I’ve been quite delinquent in posting here due to procrastination over a book review which guilts me out of more active participation in the blogosphere. But this comment from Greg seemed to merit being made into a post of its own:
There were a number of people in (and some outside of) the Bush Administration that supported the invasion of Iraq and were in a position to influence that decision. Different people had different reasons. What were those reasons? Mostly I don’t know, although for some people I have a pretty good idea. No one should make the mistake of assuming that these people must have had some sort of rational-strategic reason – if nothing else, because people aren’t all that rational, and second because you can’t construct even a a reasonable facsimile of such a reason when you’re profoundly ignorant of the relevant facts, as essentially all of the key players were and are. Or when the idea makes no sense.
I don’t think they were the most important, but wannabe Israeli nationalists like Richard Perle and Douglas Feith apparently thought that invading Iraq was a good opportunity to reshape the Middle East in ways that furthered the interests of Israel. Again, I don’t think that you can construct a rational-strategic reasons for this – certainly not one based on US interests. It is not as if Baathist Iraq had ever played a significant role in the Arab-Israeli wars, or in the struggle with the Palestinians. Feith and Perle (and the Wurmsers) seem to have thought that it would be possible to install the Hashemites in Iraq and get Iraqi Shi’ites to be supporters of Israel (judging from discussions in ‘A Clean Break’) and of course that’s just crazy. On a cruder level, getting American armed forces on the ground fighting Arabs must have seemed like a good idea, even if there was no immediate payoff to Israeli strategic interests.
Paul Wolfowitz seems to have had fundamentally different ideas: he seems to have thought that Iraq was mostly Shi’ite [true] and essentially secular [what?!?] , and that it could be transformed into something like Turkey. Kemalist Turkey, natch. The main source for these strange notions seems to have been his girlfriend, Shah Ali Riza. Who better to feel the pulse on the Iraqi street than a Saudi feminist?
Cheney was much more important, but I don’t know what his reasons were. I’ve heard it said that 9-11 shook him to his core, that he was genuinely afraid and thought that all measures should be used. Including using nuclear weapons – naturally on countries that had nothing to do with 9-11 [anyone other than Saudi Arabia or Pakistan]. And that’s more than a guess: apparently it took the threat of mass military resignations to block that. And some have said that he was thinking about Iraqi oil – Iraq is potentially as large a producer as Saudi Arabia. Of course it seems unlikely that American oil companies could ever garner profits as large as the amount the US Government spent on Iraq, but then a lot of people in the Administration thought that the Iraq War was going to be easy. They thought there would a cooperative general running the place, and that we would be down to 30,000 troops by September 2003. Of course Bremer eliminated that possibility by dissolving the Iraqi Army, even though the President and the NSC had decided against doing so. Nobody seems to know who gave that order: personally, I think it’s that telepathic Sirian lizard that really runs the show. The one with the twisted sense of humor.
By the way, those American oil majors aren’t getting the prime oil-development contracts, although they are getting subcontracts. We have technical expertise, but the Iraqi government doesn’t want a major American presence. For some reason.
Cheney’s poor health suggests that he might not survive extensive waterboarding, which is really too bad. I figure that’s the only way we could determine whether he’s really an Iranian agent who had his back shaved, as suggested by the War Nerd.
I might point out that almost all the key US players seem never to have even heard of nationalism or patriotism. Who wouldn’t want to be run by a US-installed and controlled regime? I’m sure that they were surprised when Allawi, a known CIA agent, got only only 11% of the vote in Iraq. But I was not surprised. Do I have some sort of magical ability that the US government lacks?
George W. Bush. Again, forget about some elaborate rational-strategic reason. Some think that it was personal, revenge for an attempt on his father’s life. I doubt if that attempt actually occurred: I think it was a Kuwaiti fabrication, made for obvious reasons that were rational for Kuwait. I particularly doubt it because years of occupation in Iraq, and the total destruction of the Baathist regime, never turned up any evidence that it ever occurred, even though any such informant would have been richly rewarded. And he leaned heavily on Cheney [born Wormtongue]. Again some think that Bush was a Jacobin, who really believed that an irresistible desire for freedom burned in the heart of every man, a fire that has managed to hide successfully for all of recorded history. You merely had to give a freedom a chance, and everyone in the Middle East would stop being Arabs. I do think that he clung to that idea as all the other reasons melted away and the whole thing began to resemble an explosion in a well-used Porta-Potty – the alternative was admitting that he’d made a mistake, and Presidents don’t do that. I doubt if that was much of the initial reason.
Iraq had never been a major player in international terrorism terrorism. They became one retroactively, once we decided to invade, but that was just a lie. Still, there have been cases in which high mucketymucks have been told things that the underlings thought they wanted to hear and eventually came to believe them – drinking their own bathwater.
There were weird ingredients in the Administration’s talk about terrorism. Laurie Mylroie came up with a theory that Al-Qaeda was really a front for the Iraqis (the Mukhabarat). She was wrong, and nuts, but she influenced many of the others reptiles at AEI (American Enterprise Institute) – although most now think she’s full of it. Wolfowitz believed her, as did Perle, and James Woolsey (ex-Cia director, well-known for being unusually stupid]. Cheney believed her, and still does for all I know. Her theory made a number of specific predictions: none of them ever turned out to be true. By the way, I was once invited to give a talk at AEI. I declined, but I still wonder if I should have gone. After all, vermin are always in season.
I don’t know how important this was at high levels, but there were certainly a lot of people who wanted to bust some Arab chops, whether they had anything to do with 9-11 or not. I know that John Derbyshire thought this way. I told him that he was a bloodthirsty fool, and that he would come to agree that it was a mistake. Which he did, a couple of years later.. To be fair, I probably had the same feeling for a while myself, but I got over it well before we invaded Iraq.