...The U.S.' actual intentions in Iraq may have very little—perhaps nothing—to do with the reasons that have been offered by the administration, either before the UN or in the domestic debate. The U.S. may actually be pursuing a strategy it is unwilling to articulate in public....Precisely. That's about what I've been saying all along, most recently here:
Getting rid of Saddam and installing a friendly government in his place would have immediate consequences, because it would give the U.S. a number of strategic options it currently lacks. For one thing, the U.S. could count on access to Iraq's immense oil resources. To some critics on the left, Iraq's oil is the whole purpose behind Bush's bellicosity, because he wants to distribute it among his oil-industry cronies. But there is another possibility: Access to Iraqi oil would profoundly alter the U.S. role in the region, because it would alter the nation's relationship with Saudi Arabia.
The U.S. and Saudi Arabia have long been trapped in a relationship that neither party much likes. But because America needs lots of oil, and because the Saudis need security, the two nations have tried to find a way to deal with each other. The terror attacks have shaken this relationship of interdependence. Most of the hijackers on 9/11 came from Saudi Arabia, and much of the money being funneled into global terrorist networks reportedly originates from there as well. If the U.S. seeks ultimately to choke off the finances of Al Qaeda and groups like it, it must first do something about its dependence on Saudi oil. In that sense, the road to Riyadh runs through Baghdad.
So, perhaps, does the road to Tehran. According to numerous accounts, the mullahs' control of Iran has been crumbling for months. Many Iranians have had enough of their failed revolution and their economic stagnation. They've had enough of being arrested for listening to music on the radio, and of being jailed for attending private gatherings where both men and women are present. Iran's revolution is now reportedly so shaky that it may collapse even if the U.S. does nothing in the region. Were the U.S. to succeed in establishing a regime in adjacent Iraq that exhibited at least some democratic values and allowed greater personal freedoms, the fate of Iran's ruling mullahs would probably be sealed, and the future of any future democratic government there bolstered.
A region that features at least relatively democratic regimes in both Iraq and Iran, a Saudi Arabia whose leverage on the West is greatly reduced, and, as Bush put it at the UN, "an independent and democratic Palestine," however that might be achieved, would be a region where modern political values are advancing and retrograde dictatorship and theocracy are declining.
In his UN address, Bush hinted at the outlines of "a very different future" for the Middle East. As he put it, "The people of Iraq can shake off their captivity. They can one day join a democratic Afghanistan and a democratic Palestine, inspiring reforms throughout the Muslim world. These nations can show by their example that honest government, and respect for women, and the great Islamic tradition of learning can triumph in the Middle East and beyond."...
...The invasion of Iraq was -- and is -- a means of removing an avowed enemy of the U.S. and gaining a base in the Middle East. If Bush wins re-election, watch the dominos fall in Syria and Iran -- both of which are assuredly sponsors of terrorism....Freund, you're a genius.
(Thanks to Virginia Postrel for the pointer.)