My Assessment of Iraq
In my opinion, neither WMD nor "making things better" were the primary reason the Bush Administration went to war. I believe they went to Iraq for strategic reasons, and I included those also in my reasons for supporting the war. There is no denying Iraq is a strategically advantageous place to station troops. Iraqi oil is one reason. But the main reason is adjacency to other nations we wish to pressure: Syria, Jordan, Iran, Kuwait, Turkey, and Saudi Arabia.
What sort of pressure do we want to put on these nations? Well, oil is one concern. Although protecting energy companies is a concern, ensuring a dependable supply of oil is crucial to American security. Another sort of pressure -- military -- makes the Middle East more secure for our strongest ally in the area, Israel. However, the most important strategic value of Iraq is that it helps us put pressure on Saudi Arabia, Syria, and Iran to crack down on Al Qaeda cells and to enact democratic reforms.
Making life better for Iraqis, disarming Iraq of WMD's, and enhancing America's strategic security were all theoretical reasons to support the war in 2003. Since then, of course, we have discovered that Saddam did not have any WMD's. This has caused problems for the administration at home and America abroad, since President Bush's most high profile casus belli was Saddam's WMD's. Iraqis now have a tenuous hold on democracy and rule of law that depends on our military presence. And America's strategic security would have been enhanced if we had been able to quell the resistance. In other words, if we had military bases in a secure Iraq, our ability to project force in the Middle East would have been greatly enhanced, but we're not there yet.
Our inability to create a secure Iraq is, in my admittedly non-expert opinion, due to a shortage of troops. Our shortage of troops is due in part to a lack of understanding of the purpose of this war among the general population here in the U.S. The thinking of most Americans, I think, is as follows:
There were no WMD's. The Iraqis have had elections. The Iraqis do not want us there anymore. Our troops are dying and getting hurt. Our troops don't have enough armor. We don't have enough troops. Recruiters are tricking and bullying our kids into joining the military. There's no end in sight. If this keeps up, we'll have a draft.
To the extent all this is true, it is Bush's fault for making a sloppy case for the war. One of his problems is his simplistic rhetoric. It's jingoistic and too easy to see through. It undermines trust. Another is his inability to fire anyone. No one was fired for intelligence failures. No one was fired for underestimating the resistance either.
America has a black eye over this as well. First, the rest of the world thinks we either blundered in on false intelligence, or just wanted to conquer an oil-rich country. Or we're engaged in a modern-day Crusade. But worst of all, they see us as war criminals and torturers because of the Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay prisons.
I supported the war in 2003, but now I'm not so sure. We need to leave at some point. It isn't our country and we have no right to be there indefinitely. I don't want a terrorist state to develop there either though. I'm listening to our leaders for ideas on how to fix this, but so far, I haven't heard any beyond "stay the course" or "bring the troops home". And both of those plans leave me a little uncomfortable.