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.”
Professor Bainbridge comments:
I would really like to believe US policy is this well thought out. At the moment, I’m intrigued but skeptical. Nothing to do, I guess, but buy the book and find out. And, while you’re waiting for Friedman’s book to arrive, be sure to go read Devine’s whole column – it’s quite stimulating.
Now, I like what I’ve read of Stratfor (which George Friedman founded), but this makes no sense. If our goal is to address the problem of Saudi Arabia, why not invade…Saudi Arabia? The reason for containment as a policy was that a war weary world didn’t want a war with the Soviet Union in the aftermath of the second world war. There’s an argument that the arab street would rise up if their holy places were taken over, but the US could have used a mercenary army, a seige, or accepted that problem. Invading Iraq has seemingly drawn out those who think fighting the US is a fine idea. Iraq is providing them with a training ground, much the way the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan brought today’s generation of jihadis together.
There’s a sentence in the review:
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.
But Iraq has these same problems, plus the minor difficulty that they were already effectively contained. (Yes, they were straining against that, but Iraq had failed to rebuild its weapons programs, and was effectively unable to field an army when the US invaded.)
Eaglespeak offers the more convincing explanation that we’re containing Iran, not Saudi Arabia. That makes more sense. The Iranians have been exporting terror against the US for 25 years. They had direct contact with Al Qaeda going back to the Afghan war against the Soviets. They provided Bin Laden with support and training. But again the question, why not invade Iran? There’s going to be a good answer soon, which is that they will be a nuclear power, and that’s very scary. It’s scary because the Iranian regime, from its takeover of the US embassy, onto the bombing of the US Marines in Beruit, to its support of Hizbollah and Al Qaeda, has always acted on their stated policy of exporting the Islamic revolution.
There’s also the argument, not addressed in the review, that we should have remained focused on Afghanistan and possibly Pakistan until we captured or killed Bin Laden and his close aides.