In his speech last night, Bush outlined his optimistic vision for a postwar Iraq as a beacon of democracy filled with happy citizens who love us, engendering a positive change so profound it'd sweep the entire Middle East. One could argue that Bush's vision, while laudable, is merely a best-case scenario that doesn't address, let alone refute, many other less savory possibilities. One could argue that Bush's citation of Iraq as a supporter of Palestinian terrorism perplexingly overlooks overt support from erstwhile ally Saudi Arabia and leaves the US open to charges of double standards. One could argue that a regime consisting of the Baathist power structure that simply substitutes US military officers for Saddam's cadre is unlikely to produce such stellar results. One could argue that Bush's stated vision of a united postware Iraq clashes with its declared policies on minorities like the Kurds. One could argue that his statement that "We will remain in Iraq as long as necessary, and not a day more" is disturbingly vague and hardly constitutes a declared exit strategy. One could argue that promises of democracy in Afghanistan--and even Kuwait--remaining unfulfilled lend the Administration's claims little credibility. One could argue that even as Bush finally acknowledges the war will not be easy and incur some costs, the Administration's essentially asking for a blank check--asking for funding only after the war begins--is disingenuous at least.
But each of those arguments--potent as they may be--aren't necessary in light of what Bush's speech--and earlier statements by this Administration--reveal about the goals of US policy: it isn't about disarmament--it has never been about disarmament--it's about regime change. But that's a rationale that, however fervently elements of this administration embrace it--the world, and many Americans, reject.
It's quite simple, really. Most of the world would like to see Iraq disarmed of whatever weapons of mass desctruction it may still have (the existence of which, remember, the US has still to demonstrate). Many people in the US, and most of the world, do not approve of an unprovoked war to force a change in government. Yet that's exactly what Bush insists on, even as his earlier grandiose claims of a dire Iraqi threat--fears shared by precisely none of Iraq's neighbors--have revealed themselves to be hollow. That simple fact explains the Administration's constant statements that inspections (which I view as making progress, albeit imperfect) won't work: They won't bring about regime change. But the Amdinistration has simply failed to convince nations that--while not condoning Saddam's odious rule--are content for now to see any potential Iraqi threat neutralized that an invasion is the only answer. That's why--even while many acknowledge the value of the return of inspectors to Iraq--they regard Bush's position as merely seeking a pretext to invade. Indeed, this Administration's now-obvious pursuit of the regime change policy is doing damage to US international relations that more than offsets any miniscule threat Saddam poses. And it's all Bush's doing.
There are some policies that, no matter what benefits they might purport to offer, simply should not be contemplated, and an unprovoked attack by the US is one of them. In the face of a policy regarded as so risky and damaging to US interests, no alternative plan is even required (although I'm still considering my suggestions). Bush's adamant stance toward Iraq is seen by some as resolute--but that presupposes that Bush truly seeks a resolution to the matter short of war; a prospect many find hard to credit. Unfortunately, such a hard line creates problems of its own: If one gives the perception that war is inevitable no matter what, one gives one's opponent little motivation to compromise at all. Such behaviour--coupled with the tremendous damage to the US's reputation and international goodwill--seems reckless rather than resolute.