Newt Gingrich just wrapped a speech on "an alternative history of the war since 9/11," the product of "immersion" (his word) in the history of Lincoln's and FDR's war-time decision-making. The fictional president who took charge after 9/11 - let's call him President Ringrich - formed a "war cabinet," recruited tens of thousands of new soldiers and State Department experts, and modernized medical records and border security technology. He would have "issued waivers" whenever "common sense solutions could not be applied because of existing federal regulations."
Would President Ringrich have invaded Iraq and deposed Saddam Hussein?
[T]he challenges of Iraq, Iran, Syria and Saudi Arabia would have been dealt with as a regional conflict. There would have been no safe harbors for Iraqi dictators to send their money and their key staffs. There would have been no free passage through Damascus for foreign terrorists to come kill Americans. There would have been no tolerance for Iranian subsidies, training, and weapons to kill Americans. A grand strategy would have built up sufficient economic, political and military power to confront the four nations with a simple choice: change your behavior or have your regimes changed.
This seems similar to what actually happened, albeit with greater national unity and will and more predictability from the Middle East. What about Iraq, specifically?
In that world, there might have been less violence as weak dictatorships realized they could not survive against the fury of an American people mobilized to action or there could have been more violence as they banded together to defy America openly and claim the right to finance and support terrorism against civilization and against innocent civilians.
But did we need to invade Iraq?
The details of the alternative Afghan and Middle Eastern campaigns might make for a good seminar and even a useful book.
I followed up on this and Gingrich's answer was that "it isn't about whether or not we invade Iraq," which represents a little bit of a change from his statements about Iraq back in 2002 and 2003 here on Earth-1.