We'll be here for awhile
Frank Devine writes on the 'real reason' for the invasion of Iraq in the Australian:
The invasion and speedy subjugation of Afghanistan staggered the jihadists. But the US, having succeeded only in dispersing al-Qa'ida and the Taliban, rather than eliminating them, believed it needed to strike another heavy blow.
By then it had identified the jihadist campaign as "a Saudi problem". Most of the September 11 suicide attackers had been Saudis. Bin Laden was a Saudi. Saudi money trails were everywhere. An invasion of Saudi Arabia presented the tactical problem of waging war against a country of vast area and the strategic one of disrupting the world's oil supplies.
The Americans had established and then strengthened a military presence in countries surrounding Saudi Arabia - Yemen, Oman, Qatar, Bahrain and Kuwait. Invasion of Iraq would complete the encirclement.
"From a purely military view," Friedman adds, "Iraq is the most strategic single country in the Middle East, [bordering] six other countries: Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Syria, Turkey and Iran."
I'll be interested to read Friedman's book for the rest of the scoop, but this theory makes a lot of sense to me. It also means that troop levels in Iraq won't be decreasing by too much anytime soon.