(My analysis, not the war)
[Warning: the following contains stream of consciousness reasoning. ]
My father is one of the greatest logicians and rhetoriticians I know. He taught me to think, to analyze, and to support what I think. I am sure it causes him no end of frustration to see me arguing consistently from the left. (On the other hand, I'm amazed to find him a stalwart "dittohead" -- he can think rings around Rush standing on his head) Still, when we get together he makes me argue every point, won't concede a thing, and inevitably my mother chases us both out of the house until we get politics out of our system.
One thing my father has held as a firm belief is that there has never been a war in history that was not motivated by economics. As he put it, it always boiled down to Country A had something that Country B wanted, so Country B went to war for it. This, he said, was true even of the Crusades: the European Christians wanted free trade with the Mideast, so they "liberated" the Holy Land (sound familiar? hang on, we'll get to that in a minute.). People, he said, will ultimately fight for their pocketbooks and their stomachs. This was why the Chinese and Vietnamese went Communist: prior to Communism, they were beaten three times and fed once; under Mao and Ho, they were fed three times and beaten once, a net improvement for their personal economy. (He also turns a neat metaphor).
So as I've been reading and thinking about this whole Iraq thing, I decided that maybe I'll get a new inspiration of I apply this touchstone: where do the economic interests lie for the US and Britain and the few other countries who support Bush? Is that economic interest compelling enough to risk many thousands of US lives and hundreds of billions of otherwise scarce dollars for?
1. What does the US gain economically?
Oil, of course, first of all. But as has correctly been pointed out elsewhere, there really isn't a shortage right now, nor is there likely to be one in the immediate future. Oil prices are going up, but more so because of Venezuela than Iraq. Finally, it's indubitably true that Cheney, Bush, and their buddies will make much money from oil-related gains as a result of opening up Iraqi oilfields. So oil is a motivating factor. But is it the motivating factor? Bush is not real bright. Cheney is a greedy weasel. But I don't think either is so much so that they would put this nation to war so they can make a few extra billion bucks in their personal accounts. If that's the sole motivation, we have a much bigger problem than Iraq, and we ought to give thanks for the Second Amendment.
The United States has always been a trading nation. What is the most powerful international organization today? What organization has more clout to carry out and enforce its mandates than any other? Which organization has countries drooling to join, but is harder to get into than the Augusta Country Club for Sandra Bernstein? The World Trade Organization. It is not now, nor has it ever been, diplomacy that oils intercourse between the nations: it's commerce. The US does more of it than any other single nation (I think -- this is not a statement I can back up with a magic link), so we have a major interest in keeping it alive and profitable.
Currently the world economy is fueled by oil. No question. Although Iraqi oil, in and of itself, is not enough to tip the balance to an oil famine or glut, the geographical position of Iraq is such that anyone in that area with any kind of medium range weapons can threaten the other countries who have oil, from Saudi Arabia to Central Asia. Not to mention shipping in the Suez, the Persian Gulf, and the Mediterranean. Oh, yes, and Israel, too.
Countries who we don't like, but play by the rules, don't get attacked.. The Soviets always played by the rules and didn't threaten commerce; neither did the Chinese nor the North Koreans (until recently). Iraq, more than being a threat itself, is an example of the opposite. If Iraq gets medium or long range weapons again, they won't hit Cincinnati, but they will hit the Suez; they will hit the Med; they will hit Central Asia and mess up the flow of oil and goods..
Here is what happens if you don't fall in line with the world order of trade: We throw out your government and put in a new one. This is nothing new for the US, England, or even France. The Shah of Iran, Pinochet, Marcos, Noriega, King Farouk of Egypt -- all are examples of leaders we either replaced, put in place, or did both for our purposes. (The Soviets used to do it too, for their own purposes -- their hands are hardly immaculate in this practice).
Only a few have refused to be changed out at our whim: Castro, Kim, Khaddafi, and Saddam Hussein are the big ones. Castro, of course, had the protection of the Soviets, as did Mao and Kim Ilsong in 1949. Khaddafi for some reason resisted efforts to kill him but once we came close, he went into hiding and didn't bother anyone since. Maybe if Saddam had done the same after Kuwait, I'd be reduced to talking about the economy. But he didn't -- he made a genuine pain in the ass out of himself. Everyone agrees he's a madman and unless watched day and night will not only threaten trade but his own people (if the Kurds count as his own people -- you might ask the Turks that same question).
Someone you have to watch day and night eventually will find a weak spot, break loose, and raise hell again. This is true of Saddam. The other answer, then, if he won't play nice according to trade rules (remember that this is all for trade, and nothing else) is to take him out. He can't be taken out clandestinely because he has more protection than a --- metaphors fail me. Of course, the US has little in the way of clandestine assassination talent, which is a Good Thing. I must assume that clandestine efforts were tried before we resorted to this costly war thing -- but maybe not.
But remember that in addition to taking out Iraq, this war has another purpose: it is an Example to Others. Afghanistan was Act I of the Example: harbor terrorists and we come in and throw out your government. Iraq is Act II. We have to carry out the occupation of Iraq just to show that if you don't play along with the rules of commerce, the new penalty is this: not only might we try a clandestinely supported coup, but we may well just kick the shit out of your country.
So if my primary thesis is right, that the motivation behind the war in Iraq is to preserve world trade and US pre-eminence in world trade, the invasion of Iraq must go on. The UN is irrelevant, because this war is not for UN purposes, but for world trade purposes. The WTO has no military arm, at least so far.
2. What will it cost the US?
Economically, probably a couple hundred billion dollars. But since the budget is already tanking it in, and Bush doesn't seem to care, I don't look for that to deter him. Besides, if the thesis that a war to replace Saddam is economic in purpose is correct, once it succeeds, trade will increase, our economy will improve, and the US will be better able to afford the costs of this war.
In human lives, I will be very surprised if we lose more than five hundred GIs. Probably less. I rant and rave about how many body bags will come back from the desert but realistically I expect that the moment Saddam disappears, whether to collect his 79 virgins or to a US prison, the Iraqis will throw their weapons at Tommy Franks' feet.
In world standing for the US, we will lose our asses in the short term. We will be the big bullies of the common people.
If trade starts flowing again and the world economy blooms, however, we'll be the heroes of Frankfurt, New York, Tokyo, and Wall Street. Again.
So great, I am a citizen of a country that goes to war to kill off a few thousand people so the world economy can improve.
I hate it. I'll hate it even more if it works. I'll change my name to Lucullus and buy a toga.
And it's all my father's fault because I think he's right. When you come down to it, everything is motivated by economics.