Iraq was the logical starting point. It was a secular country, seemingly modern with a large middle class, the most "Western" country in Mesopotamia. It was a good target, because it was ruled by a Despotic Dictator, who had committed atrocities against his neighbors and his own citizens. Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait only strengthened the case for his removal.
The attacks on September 11, 2001 provided the justification for the invasion of Afghanistan which had hosted training camps for the attackers. While there was no connection between Iraq and 9-11, a strong case could be made for removing Saddam Hussein. The plans long formulated by the Neocons were put into action and Hussein was removed.
The Bush administrations had presented the American people with the "Rosy Scenario" likening the invasion to freeing France during World War Two, complete with cheering crowds welcoming their liberators. In the first days it looked like it would succeed. Then through bad luck and bad planning it all fell apart.
"Inability to carry on the struggle can, in practice, be replaced by twoThis is the problem we face today. With growing opposition to the war, Bush is like the man who jumped on a bed of cactus plants. When he was asked "why," he could only answer "It seemed like a good idea at the time"
other grounds for making peace: the first is the improbability of victory; the
second is its unacceptable cost." Carl von Clausewitz
All this points to a basic flaw in Americas conduct of war since World War Two. Since then both the Executive and Legislative branches have waged war on an ad hoc basis. While politically expedient, the use of Congressional Resolutions has violated the Constitution by allowing military conflict without a formal declaration of war. A Congressional Resolution leads to uncertainty and givesammunition to the war’s opponents.
The Korean War was fought under a Resolution by the United Nations and not the Declaration required by the Constitution. Eventually public opinion turned against the endeavor. Vietnam was fought under the "Gulf of Tonkin" resolution with the same results. And now we are facing public doubt and resistance over the Iraq conflict.
A Democratic nation cannot sustain a long conflict without the support of its citizens. The last fifty years have shown Congressional Resolutions are not sufficient to preserve public support. Only a formal Declaration of War can do that. Taking the politically expedient passage of a resolution is the formula for failure.