If you want to understand the reasons for American military involvement in Iraq, read Tigerhawk's guest post over at Belmont Club, here. It is about ten pages printed-out without comments, but is worth the effort. This is as succinct and well-written an explanation of the Bush administration's strategic thinking as you can find, anywhere.
Here are some money quotes:
Read the whole thing.. . .Unfortunately for al Qaeda, Iraq is a strategic trap, because the conditions of the battlefield are forcing al Qaeda to inflict massive collateral damage. [El Jefe comment: thus alienating persons whom otherwise might be supporters] Its only tools are targeted assassinations, publicized atrocities (such as webcast decapitations and the bombing of mosques) and indiscriminate mass casualty attacks. None of these is endearing al Qaeda to Arabs. . . Al Qaeda has staked its prestige on Iraq. If it is discredited there -- whether by our guile or its own lack of it -- so will its ideology be. . .
So, progress in the war against al Qaeda consists of these elements:Over the short-term
a. Arrest or kill the jihadis whenever and wherever possible. Yes, their network will route around the damage, but new fighters need to be trained and trusted enough to deploy. When we destroy the old guard we buy critical time. [El Jefe comment: as Tigerhawk argues elsewhere, it is essential to deprive the organization of trained and veteran personnel, particularly the old sweats from the war against Russia in Afghanistan].
b. Coerce Muslim states, including especially the clown regimes, into cooperating with the United States. [El Jefe emphasis supplied here– this the prime reason for toppling Saddam. By “clown regimes” Tigerhawk means the traditional monarchies and tinpot dictator regimes of the Middle East, e.g. Saudi Arabia and Egypt] If successful coercion requires that the United States stake its own credibility -- as in Iraq -- so be it.
c. Interdict states, Muslim or otherwise, that we cannot reliably deter from assisting jihadis to acquire and deploy WMD. [El Jefe comment, this means Iran].
d. Do not lose a chance to humiliate al Qaeda on the battlefield.Each of these methods will inspire -- and have inspired -- resentment against the United States in the Muslim world and, indeed, among anti-Americans in the West.Over the long-term
x. Give the average Muslim an idea worth fighting for. Average Abdul need not "like" the United States or give us "credit" in any way, shape or form for this strategy to work. He only needs to want to choose his own government and have an idea how to do that.
y. As the winds of history sweep away clown regimes, see that credible, serious, non-jihadi governments take their place. These governments need not be secular, and their institutions do not have to be instantly mature. But they need to be credible and serious, and derive their legitimacy from a broad swath of the population willing to defend them against jihad. In this regard, we should not be afraid of "national aspiration" Islamist movements. These organizations are hostile to Israel and the United States, but as long as they aspouse popular sovereignty they are rejecting al Qaeda's vision. That rejection is more important than their acceptance of the United States and Israel.z. We must do what we can to humiliate al Qaeda on the battlefield and foster the repudiation of jihadi ideology in the Muslim world. While public diplomacy may help, one lesson of Iraq is that al Qaeda will discredit itself if we goad it into fighting in the Muslim world rather than in the West...
UPDATE: For more in the same vein, see USMC "Maj. P's" piece "Reporting In" over at Op-For, here.