Among a significant sub-set known as the ‘neo-cons’ was an idealistic belief that America had a moral imperative to try to remake the world, especially the Middle East. For too long, the US had prized ‘stablity’ in the region over ‘democracy’. That had meant allying themselves with tyrannies (as they once had with Iraq) or seeking to contain rogue states (as they had with Iraq since the Gulf War).

The neo-cons argued that America had a mission to spread democracy and by the force of arms where necessary. This would have the happy by-product, so they thought, of creating pro-Western governments in a region where so much of the world’s oil reserves were concentrated.

The revolution they proposed had a name: ‘The Project for the New American Century’. Several of the leading ‘revolutionaries’ now occupied key positions in the Bush administration. Their aims were crudely, but not inaccurately, summarised by one of their adherents:

If the United States overthrew Saddam Hussein next, it could create a reliable American ally in the potential super-power of the Arab world. With American troops so close, the Iranian people would be emboldened to rise against the mullahs. And as Iran and Iraq built moderate, representative pro-Western regimes, the pressure on the Saudis and other Arab states to liberalize and modernize would intensify.

It was a version of the domino theory. Once the dominos had fallen in the Middle East, so dreamed the neo-cons, the entire region would be under the sway of an even more hegemonic United States. ‘An American-led overthrow of Saddam Hussein….would put America more wholly in charge of the region than any power since the Ottomans, or maybe the Romans.’

Andrew Rawnsley, The End of the Party

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