The Arab League is holding a summit in Baghdad this week, yet it’s “nothing but cover for a state collapsing at full force” according to Michael Bell, former Canadian ambassador to Egypt, Jordan, Israel and the Palestinian territories and chairman from 2005-2007 of the donor committee of the International Reconstruction Fund Facility for Iraq. Bell sums up the situation:

46 people killed and many more wounded [last] week in apparently co-ordinated attacks in Baghdad, Karbala, Kirkuk and other Iraqi cities on the ninth anniversary of the U.S. invasion. The prevailing mood on the street is one of fatigue, desperation and fear. Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s government cannot control the chaos; indeed, it may be contributing to it as the façade of democratization and pluralism crumbles, accelerated by the departure of the last U.S. troops last December.

There can be no clearer indictment of the neo-conservatives who dominated the U.S. political process during George W. Bush’s presidency. Their statement of faith, the Project for the New American Century, issued in 1997 and warmly embraced by Mr. Bush as a new and largely inexperienced president, called for the forceful imposition of American values on Third World countries suffering from autocracies. The Iraq intervention shows the flaws in this reasoning. The thousands of deaths and injuries suffered in this imperial enterprise is testament to willful ignorance. Millions of Iraqis have fled the country and the oldest Christian communities on Earth have been obliterated.

“Either Mr. Maliki will be successful in consolidating his one-man rule or Iraq will self-destruct, breaking into a series of quasi-independent entities based on religion, ethnicity and tribe,” Bell says.

Lessons should be learned from this carnage. Despite the moral umbrage one may feel, don’t involve yourself in the affairs of others unless knowledge, reflection and debate suggest an even chance of success. Gut feelings and theoretical constructs can be strongly felt, but most often lead to catastrophe. The law of unintended consequences should be kept in mind regarding Afghanistan, any intervention in Syria and the thought of attacking Iran’s nuclear facilities.

Unfortunately the prospects for America’s foreign-policy elite heeding Bell’s advice seem about as dim as the prospects for freedom in Baghdad.