Atrios has a lively discussion going about today's Tom Friedman column that more or less defends the notion that the Iraq operation is at least partially about oil. I also believe it is partially about oil, but only to the extent that it is about neoconservative geopolitics and their stale but untrammeled notion of what constitutes American vulnerability.
It is true that Iraq could get nukes and Saddam could extort the entire western world by withholding oil and driving up the price. So could other countries, for that matter. No matter who managed to do this, it would not be a pretty picture. But, evenKenneth Pollack, who is held up as the authority on the necessity of invading Iraq, argues that while Saddam will have to be deposed, it is not so immediate a threat that we could not wait long enough to mitigate some of the potentially dangerous repercussions and plan for our long term responsibilities in the region before taking action.
Confronting Saddam could have waited because what is not waiting is the simmering bloodlust that is sweeping the Middle East, particularly in Pakistan and Saudi Arabia.
Invading Iraq on a thin pretext (which is what is going to happen because this war is already timed for American convenience and nothing else) is possibly going to set off chain of events that could have been avoided if we handled the situation with a little more sophistication and finesse instead of fulfilling some long held neocon wet dream. And that is the real problem.
The Wolfowitz/Perle school never took terrorism seriously when it was becoming a threat on the world stage and they don't take it seriously now. The influential CSP issued only 2 reports since the 1998 embassy bombing about the threat of terrorism until 9/11. The PNAC has been wringing their hands about Iraq and pushing for missile defense for years, but terrorism was hardly even on the radar screen. They are about China, Iraq, North Korea, Israel, US "benevolent" hegemony and missile defense. Period. Anything else will be subsumed under what they believe is the real agenda.
As with the ever changing justifications for the tax cuts for their rich friends, Bush and his foreign policy mavens are so blinkered and myopic and that they pursue their preordained agenda no matter what the current situation. They seem completely incapable of exercising any flexibility in light of changing circumstances. They just find a way to use the changing circumstances to justify what they plan to do anyway.
This is very dangerous. Bush, with his stupid bellicose posturing has created a needless crisis in Asia by challenging a cornered and neurotically proud despot in North Korea into a nuclear standoff. He has escalated the problem with Iraq to one of immediate danger, when it was a medium term threat at worst, and by conflating it with Al Qaeda and Muslim fundamentalism for no good reason other than political expediency, he has made it a cause for a whole lot of disaffected people in the Mideast and Indian subcontinent to rally to.
All of this is because the primary neocon focus of the last 10 years has been the threat of China and rogue states and thus their obsession with missile defense. This is what they have been lobbying for, this is what they believe is the greatest threat to American hegemony and this is what they want to use their newfound political power to deal with. And, while there is no doubt that individual bad actors with nukes are a serious challenge, there was absolutely no need to put the issue of rogue states immediately on the table next to Islamic terrorism, confusing the world about our intentions and creating a sense of chaos. Events are predictably hurtling out of control because the Bush administration has spoken with a rhetorical blunderbuss and opportunistically used 9/11 as a way to achieve their long held goals instead of refashioning the agenda to meet the changing threat.
And now, even after seeing with their own eyes the dangers of using a crisis to further unrelated goals, they still seem to think that we can beat North Korea or some former Soviet State or a middle eastern power like Pakistan to the punch with this missile shield that is many, many years away from reliability, if ever. The technology for ICBMs, on the other hand, has been around for decades. N. Korea is probably quite close and has shown a willingness to sell such technology. The former Soviet states probably have access to the technology already. Yet, the administration is still barrelling ahead in a near panicked state, ratcheting up the crisis so they can build their fantastical missile shield with the only recourse in the meantime being military intervention and a series of dangerous standoffs.
Meanwhile, just a little over a year ago we got attacked by terrorists who used low-tech box cutters to destroy Americas most vivid symbols of economic and military power. We got attacked on our own shores and thousands died and the success of that action absolutely guarantees that it won't be the last. For this administration to basically sideline that issue into bullshit "homeland security" with a color coded danger chart and bogus manhunts to pretend they are doing something--- in fact, to exacerbate the danger by provoking all manner of violent and unpredicatable global reactions with their swaggering bullyboy rhetoric --- mainly because they refuse to relinquish their cherished vision of themselves as astride a great global military Colossus, is about as irresponsible a position as I can imagine.
The Bush administration shows every day that they are willing to compromise American security rather than compromise goals that anyone else would have reevaluated in light of the new priorities wrought by the destruction and death of September 11th. But, apparently even the demolition of the World Trade Center was not enough to blow them off the course they set those many years ago.
One can only hope that their misguided relentlessness doesn't blow back on us in ways that are too terrible to contemplate.