Even though I sympathize with the liberal tradition you seem to espouse, and wish America would represent that tradition (with certain modifications) as opposed to what I consider its exact opposite, namely the AIPAC driven, PNAC type, American foreign policy ushered by the neocons and still in place in its broad contours despite Obama's attempts to tame it, here is exactly where the "realist school" (now closer to the Democratic party foreign policy establishment, even if they were once closer to the Republicans) has prescriptions that might be different than the "AIPAC school, but which aren't really consistent with America's liberal traditions either. Specifically, I am talking about the evil alliance between leftist secular forces in the west with an assortment of groups (including the Baathists) in the Middle East because they were "secular" and had attitudes towards religion that you and I might be comfortable with, but which are opposite of liberal: it is not liberal to force feed secularism on people which requires, in the process, assuming dictatorial powers because you can't forcibly impose a vision on a society by democratic means when that vision has not yet gained majority support. I will discuss that with you at greater length if you wish, but on de-Baathication in particular let me note: 1- It is wrong to have a predominately Sunni military force rule over a predominately Shia nation. Those who wanted to control or contain Iran by propping up Sunni Baathist officers, by supporting the Sunni Awakening under the surge, and by similar acts, are committing crimes. The Shia majority as well as the Kurds should not be ruled under the gun of Baathist officers. That is not liberal. That is not right. 2- The problem in Iraq wasn't de-Baathication. It was the unwillingness of the US to accept the natural order that would emerge from a truly democratic Iraq, namely an order that would see Iraq close to Iran. That is the core reason for much of the problems in Iraq. The reason the US allowed Saddam to butcher the Shia uprising after Desert Storm. The reason the US began to arm and support Sunni militia in Iraq from 2004 and thereafter, when the so-called "American list" lost to the "Iranian list" in Iraqi elections. The reasons why the US allowed the Saudis and company to instigate so much mayhem in Iraq and pursue policies directly responsible for the rise of ISIS. All of this was done, at the end, in the name of containing Iran. When the right policy would have been finding a rapprochement with Iran instead. A rapprochement of the kind which is suggested by this article (Why Iran Rising is a Good Thing) and by these former US CIA and national security council experts authors, but which doesn't fit the preoccupation of realists and neoconservatives alike, namely containing Iran!