In order to deal effectively with America's predicament in Iraq, it is essential to understand that we had begun to walk down the road to Baghdad long before September 11, indeed, quite before the Bush Administration came to power. After the Cold War, a new triumphalist mindset, shared by influential groups in both the Republican and Democratic parties, began to develop an unstoppable momentum. It was Madeleine Albright who started bragging about the United States being an indispensable nation. It was a number of senior officials in the Clinton Administration--and eventually President Clinton himself--who, frequently taking a casual attitude to the facts, brought the United States into the Balkans in a desire to transform the former Yugoslavia--even if it required a military action without UN blessing and in violation of international law, as in the case of Kosovo.
Some of these officials are now important advisors to the presumptive Democratic party nominee for president, Senator John Kerry. It is a bit disingenuous on their part to criticize the Bush Administration for launching a campaign against Iraq for reasons in many respects similar to those behind American attacks in the Balkans--except that Slobodan Milosevic, unlike Saddam Hussein, was not an enemy of the United States, was not suspected of having weapons of mass destruction and harboring international terrorists, and was less tyrannical than Saddam Hussein, as his removal from power by democratic means has demonstrated. And of course the Balkan wars took place before 9/11, which means they occurred in a context of much less pressure to take pre-emptive action against potential threats.