"Vice President Cheney yesterday offered an unusually revealing glimpse of his worldview -- one in which a withdrawal from Iraq may have less to do with Iraq, and more to do with the message it would send to the world about the limits of American power.
In Cheney's view, withdrawal from Iraq would first and foremost make the United States look weak. And that, in turn, would have cataclysmic domino-style effects across the globe: Afghanistan could fall, and so could Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. The Iranians could get nukes. And the United States itself would become dramatically more vulnerable to attack, not to mention lose its ability to shape a new century favorable to American principles and interests.
Cheney really loathes weakness. And like his fellow neoconservatives, he is consumed with the conviction that an all-powerful United States is both imperative to American security and the best thing for the world. Moral leadership, multilateralism, containment, human rights -- those are all less crucial than maintaining unquestioned power, at the point of a gun if necessary."
"In a review of Suskind's book in Salon, Gary Kamiya offers this context and perspective: "Many reasons have been advanced for why Bush decided to attack Iraq, a third-rate Arab dictatorship that posed no threat to the United States. Some have argued that Bush and Cheney, old oilmen, wanted to get their hands on Iraq's oil. Others have posited that the neoconservative civilians in the Pentagon, [Paul] Wolfowitz and [Douglas] Feith, and their offstage guru Richard Perle, were driven by their passionate attachment to Israel. Suskind does not address these arguments, and his own thesis does not rule them out as contributing causes. But he argues persuasively that the war, above all, was a 'global experiment in behaviorism': If the U.S. simply hit misbehaving actors in the face again and again, they would eventually change their behavior.
" 'The primary impetus for invading Iraq, according to those attending NSC briefings on the Gulf in this period, was to create a demonstration model to guide the behavior of anyone with the temerity to acquire destructive weapons or, in any way, flout the authority of the United States.' This doctrine had been enunciated during the administration's first week by Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld, who had written a memo arguing that America must come up with strategies to 'dissuade nations abroad from challenging' America. Saddam was chosen simply because he was available, and the Wolfowitz-Feith wing was convinced he was an easy target.
"The choice to go to war, Suskind argues, was a 'default' -- a fallback, driven by the 'realization that the American mainland is indefensible.' America couldn't really do anything -- so Bush and Cheney decided they had to do something. And they decided to do this something, to attack Iraq, because after 9/11 Cheney embraced the radical doctrine found in the title of Suskind's book. 'If there's a one percent chance that Pakistani scientists are helping al Qaeda build or develop a nuclear weapon, we have to treat it as a certainty in terms of our response,' Suskind quotes Cheney as saying. And then Cheney went on to utter the lines that can be said to define the Bush presidency: 'It's not about our analysis, or finding a preponderance of evidence. It's about our response.' "
And if you subscribe to that theory -- that invading Iraq was fundamentally a way of delivering a message about U.S. power -- you can see why anything short of absolute victory would be so unpalatable."