A longtime reader writes:
I agree with the recent reader who said that the democratization rationale for war did not really begin to get emphasis in the administration's public statements until after the WMD rationale was revealed to be false (i.e., after the war was commenced). I think the administration understood that the democratization rationale was never going to be very effective in getting the public on board for war. Fear-mongering is a far more effective technique, and that is the method they relied upon most heavily.
As a real motivation for war, democratization was likewise unimportant to Cheney and Rumsfeld, who were the leading policymakers in the Administration. George Packer demonstrates clearly in his outstanding book that Cheney and Rumsfeld had an aversion to nation-building and were hoping to install Challabi or some other leader in the mold of, say, Mubarrak, to replace Sadaam. Cheney and Rumsfeld are hardly strong advocates for democracy here in the U.S., so it would be surprising to find them willing to fight a war to implement it somewhere else. The fact that so little planning was done for democratization, and so little resources committed to it, also decisively shows that this was not a factor in the decision to go to war.
I am surprised that you still downplay or even reject the important of oil security as a factor in the war decision.
Bush and Scowcroft's book, "A World Transformed," identifies it as the principal factor in the decision to wage Gulf War I. They did not want that man sitting atop not not only Iraq's immense oil reservers, but also Saudi Arabia's. Why would it be the key factor in that war, but a non-factor in this war? Don't forget that oil security is ultimately the basis for Ken Pollack's case for war in his book advocating war.
In my view, 9/11 simply gave Cheney and Rumsfeld the political opportunity to do what they wanted to do for reasons having very little to do with terrorism. The only real importance of 9/11 to the war decision was that the role of Saudi nationals in the attack underscored the unreliability of the Saudis as a continuing ally on oil pricing and supply decisions. Among the Middle East's top oil nations (Iraq, Iran and Saudi Arabia), the Administration probably felt that we needed at least one who would be a reliable ally in OPEC, and who would not plunge the world into recession or worse (as OPEC did in the early 1970's). Remember, too, that Cheney and Rumseld were in office during the Arab oil embargo of 1973, and the massive macroecomomic problems caused by the embargo probably cost Gerald Ford re-election.
For me, the salient fact is that in a time of war, so many of us simply do not know what to think about the good faith of those in government who are waging it. It honestly makes me heartsick that, with such vile enemies, we are so divided by those who should be uniting us.