Charles Krauthammer points out a rather important difference between our task in Iraq and that we faced after WWII:
There is a large and overlooked truth about the American occupation of Iraq: Whereas in postwar Germany and Japan we were rebuilding countries that had been largely destroyed by us, in Iraq today we are rebuilding a country destroyed by its own regime.
For Krauthammer, this makes the current effort all the more noble:
Upon the detritus of 30 years of indigenous misrule, we come to rebuild. This is not to say that we lack self-interest here. We are embarking on this reconstruction out of the same enlightened altruism that inspired the rebuilding of Germany and Japan — trusting that economic and political success in Iraq will have a stabilizing and modernizing effect on the entire region.
But our self-interest does not detract from the truth that what we are doing in Iraq is morally different from what we did after World War II. In Iraq, we are engaged in rescue rather than the undoing of our own destruction. We’ve undertaken the maddening task of cleaning up someone else’s mess.
It is worth keeping this in mind when we get frustrated at the slow pace of the transformation.