Someone once noted, the first warrior actually, that war is an imprecise venture. The modern struggle against Islam, aka the war on terror(ists), is the most imprecise of them all. It is our modern hundred years war, into which we are already three decades deep. 9/11 changed the rules of engagement. While it is my belief that our response was measured and modest, it was the best that could be mustered in the narrowed window of opportunity available to retaliate. Immediately following 9/11 was a pressure cooker of need. The need to know everything about everyone, the need to balance the equation, the need to send a message. But now, millions of American citizens and the world complain that our reasons for war with Iraq are based on lies. Bad news to follow; It is worse than that, the war is based on truth. That truth being that we obliterated Iraq for no other reason that we needed to send the message that we will do ANYTHING (short of using nukes) to win. The war in Iraq is purely symbolic.
While it may be unappetizing to consider that we would waste a middle east nation and endanger tens of thousands of US troops just to send a message, it may also be the ultimate rationale. Just as US and British forces did near the end game of World War Two, where we fire bombed Hamburg, Dresden, Tokyo, and many other non strategic venues, and of course plasticized Hiroshima and Nagasaki with atomic weapons, Iraq is our modern equivalent to those symbolic raids of yesteryear. The destruction of those German and Japanese cities was for little other purpose than to send the message that the United States and her allies were prepared to do ANYTHING to win the war. The message was received.
However, in today's world the war against global Islam is far more challenging. The Japanese and Nazi's were girl scouts compared to Islam's lunatics. And since war is inevitable, and since affidavits from God are not available guaranteeing the righteousness of war, then failing that authorization from on high mortal men make hard and often callous decisions knowing that little good can come from it. Such was Iraq.Conventionally, little good has come from the war in Iraq.
Democracy is unlikely to succeed in the middle east because it is incompatible with the tenants of Islam. No matter when US troops leave, Iraq and that entire area of the world will descend into another cycle of madness. Thus, when fighting madmen it is imperative to let them know that you too will do ANYTHING to stop them.The war in Iraq was the only overt action that we could wage and even remotely justify. And since world leaders think in the scale of the grand stage, our leaders recognized that we needed a symbolic action, and since Iraq was ruled by a bad actor, and since we already had troops in the area, opportunity had met preparation. The rest is history and a thorn in the side of those that do not understand the reasoning.