Matthew Yglesias: The Road Not Taken: "'was this the only method available of aiding political reform?'"
This is a horrible question -- a total loser, except with people, who already agree with you. It takes you off into counterfactual speculation, where people's prejudices hold sway.
The critical question to apply to Iraq today is, "Is the U.S. promoting the development of a stable, democratic Iraq?" It is fine for Bush to say that's what he is doing, but what is he, in fact, doing on the ground? This is a question that goes to the interpretation of actual facts. Addressing this factual question opens the possibility of persuading someone, whose opinion may be based on misinformation.
When Bush says that he wants to "save Social Security," no sensible person takes him at his word. We examine whether his ideas and proposals are designed to "save" SS or, rather, and more accurately, to "phase it out."
Democrats need to start analyzing the situation in Iraq, with the same skepticism.
Bush, imho, is trying to create opportunities for corporate business interests to profit from corruption and he is trying to create a need for a permanent American military presence. He has done nothing to strengthen Iraq; he has increase electrical production or the supply of clean water -- the money appropriated for those purposes and many others has been siponed away by corruption. The Iraqi government is kept militarily and economically weak and dependent on the U.S., while the insurgency is allowed to simmer.
The Iraq policy is not unlike the Republican policy of raising the unemployment rate to dampen wage increases. No Republican President will ever say, out loud, that that is his policy, but everyone has done it since WWII. Bush will never say, out loud what his policy objectives are, but he will nevertheless employ means, which are appropriate to his unstated objectives. If his policy fosters corruption, then it is fair to infer that he wants corruption, he wants Halliburton et alia to profit mightily, as they have. If his policy fosters a weak Iraqi government, then it is fair to infer that he wants a weak Iraqi government.
It may be that Bush's Iraq policies will prove to be ineffectual, and that things will go badly. I don't think Bush wants an Iraqi civil war, or to have an Iraqi government ask the U.S. to withdraw. Those things may happen. But, I do not think the sole, or even primary, critical approach, should be to predict disaster. The primary task of policy criticism, at this point, ought to be, to infer from the means being employed, the objectives of the Bush policy, and to make those objectives known.