Bush misled the nation not merely because he hoped to use the war for political fodder in the 2002 and 2004 elections, though that certainly figured into the equation. Neither was it merely because Iraq is such a significant source of oil, though that too probably was an added incentive.
No, this war was above all about ideology.
Specifically, it was about establishing once and for all the Bush Doctrine, otherwise known as "The National Security Strategy of the United States of America." Even a cursory read reveals that its emphasis on pre-emptive actions against threatening nations, all in the name of spreading "democracy," is a major departure. A more careful read reveals that the nation, under Bush's guidance, has taken the leap from semi-realistic self-promotion to outright self-delusion in its basic view of international relations.
If you want to understand the wellsprings of this ideology, look no farther than the neo-conservative Project for a New American Century, which not only endorsed it -- it obviously was its chief architect and promoter, the font of wisdom for such folk as Donald Rumsfeld.
Particularly chilling is the PNAC description of the Bush Doctrine:
- Promoting liberal democratic principles. "No nation is exempt" from the "non-negotiable demands" of liberty, law and justice. Because the United States has a "greater objective" -- a greater purpose -- in the world, Bush sees in the war not just danger but an opportunity to spread American political principles, especially into the Muslim world.
(And let's not forget the chance to spread American religious principles as well.)
The reality, of course, as Jonathan Raban recently pointed out, is that western-style democracy may be meaningless or even destructive in the context of Muslim culture. Bush's presumption that democracy is a panacea for every nation is backed only by blind faith and ideological blinkers.
And then there's this:
- The Bush Doctrine is also notable for what it is not. It is not Clintonian multilateralism; the president did not appeal to the United Nations, profess faith in arms control, or raise hopes for any “peace process.” Nor is it the balance-of-power realism favored by his father. It is, rather, a reassertion that lasting peace and security is to be won and preserved by asserting both U.S. military strength and American political principles.
Nor is it, for that matter, any of the multilateral approaches to foreign policy that have characterized the American approach since World War II. PNAC's arrogant unilateralism actually is, as Todd Gitlin has pointed out, a radical restructuring of American foreign policy, and possibly forever transforming our place in the world -- and not necessarily for the better.
A terrific resource on this point is PNAC.info: Exposing the Project for the New American Century (who I'm adding to my blogroll).
Remember: This crowd had a plan in place for attacking Iraq the day Bush was elected (see especially the Philly Daily News' excellent report, Invading Iraq not a new idea for Bush clique: 4 years before 9/11, plan was set). It set that plan into motion on Sept. 12, 2001.
And there was no way the radical ideologues who now control American foreign policy were ever going to let it get derailed. Intelligence to the contrary be damned.
This is not as obviously crass a motivation as, say, trying to swing an election with a war, or helping out the president's oil-industry pals. But it is in many ways much more deeply troubling.