Wars are ill-judged by their military outcomes or by the political repercussions that may follow in their wake. They often unleash social and political forces the ultimate impact of which can only be discerned years on. And they frequently produce unintended consequences that can pose complex and vexing challenges of their own that may contain within them the seeds of future conflicts. Those pondering the implications of Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) one year on would do well to keep that in mind.
To a great extent, OIF was supposed to take care of the unfinished business of the Gulf War. It was intended to eliminate, once and for all, the regime of Saddam Hussein and the threat it posed to regional stability, and to set the stage for the emergence of a stable, peaceful Iraq, free of weapons of mass destruction, with a legitimate, representative government on the path to democracy.
The Iraq War had several additional objectives: leveraging regime change in Iraq to deter Iranian and Syrian support for terror; enabling the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Saudi Arabia, thereby eliminating a source of friction with the kingdom and a pretext for the jihadist's war on America; establishing conditions conducive to the resolution of the Arab-Israeli conflict; and clearing the way for political reform and democratization in the region--the putative cure for the dysfunctional Arab politics that led to 9/11.