A little thought experiment for the modern times.

It's like this:

You and your family (spouse, 2 children, just for the sake of argument) are driving along and you see a group of people being held at gunpoint on the side of the road, thier car broken down. Now, you've seen this kind of scene before, an d being the overall well-meaning person you are, you feel that you can't let something like this go down. You want to help out and fix what's broken.

Your children - 1/2 the population of the car - say "No! This looks like bad news, and besides, what happens when you're done helping out? Sure, they're in a bad position, but by stopping, you put US at risk, not to mention you assume the responsibility of those people which you save, since you are now obligated to them. They have no vehicle, no fuel, no money. I know it's a bad situation for them, but you have to let this one go by. It's unfortunate, but involving us is going to be more trouble than it is help."

Well, you disagree, and as leader, you park the car to help. You send your spouse (because you are too important to go yourself, and he/she signed up to support and defend you no matter what the cost) to help these poor people. In the process, she/he loses a few fingers and toes, but she takes out the mad gunman who was threatening those poor people. Mission accomplished, right?

Now, you have a broken down car full of people who never asked for your help but are now 'better off' due to it, since they don't have a madman pointing a gun at thier heads anymore. However, it turns out that 2 of the people in that car really hate your guts because you're from a particular state and they hate that fact - so they began randomly attacking your spouse as she / he tries to 'rebuild' thier broken ass car. The rest of the people in that car appreciate your help and thank you and could REALLY use more help - at the risk of losing more parts of your spouse in the ensuing attacks. Your kids are reminding you that, while they love mom/dad and support HER while she / he is out there helping, they are sick of hearing about new parts of her body being chopped off and want her home. NOW. It's a losing battle, they say, and they're sick of it. You, however, feel that given enough time, your decision will prove to be just and the people in the car - even the ones who hate you and want you to leave them alone - will be better off.

Here's the question - at what point do you realize that their car is beyond repair, and any attempt at fixing it will end up being futile? How many parts of your spouse are you willing to lose until you figure that out? And what about the risk of the children - 50% of the population of that car - overthrowing you as decision maker and figurehead in order to get mom/dad back home and out of harm's way?

Or is it just that YOUR car is running low on fuel and you know THIER car has plenty to spare?

This is kinda how I see Iraq.