Explaining Why the Bush Administration Went to War in Iraq – Juan Cole
[From the current Boston Review, “The Iraqi Shiites: On the history of America’s would-be allies”:]
The ambitious aim of the American war in Iraq—articulated by Richard Perle, Paul Wolfowitz, and other neoconservative defense intellectuals—was to effect a fundamental transformation in Middle East politics. The war was not—or not principally—about finding weapons of mass destruction, or preventing alliances with al Qaeda, or protecting the Iraqi population from Saddam’s terror. For U.S. policy makers the importance of such a transformation was brought home by the events of September 11, which challenged U.S. strategy in the region by compromising the longstanding U.S. alliance with Saudi Wahhabis. In response to this challenge, the Bush administration saw the possibility of creating a new pillar for U.S. policy in the region: a post-Baathist Iraq, dominated by Iraqi Shiites, which would spark a wave of democratization across the Middle East.
But the Bush administration badly neglected the history of the group they wanted to claim as their new ally. Who are the Iraqi Shiites? And how likely are they to support democracy or U.S. goals in the region? To address these questions, we will first need some background.
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