For years we supported Islamic secular tyrannies to suppress Muslim popular movements. This seemed to work. If you will remember, there was almost an Islamic uprising in Egypt that the government successfully suppressed. For 20 years, we did not see the rise of another Islamic state after Iran.
But supporting these tyrannies was not a good long-term solution. The more repressive they were, the stronger the religious opposition. If the tyranny became more liberal and democratic, the first democratic political parties to spring up were Islamic fundamentalist. What we needed in the world were Islamic secular democracies.
But we really didn’t do anything until 9/11. Then we realized that the Al Quaeda heresy could actually capture a state (Afghanistan) and even from a decrepit place like that they could strike against the United States. So a group of theorists decided to push the development of secular capitalistic Islamic democracies.
Iraq was the perfect place for the experiment. Saddam was weak, isolated, and demonized by everyone. Iraq was in the very center of the Islamic world. We would depose Saddam. The actual reason didn’t matter. If it went very well, we would have the first secular democracy in the Islamic world. If it didn’t go well, we would have a weak federal state with permanent US military bases where we could at least keep our thumb on everyone else in the region.
This was the theory. What we found didn’t conform to the theory.
1.Saddam was keeping a tight cap on the Islamic fundamentalists in Iraq. THESE (at least the Sunni ones) were the natural allies of Bin Laden, although he has not captured them thus far. Once we eliminated Saddam, they rose up. At the very least, from a purely military point of view, we needed to put in the same level of force that Saddam himself used to repress his own people, until we restored order.
2.We did not have a plan for repairing our damage to Iraq and redeveloping it quickly. The first rule of government is, keep the water running, the lights on, and the streets safe and clean. Instead, we tired to convert Iraq into from a socialist economy to a laissez faire capitalist economy in less that a year, throwing half the country out of work.
3.Our biggest mistake is that we don’t just want democracy. We want an Iraqi democracy aligned with the US. But there was a viable alternative; a nationalist Iraqi democracy that is unaligned. The Iraqis don’t want to be aligned with us because they don’t trust us, despite the fact that they might be grateful for getting Iraq.
Bush wants to go for an Iraq aligned with the US, regardless of what the Iraqis want. Insofar as he is trying to nail the square peg into the round hole, he is still dominated by the neocons plan, which has been discredited by almost everyone else.