I know along with Serge (believe it or not, this is a subject we seem to agree upon, at least in a few basic respects), I was never a big fan of this war, or the "war on terror" in general. Frankly, I think the tragedy of 9-11 was abused (in terms of the logical connections that were made), to justify the invasion of Iraq.
Do I think Saddam was a swell guy? Hardly...knowing what I do of the things he oversaw in his own country (murderous supression of any form of dissent, even the most innocent, and the genocide of the Kurds, among other things), I have no illusions about the kind of "leader" he was.
Nor do I think it is, of itself, a bad thing that his regime has been toppeled, and he is now in the custody of the Americans.
I also do not think it is a bad thing, for the west to get a foothold into the Middle East in general, so as to mitigate the influence of pan-Islamism (which strictly speaking this war, and the larger "war on terror" is not supposed to be about...the American government spends a lot of time trying to say this is not a "war on Islam", which I find peculiar...), and hopefully instill some of the good aspects of western humanitarianism, and liberality (unfortunately, as Afghanastan demonstrated, a lot of the bad was also infused, almost immediately... ex. the almost immediate appearance of pornography after the Afghani's were liberated from the Taliban.)
My major problem was the pretext for entering Iraq (which I think was quite unsound, even opportunistic)...simply put, the reasons given, were not (I think, quite obviously) the real reasons.
I think most people, including Americans who have supported this war, understand that this war has been about bigger things than Iraq's status as a real threat to the United States' and it's citizens (which I do not think was the case - particularly when there are far more dangerous enemies for the U.S. to contend with).
I think the reality (or at least something close to it) is that this is an Imperial excercise on the part of a United States which is in the process of transformation - transformation from what was once (according to the vision of your founding fathers) an isolationist, republic, into a pan-continental Empire. That sounds bold, maybe even like an exageration invoking images of Caesar and Charlemagne - but the truth is, this world has long known Imperium in various forms well into the 20th century (when the British Empire began to fall apart.)
Perhaps this transition into "Empire" status is unavoidable; for whenever a nation begins to have key interests (both economic and political, both short and long term) all over the world, and said nation prospers, it is hard not to avoid the temptation to control (subtly if possible, but quite obtusely if necessary) the activities of all of those "other players" who you (nation) rely on so much for your well being and prosperity.
If unavoidable, then perhaps my criticisms are misplaced? To a point, I now am willing to conceed this, but not totally. However, I think my criticisms that do remain, have to do with the sticky situation the American government (and by consequence, it's subjects) has now got themselves into. By this, I mean that this is going to have to be an "all or nothing" campaign. The problem is, I'm not sure if the American people (this is not a knock, just an honest observation/query) have the stomach for such a campaign, and I even have some doubts that the Bush administration and the hawks underlying it, are truly willing to see this through.
For example, there has been some waffling (admittedly, less so now... perhaps a realization of how important the following is) on what the United States' committment is going to be to post-war Iraq. The fact is, if this is going to be dealt with properly, the United States should be looking forward to a very long term occupation, and overseeing the establishment of a new constitution for Iraq, and (let's be honest) the installation of a sufficiently servile government, which will basically take it's ques from Washington.
Such an occupation, as it's already proving, is going to be taxing, and extremely bloody. I also think they (American government, but more importantly, the American public) should be prepared for this to result in an even larger campaign.
I also have to wonder if the American public is prepared for the radical changes which will have to take place (and indeed, are already being slipped under the door, so as to avoid too much public scrutiny) both in how they view their government, and even powers that government is going to have to excercise in order to maintain an Empire. The vast growth of federal powers in the union, which has been something that has been going on for a long time now, are facillitating this - but more is to come, be sure, if this course is going to be persued. I'll put it bluntly; Empires have typically, by design or default, ended up with Emperors.
Is this what the American people want? Or do they even know what they want? These are all things that are going to have to be reckoned with by the conscience of the American people.
I'd be interested in the thoughts of others on this subject, particularly the Americans here (who I'm guessing are the vast majority on this forum). Is my analysis of this totally out to lunch, perhaps merely the ramblings of a foreigner who does not "get" everything involved here? Or, if you do agree (at least that this transformation from republic to empire is going on), are you "for" or "against" this profound change?