Jay Tea at Wizbang has started a blogburst based on the thought, "What if the US had not invaded Iraq after finishing the Taliban?" Participating are Will Franklin of WILLisms.com, Jeff Harrell of The Shape of Days, and Pierre Legrand of The Pink Flamingo Bar and Grill. Jay Tea has two versions of the narrative himself.
Reading the entries is fascinating, in seeing where the imagination of each writer has taken him. Jeff Harrell speculates on the assassination of Saddam by a formerly loyal Baath Party military man just prior to a possible invasion, and the horrific war that was thus narrowly avoided.
We can never know if Marwan understood what he was doing when he pulled the trigger. We can never know if he foresaw the coming storm and acted as only he could to avert it. Perhaps he was acting out of rage at a man who betrayed his ideals, or out of desperation to save a country which was collapsing brick by brick. We can never know. All we know about Marwan Hussein al-Kaylani is his name and what he did. And for that, if for nothing else, we owe him a debt of eternal gratitude.
Pierre Legrand has a far more bleak forecast - nuclear destruction in the US and a military coup:
On September 11, 2004 President Bush announced the full withdrawal of the United States Military from the ME, Far East and Korea. On September 12 a military coup replaced the entire executive branch of the government as well as the legislative. Martial law was declared.
Will Franklin identifies the necessity of the Bush Doctrine, spreading democracy throughout the Arab world, and the void that would be left absent that policy, a void that we would eventually rue.
There'd still be the full triumvirate of the axis of evil, taunting us, testing our weakness and irresolve.
Specifically, there'd still be a Saddam Hussein regime paying the families of Palestinian suicide terrorists for blowing themselves up. There'd still be a Saddam Hussein with a thirst for weapons of mass destruction, and a history of seeking, developing, and using them.
Some would have declared the United States victorious in the war on terror. Hooray, we've won.
Others, in the 2004 campaign, would have started challenging President Bush for his absurd restraint, or for bringing so many troops home from the theater so soon. Surely there are caves yet to be explored in Afghanistan!
Jay Tea, in one scenario, finds leaving Saddam in power and exchanging sanctions for intelligence against the terrorists works to the detriment of the Bush Administration.
Congress sees this, and Democrats immediately call for investigations into the whole "deal" with Saddam. They point to his long history of supporting terrorism, and accuse the Bush administration of resurrecting the old Cold War policy of coddling dictators who play ball with us, under the old "he's an SOB, but he's our SOB" standard that led us to back some truly repugnant tyrants who were at least nominally anti-communist. Talk of impeachment starts circulating.
In another he sees a "lone wolf" US operating against terror organizations an camps with harsh UN disapproval hanging over it's head, and Saddam quietly rebuilding a huge WMD arsenal after sanctions are lifted.
I have a slightly different vision, having thought about it perhaps less thoroughly than these gentlemen. After the fall of the Taliban Pres. Bush is riding high in the polls. He knows he had talked about the war on terror, about going after the terrorists and "those who harbor them." But the US military had already done that, disrupting Al Qaeda camps in Afghanistan, capturing a number of Al Qaeda operatives, and deposing the Taliban. Under Hamid Karzai the Afghani people finally have the opportunity for a democracy of their own.
Pres. Bush decides, having accomplished what was the goal in Afghanistan, to stand pat. His favorability ratings remain high, and he uses that popularity to gently push through some of his domestic agenda.
Then a bomb made with C4 explodes in a nightclub in Jakarta, killing 136. A couple of months later another explodes in a public square in Lagos, with 72 dead. These are small operations, nothing like 9-11, but the public is reminded of Bush's words vowing a "war on terror." Still, despite the sniping of Democrats these are seen as the type of low-level terrorist acts that Pres. Clinton had treated as a law enforcement problem for years, and Bush tries to convince the public that, having dispatched the Taliban and Al Qaeda, we can return to that prior approach.
That works politically for him pretty well, for a while. But during this time Saddam Hussein's payoffs in the Oil For Food program finally sway opinion in the UN Security Council, and the French and Russians successfully push for the lifting of sanctions. Weapons inspectors have not been in Iraq in years, and Saddam uses their absence to rebuild his chemical and biological capability.
Then it happens, early in 2004, just before the New Hampshire primary. Al Qaeda operatives, deprived of their bases in Afghanistan, had set up in northeast Iraq, led by a sadistic and ruthless killer, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. His group completes an operation, firing medium-range missiles armed with VX nerve gas produced in Iraq. The targets? King Abdul Aziz Air Base in Dhahran, and Tel Aviv. Panic grips the mideast with the realization that not only is Al Qaeda operating much as they did before the war in Afghanistan, they're now doing so with deadly weapons of mass destruction.
The Homeland Security department scrambles to try to close the borders that have continued to allow hundreds of thousands of undocumented aliens into the country. Pres. Bush acts to scramble the troops, to gird for and meet the now forboding threat in the mideast. Israel retaliates, raising the stakes. And with the presidential primary season upon us the hounds are baying at Bush relentlessly. And what mistakes there are! How could he have allowed Saddam to produce WMD, and get them into the hands of terrorists whom he had vowed to defeat? Why didn't he take out Saddam? Didn't he understand the Al Qaeda connections documented by Stephen Hayes? After 9-11 how could he have let the country down so?
Democrats call for impeachment proceedings. They go nowhere, due to the Republican majorities in Congress, but the pot continues to boil. The Department of Defense, with the unknown of these WMD, determines the need for 200,000 additional troops ASAP, and a draft becomes necessary, a draft that Bush had said he would never consider, yet another black mark. The Patriot Act library provisions that had never been used actually are, and citizens, their fire stoked by the ACLU, are outraged. And Pres. Bush tries to prepare the country for a longer and more difficult and deadly war in Iraq.
Politically its a fait accompli. John Kerry, on the strength of his military background, wins easily in November, and Democrats retake both the House and Senate, the American people having determined that the Republicans could clearly not handle the national security issue. After all, following the attacks on 9-11, only a party and president weak on security would have allowed a madman like Saddam to remain in power, develop the WMD he had always sought, and transfer those weapons to killers like Zarqawi.