If you take the Iraq war down to the core, you will find a deadly simple rational.
We were attacked on 9/11, the White House needed to strike back, show significant force. Afghanistan was too easy a victory. It didn’t do enough to strike enough fear. I won’t spend time caveating this Iraq war statement with endless words on the long term benefits of democracy in the middle east, regime changes, etc. I believe those all to be simply supplementary justifications of a core emotion. There is enough nuance in this argument to keep people talking forever, but check this frank piece out from The American Conservative via Matthew Yglesias on TPM Cafe:
The Pentagon, acting under instructions from Vice President Dick Cheney’s office, has tasked the United States Strategic Command (STRATCOM) with drawing up a contingency plan to be employed in response to another 9/11-type terrorist attack on the United States. The plan includes a large-scale air assault on Iran employing both conventional and tactical nuclear weapons. Within Iran there are more than 450 major strategic targets, including numerous suspected nuclear-weapons-program development sites. Many of the targets are hardened or are deep underground and could not be taken out by conventional weapons, hence the nuclear option. As in the case of Iraq, the response is not conditional on Iran actually being involved in the act of terrorism directed against the United States. Several senior Air Force officers involved in the planning are reportedly appalled at the implications of what they are doing–that Iran is being set up for an unprovoked nuclear attack–but no one is prepared to damage his career by posing any objections.
So they’re saying if we are attacked by terrorists of any nationality or background on a big enough scale, Iran’s gonna get nuked, no questions asked. The whole trying-to-manufacture-evidence-of-wmd thing is too much work and hassle.
Also, for sake of hammering this point home, one of the commenters adds this nugget from last week:
(AP) — A Colorado congressman (Rep. Tom Tancredo) told a radio show host that the U.S. could “take out” Islamic holy sites if Muslim fundamentalist terrorists attacked the country with nuclear weapons. … Talk show host Pat Campbell asked the Littleton Republican how the country should respond if terrorists struck several U.S. cities with nuclear weapons. “Well, what if you said something like — if this happens in the United States, and we determine that it is the result of extremist, fundamentalist Muslims, you know, you could take out their holy sites,” Tancredo answered. “You’re talking about bombing Mecca,” Campbell said. “Yeah,” Tancredo responded. [cnn]
The thing is — these quotes clearly illustrate my original point. Our war today and future wars are going to be about revenge. And I know a whole lot of Americans are fine with that.