I have a theory. This theory was initially stated in late 2001/early 2002 while at a bar with some friends. At that point in time I had just got out of the Marine Corps and 9/11 was a fresh memory. My time line is a bit fuzzy because this was quite a while ago and many of the realization where made while drinking.
One thing I learned while in the military over seas is the drunk military guys f' things up all over the world. We have troops station in South Korea, Australia, Japan, and tons of other places too. And most of the time, everything is good. Then you get some jack ass who gets drunk and runs down the local magistrate's prom queen daughter and the whole region goes up in arms. So anyways, onto the theory.
After 9/11 the US revved up the war machine and laid the smack down on Afghanistan. Funny things about war time media coverage, other minor stories get pushed aside. Two of those stories though caught my eye. First was an announcement that Saudi Arabia was requesting that we remove all military presence from their soil. Not a big shocker, like I said before, drunk military guys do the damndest things, or so I thought at the time. And second, was a story about a Nigeria diplomat who sold documents to an Italian diplomat that showed Saddam trying to buy yellow cake uranium, that story was followed up by a denouncement (the work of Mr. Plane most likely). But it was rather quite and was nothing compared to the war in Afghanistan.
Any time you have large masses of US military stuck in someoneelse's country, the neighbors get nervous. Turkey was having debates on allowing the US troops to stage and using their air space, and Iran, well, they were moving in a radical direction and wound up electing a former hostage taker as their president (My former OIC was one of the Marines held hostage in Lebanon by that guy). The Pakistani board warlords were armed to the teeth. Saudi Arabia booted our troops.
Now the US is left in a rough spot, with a radical government in control of Iran, and no serious staging grounds on the western side of the country. The US needed to get a foot hold in the region to keep pressure on Iran.
Enter Iraq! A weak military, a dictator Americans would love to see brought down, a fortune in oil to socialize (worked in Kuwait!), and the perfect place to make our next permanent middle east forward outpost.
Scrounge up some iffy documentation on Saddam trying to get weapons grade nuclear material (even if it had already been refuted), and market the hell out of it. I felt bad for Collin Powel, he was trying to do the right thing, get into Iraq with the public behind him with out lying. Bush had no such qualms (or intelligence) and Rumsfeld is a war time chief, he's good at it, but even he can't paint a crap log pretty.
It was at about this point in time that I finally put 2 and 2 together. We were going to war. It would be over fast, 2 weeks top. There would be rejoicing. Then there would be death. Another thing I learned in the Marine Corps. Attacking a guerrilla force in an urban environment with current practices results in very heavy casualties. In field exercises a small skilled force could inflict up to 70% casualties before being overrun. And after being overrun skilled independents could still inflict casualties over and over again with minimum risk to themselves. Not only would there be deaths in the cities, but it would be long term. Remember, the whole reason for being there wasn't for oil, or nukes, or a democratic agenda, it was to put a serious military force with in striking distance of Iran.
And here we are, the war was over in a few days with a hand full of casualties. But we stayed, and slowly over time we are taking more and more hits. Bush refuses to set a deadline to bring troops home, because he doesn't intend to. Creating a permanent military installation is the goal. Sure, as things stabilize more and more our numbers will be reduced, but there will always be a solid presence inside Iraq. At least until the politicians boot us out ;)
And I can't say the plan was a bad one. Iran is a significantly larger threat and terrorist backer then Iraq ever was. And with Iran's leadership making rumblings of nuclear power and anti-Israeli sentiment, I have to agree that having a local launch pad is a good thing.
Unfortunately the execution of this plan was about worth bat shit. The war has been mismanaged, underestimated, and poorly handled since day one.
Things that could have been done better:
1) Don't disband the bath party and Iraqi military. The structure was there, use it. Take charge of it. And let the people replace it with a democracy on their own schedule.
2) Policing. The US should have stepped up and stopped the looting, this would have been much easier had the Iraqi army not been disbanded.
3) Get the infrastructure back up ASAP. During the war the first things we took out was power and communications. It's hard as hell to win a war with out them, and it's rough as hell to run a country with out them either.
4) Win the publicity war. I had friends who were building schools, creating new water cleansing plants, rebuilding bridges and playgrounds. But what do we hear? car bombs and casualties.
5) Lock down the boarders. Come hard and fast and with lots of cash. Use the Pakistani War Lords on the board as mercs. They know the terrain and can drastically cut down on the number of foreign combatants. Make it a simple choice, take the money and help, or we find someone who will to replace you.
That's my babble for the day. It is almost all conjecture, and I am no longer in the military or in any way associated or in contact with the government. So I could be completely wrong, but this explanation makes a lot more sense to me then the 'bad intelligence' theory the white house is spitting out, and much more sense then the 'blood for oil' crap from the Micheal Moore camp.