People fall flat on their face or shine not because of their great ideas, but because of certain traits of character which suddenly acquire great importance in the actual practice of politics in these extremely tumultuous times.
-Kanan Makiya, as told to George Packer in The Assassins’ Gate: America in Iraq
Makiya was an exiled Iraqi intellectual who had grand, noble plans for a democratic Iraq after the American invasion in 2003. Reality, of course, made mincemeat of these intentions. As brilliant as his ideas were, few of them had any grounding in Iraq’s political reality or the U.S.’s botched invasion plan. He spoke these words with regret some time after the invasion, when it became clear that, even if the end result would be passable—which it might yet be—it will have come at a ridiculous human and financial cost.
As someone who spends no shortage of time wrapped up in ideas, this is worth remembering.