than judgment.
What Ms. Albright laments is worth celebrating. If one of the results of the Iraq war is a marked distaste among Americans for interventionism for at least a considerable time, I might be forced to admit that one good thing came of Bush's Folly after all.