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Senior officials decided that unless action was taken, the Middle East would continue to be a breeding ground for terrorists. Officials feared that young Arabs, angry about their lives and without hope, would always looking for someone to hate — and that someone would always be Israel and the United States.
Europeans thought the solution was to get a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians. But American officials felt a Middle East peace agreement would only be part of the solution.
The Bush administration felt that a new start was needed in the Middle East and that Iraq was the place to show that it is democracy — not terrorism — that offers hope.
Sending a Message
Beyond that, the Bush administration decided it must flex muscle to show it would fight terrorism, not just here at home and not just in Afghanistan against the Taliban, but in the Middle East, where it was thriving.
Officials deny that Bush was captured by the aggressive views of neo-conservatives. But Bush did agree with some of their thinking.
"We made it very public that we thought that one consequence the president should draw from 9/11 is that it was unacceptable to sit back and let either terrorist groups or dictators developing weapons of mass destruction strike first at us," conservative commentator Bill Kristol said on ABCNEWS' Nightline in March.
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