In the tangled web of snide remarks on Bush's mental competence on one side, and sneering accusations of pinko-leftism leveled on the other, foobiwan offers refreshing lucidity and intelligence on the matter.
I'll admit that I sometimes come here for sport flaming. So, I'll issue a challenge: Post a concise, factually supported analysis and resolution concerning the current situation in Iraq, free of flames or insults towards opposing views. Saying what you believe in is harder than flaming others. I'll make one totally unenforced request - before flaming what others post, post your own summary of the situation first.
Those who issue challenges are morally obligated to go first.
What it's not about: American oil interests If we wanted oil from Saddam, we could act like the French and the Russians, and simply start buying from him. After all, we buy from the Saudis, and they're just as distasteful as he is. Even if the US government commandeered every gallon of oil coming out of Iraq, it would take us well over a decade to make back the cost of invasion, occupation, and rebuilding (estimated at $250B). tbonestg had a financial analysis up at one point. Why buy the cow, when we get the milk for free?
What it's also not about: Saddam's compliance with UN resolutions We can all learn from Sean Connery quotes. Thus I misquote this gem from The Rock: "Losers whine about the UN. Winners go home and f--- the prom queen." America doesn't really care about the UN. We pressure them when they're useful, ignore them when it's convenient. If we did what the UN wanted, we'd be invading Israel, the only democracy in the Middle East, with the dictators in Syria and Cuba. Saddam's been developing WMDs for years, Pakistan and India have been conducting nuclear tests, the North Koreans have the bomb, and France still does atmospheric testing. Why Saddam, why now?
What else it's not about: Terrorism The supposed links to Al-Qaeda seem like interpreting notes passed in a seventh grade classroom. America has a spy budget the size of most nations military budget, satellites that can read bar codes from space, searching software that goes through every satellite call placed, and all we can get is a forged document a phone conversation by two alleged Iraqis who have to move something because of a wireless transmitter. For all I know, they're hooking the Saddam's DSS into his new TiVo.
What it was about: Bases and power projection What 9/11 changed was America's perception of Saudi Arabia as a useful, if distasteful ally. Before, the House of Saud's willingness to provide us with a base against the Soviets outweighed their support of nasty Wahhabist extremists. Nowadays, the Russians are in NATO, and the Saudis fund Al-Qaeda. Here's where an America-friendly Iraq comes in. Short-term, we get to tell the Saudis where to stick it. Long-term, an America-friendly Iraq would be rebuilt like Germany, Japan, and France.
An Arab country full of satellite TV, internet, and cars with dual-zone climate control will go a long way into bringing the Middle East out from under the assorted tin-pot Fuhrers and First Comrades that currently lead them. Imagine the Middle East looking like the Pacific Rim. They'd be friendly, rich, good trading partners, and allow US bases.
What it is about now: It's not about Iraq, it's about us How many minutes of the news are devoted to America? How many minutes are devoted to France and Germany? Now... how many minutes are devoted to talking to ordinary Iraqis who are forced to make that grim choice between Saddam and the B-52? This is obviously not about peace, nor, for the reasons I outlined above, some moralistic crusade against WMDs. On paper, the UN, created to keep America and the Soviets from blowing each other to bits, gives each nation an equal footing.
In reality, America's high technology industry is bigger than the rest of the world's combined, America's conventional military can engage and defeat the rest of the world, combined, America's popular culture is more popular than that of the rest of the world, combined, and while America's GDP isn't as big as the rest of the world combined, it often comes rather close (currently at 40% of world totals).
That makes America the ten trillion dollar a year gorilla. With one country this powerful, strategically, we don't really need allies. Where do countries become equals? You guessed it, the UN and nuclear development. In the MAD, MAD world of nukes, everyone's a player.
For the first time in the history, technology has shrunk the world to the point that will soon be possible for one country to economically, militarily, culturally, and technologically dominate the surface of the entire planet.
That fact scares the crap out of people who aren't America. That's the key to "anti-Americanism", especially that of failing European powers. They don't really hate blue jeans, McDonalds, Coke, or Hollywood per se - as a matter of fact, they'd love them, just so long as they stayed in America. The America of hundred-hour-a-week New York businessmen, ten trillion dollar economies, the massive carrier battle groups (each more powerful than any other country's navy), the sheer physical size and relentlessness of the "Great Republic," as they once called us, is awful intimidating.
A recommended resolution: No war, at least not now. From my small-l-libertarian standpoint, this is not our war to fight. Yes, Saddam is a vicious dictator. Yes, I'd love to stick it to the French and show them how powerless they've become. Yes, I'd love to rub it in the whiny neo-Socialist faces of the left. All that, and more, but it's still not our war to fight.
With power and wealth should come patience and forbearance.
With regards to Europe: Their economies are no rivals to ours. We've already won, and might as well do so with some grace. We have lead every technological revolution this century, even if we haven't held on to those leads as well as we could have. Every single one, cars, airplanes, nukes, computers, the internet, all pioneered by Americans. Let them post their angry, sophomoric diatribes over in Europe - they do it via Yahoo, on Intel-based computers, running Windows, routed by Cisco.
With regards to Iraq: Saddam must go. Let us bring working democratic structures, economies, and militaries to the no-fly zones. Instead of us flying F-16s there, help them fly their own. This time, let's not sell them out as we did after the Gulf War. We sold out the Vietnamese after WW2, because of our "allies" the French, and look what good it did us. An Iraq liberated by Iraqis has more legitimacy than one invaded by Americans, even if we're funding both.
With regards to the home front: The strength of America is in the freedom of our people. Every time we give up freedom to make us safer, we in fact become weaker. No Patriot Act, no citizen spying, no Reich Ministry for the Defense of the Fatherland, can protect America. Only the American people can. Provide every non-criminal adult American citizen with basic firearms, counter-terrorism, and first aid training. Two thousand Americans brought down the Taliban. Let them see what three hundred million can do.