Understanding the Iraq invasion the Socratic way
Let's take a step back and try to focus. Trying to avoid too obviously setting up straw men, let's grant those in favor of the Iraq invasion most of what they claim.
Therefore, let's accept:
Next, let's accept most of the higher-purposed rationale for the Iraq invasion:
Probably not. (It is doubtful he would have sent agents to use WMD against us on our soil.)
Likely. (Granting Hussein's anti-American passion, it is likely. Even more so if, after the first round of Bush saber-rattling and U.N. weapons inspections, we had not invaded. More problematic are what weapons he would have given. Nuclear weapons seem likely. But given the anti-secular-state feelings of al Qaeda, might he have been hesitant to provide them biological weapons, which could be used to destabilize Iraq on the way to the U.S.?)
No. (There is intelligence suggesting that former Soviet bloc nations are a likely source for terrorists to acquire nuclear weapons or materials. Biological weapons are available elsewhere or may even be developed by the terrorists.)
Unlikely. (Iraq has not been connected to 9/11. Certain nation-states, such as Libya and North Korea, have been cautioned, and all states have been served notice not to house terrorists. But though governmental cooperation helps enable terrorists, the lack of same does not destroy them. The invasion could also prove to be a recruiting tool for fundamentalist Muslim, anti-American terrorists. Even if we accept the foolishly simplistic argument that "they all hate us anyway, so what difference does it make?" the invasion still might be a galvanizing event.
A lot of "ifs" here. (If the invasion ends with a democratic, moderate government, it will be an enormous testament to the Bush administration and a very hopeful sign for the Middle East. But it doesn't promise stability in the region. Obviously, the leaderships of all the other Muslim autocracies are not going to follow Iraq by converting to democratic governments, even if some actually do. Which means the example of Iraq could inspire insurrection and destabilization of other governments. Still, if the goal of a democratic, stable government is achieved, it's hard to argue against it.)
Some given and a few often-stated beliefs:
Most of those in favor of the invasion will either immediately or if they talk through their ideas long enough eventually make it clear that the primary reason to invade Iraq is to deter future threats to this country. Overthrowing Hussein and bringing democracy to Iraq are happy side benefits to the core mission of waging the war on terror.
Let's also accept that the invasion's primary architects in the administration deeply believe that the moral, ideological, and military superiority of the U.S. means we can overthrow a sitting government and successfully implement a new form of government in a country that has never been so governed. I don't think it's setting up straw men to claim that many of the invasion's supporters are conservative Republicans who are against big government, want taxes drastically cut, view the social safety net as dehumanizing and ineffective socialism, and don't want to be asked to help pay for the poorer members of their communities' education, health care, and job training.
This leads to the conclusion that the United States invaded Iraq because there was a good chance that the Hussein government would in some way and to some extent aid terrorists in their actions probably going as far as to offer them biological and/or nuclear weapons of mass destruction.
(Keep in mind, however, that George H.W. Bush and Colin Powell did not invade Iraq during the Gulf War. Not because they were cowards, stupid, intimidated by liberals, pawns of international terrorism, or fools. They didn't invade because they understood just how dangerous, expensive, and potentially catastrophic it would be to uproot a sitting government with nothing in line to replace it.)
Now, think about the equation if it had been presented as such:
All to eliminate one of a wide range of possible threats to the U.S.? A threat that almost no one would argue was imminent, primary, or all that internationally threatening?
Last week's "Page Two" argued that the rhetoric from all sides that implies the U.S. is close to the brink of destruction is overly hysterical. In order not to muddy the waters in that discussion, I left out my multifold consternation over the current administration, which is the worst, most damaging one during my lifetime. Domestically, the social safety net is being destroyed. Religious freedom, the separation of church and state, as well as minority and women's rights, are being eroded. Environmental restrictions are being curtailed and the environment severely damaged. Unfortunately, the irresponsible tax cuts for the wealthy and staggering deficits mean that this country won't be able to adequately address the resulting problems when they inevitably become inescapable.
Internationally, our arrogance toward allies, contempt for other countries, and economic and cultural dominance have been insanely multiplied by the invasion of Iraq. The United States, this democratic republic, will survive Bush, but we'll be addressing the consequences for generations to come.