Earlier I pointed out that all of the "official" reasons for invading Iraq were bogus. This hasn't changed; indeed, the bogosity has only gotten deeper, with the abandonment of "establishing democracy" as a goal. We have to keep Turkey, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar happy; a peaceful, prosperous, secular, democratic Iraq certainly won't do it.
However, another reason just occurred to me. Georgie Bush wanted to invade Iraq last August. Why the wait? Well, Georgie can move his little plastic soldiers around on the map all he wants, but this thing called the Real World keeps intruding. It ain't that easy. The American military has an enormous logistical "tail" -- our armed services require a huge amount of material just to stay in one place, let alone fight. We needed this lead time to get our forces into position.
This kind of thing makes military types really nervous. What if our adversary were capable of mounting an attack before we got all our stuff in place? This was certainly a consideration in Gulf War I; I've heard the soldiers and airmen who started the buildup in Saudi Arabia refer to themselves as "speed bumps". If Saddam Hussein had attacked before our defenses were in place, it would have been the biggest US military disaster since the Bay of Pigs.
Now, in Afghanistan, this wasn't a problem. We simply did a lot of bombing and supplied advisors/spotters to the Northern Alliance. All the real fighting was done by NA troops. This turned out to be a disaster, as Osama bin Laden slipped through their fingers -- or was simply allowed to walk across the border into Pakistan.
In Iraq, there aren't any "native" troops that we can rely on. We've got to do it ourselves; it's our "boots on the ground". And it's a bitch. Our big transport planes need big fancy runways. Our tank carriers are too heavy for most bridges. Everything burns a huge amount of fuel. And it all has to come in via the pleasure of some very uncertain allies. Turkey, where the popular support for the war is essentially nonexistant, is making demands that amount to pure extortion. Saudi Arabia is "suggesting" that any long-term occupation force should be composed of good Muslims -- I'm sure that Wah'habi Saudis would be welcomed with open arms by Iraq's Shi'ai majority -- like having Salt Lake City occupied by the Pope's Swiss guards. Actually, both the Mormons and the Swiss guards are far more civilized than any party to this little shin-kicking match.
So how about this?
We move into Iraq. Pick out a likely site. And build a bigass, permanent military base. Our puppet in Baghdad gives us a permanent or semipermanent lease (think Guantanamo). Iraq's western desert is big, empty, and flat. Ideal for airstrips, both fighters and transport planes. Assuming the threats to pull US troops out of Europe were real policy statements and not just bluster, we could move forces out of Germany and into Iraq. Now, the next time we wanted to throw our weight around in the Middle East, we wouldn't have to spend six months moving our forces into position while coddling a bunch of very fussy dictators.