Lately a lot of the war talk has been focused on Osama and Saddam and whether or not they're actively working together or if they would work together at some point in the future. Personally I don't care whether Iraq is in league with Al Qaeda or not. I believe there is enough justification for action without even including Al Qaeda in the equation. Weapons of mass destruction, threat to the world's oil supply, brutal dictatorship, sponsor of terrorism (other than Al Qaeda), continual flaunting of Gulf War cease fire accords. More than enough for me.
Hell, I remember back in the summer of 1990 a friend and I were having a few drinks and discussing the Iraqi buildup on the border with Kuwait and we were already advocating preemptive military strikes. Call me an uberhawk if you will.
By focusing so much attention on the Iraq and Al Qaeda connection I think people are missing the bigger picture. This war on terrorism isn't just about Al Qaeda and it isn't just about Iraq and it isn't just about eliminating the threat that they both pose. After 9/11 Bush could have come out and said, "We have been attacked by Al Qaeda and will now wage war against them until they are wiped out."
But he didn't limit the war or the war's objectives to the destruction of Al Qaeda. He chose instead to embark on a wide ranging and long run course of action whose ultimate goal is a sweeping historical change of the world's political landscape. Terrorists and the countries that support them were served notice that they will no longer be able to carry on as they have for the last thirty years. The terrorists will be hunted down and eliminated and the countries they fund, support, and harbor will cease doing so or have their regimes toppled.
In some cases this will be the result of direct military action, in others through the use of economic and diplomatic levers, and finally in others through internal revolts. This program might seem impossibly grandiose and over reaching to some but I believe that this is what Bush has in mind. He got into trouble when he labeled it a "crusade" shortly after 9/11 but in many ways that is an apt description of it.
Afghanistan was the beginning. Iraq is another stage. All the while we're also going after Al Qaeda wherever and whenever we can. But after the situation in Iraq is resolved the war will not be over. Next on the agenda could be a push for regime change in Iran by supporting dissident groups there or it could be a move against Syria to get them to stop supporting Hezbollah, Hamas, and other groups that regularly attack Israel. North Korea will likewise be dealt with either through diplomatic and economic efforts to contain them or if necessary with the use of military force.
Libya? Saudi Arabia? Possibilities as well. There won't be a "one size fits all" approach and each situation will be analyzed and handled differently. One hopes that once the ball gets rolling and a few more examples are made the process will move be hastened along and open conflict limited as much as possible.
The Bush Doctrine if you would call it that seeks a world where nations are free to develop economically and politically without fear of terrorism or rogue regimes brandishing weapons of mass destruction. It is a remarkably ambitious and some would say unrealistic goal but I believe that the rewards of peace and stability are worth the sacrifices and costs that must be paid to achieve them. I don't know if most Americans would agree with my sentiments or if they really understand the nature of the war that we're now involved but if you want to understand Bush's attitude towards Iraq you need to put it in the context of his larger perspective of the war on terror. It's much bigger than just Saddam and Osama.