Recent discussions of terrorism and the war in Iraq suggest some points worth raising. Both kinds of warfare are likely to shape our forces in the future. In September 2001 the United States had just been attacked, on its own soil, for the first time since 1941. It may be forgotten that at the time the United States was already at war with Iraq, and had been since 1991. It was not immediately clear whether the two wars were connected, and the degree of connection is controversial. What should not be forgotten is that Afghanistan and Iraq involved vital U.S. interests. The United States had to remain engaged in both kinds of conflict.
Iraq was vital because Saddam Hussein regularly threatened the oil states of the Gulf. Their security is of vital interest to the United States not because the U.S. wants to seize control of oil, but because we want to insure access. Saddam clearly saw control of the Gulf as a means of exerting pressure on the West, and it became obvious that he had little interest in the welfare of his own population and could afford not to sell.