David Brooks waxes philosophic (not!) in the New York Times (see Cal Pundit and Talking Points Memo).
But ours is the one revolution that worked, and it did precisely because our founders were epistemologically modest too, and didn't pretend to know what is the good life, only that people should be free to figure it out for themselves.
Because of that legacy, we stink at social engineering. Our government couldn't even come up with a plan for postwar Iraq — thank goodness, too, because any "plan" hatched by technocrats in Washington would have been unfit for Iraqi reality.
First, we did have a plan for managing the post-war situation in Iraq, but it was ignored and disappeared by the ideological faction in charge of the war. This faction largely has been spouting off about bringing freedom and liberal democracy to Iraq, which is hardly a form of modesty in any sense of the word. Indeed, modesty is something noone will accuse our new foreign policy of being.
Second, we've been damn good at social engineering here in America, after fits and starts when those who seek to forestall reforms used their advantage to do so. The Marshall Plan seemed to work pretty good in Europe, and Japan seemed to bounce back great after WWII as well, after we wrote their Constitution. I'm not advocating social engineering as one of our highest goals, or that it's always gone well, but when we've been forced to do it, we've succeeded on at least a few occasions.
Third, the "reality" in Iraq, and the situation and chaos that occurred after the war, were largely predicted and planned for in the very plans that were thrown away and/or ignored by the "modest" fanction running the war. It's safe to say that had these plans been studied and implemented, the task of winning the hearts and minds of the Iraqi people, and thus giving less quarter to the resistance, would have been more effective.
Last, there are plenty of nations in the world today that have freedom and liberal democracy. They are mostly our friends, or at least were until the "modest" guys and gals started calling the shots. They may or may not call it a revolution, but surely that isn't what the Iraqis will call our war with Saddam. There has been lots of success in implementing liberal democracy in the world, and, though we deserve some credit for it, we have also on many occasions worked drastically against it. We are not the only successful liberal democracy and free society.
David Brooks should be given no quarter. His brand of nonsense is the worst I've ever read in a major newspaper. He gets everything wrong, and does it by twisting and deforming sound philosophical reasoning in regards to "epistemological modesty". It is truly Orwellian in some ways to describe a war and occupation that insists on liberal democracy and separation of church and state to a people whose vision of the good life may not separate the two as "epistemological modesty".
There is a deep conflict in the world today between Islamicism and liberalism, and the basis of it is differing conceptions of the "good life", and differing conceptions of how you achieve the "good life". It is not modesty that says what's good for me is good for you, and we're going to push it on you whether you like it or not, but we know you're going to love it so please don't resist.
And if only that were the case. Instead, we're doing this war for our own interests, for our own security, and "epistemological modesty" or Iraqi self-determination is not even a factor. Due diligence would have assured that adequate plans for post-war Iraq were studied and implemented.
To sum up, one group of technocrats purposely ignored the post-war plans drawn up by another group of technocrats. In retrospect, these plans anticipated much of the problems that ensued. There is no need to attribute it to "epistemological modesty". It should be attributed to ignorance, arrogance, and incompetence on the part of the technocrat group that thought they had all the answers.