Veering from Riyadh to Baghdad
President Bush wielded power far beyond that of his two centrist predecessors to lead the country by means of the sense of urgency he created, secrecy, and his legal redefinition of America's enemies and foreign commitments. After 9/11 he used his legal doctrine of preemptive war, which seemed a nice fit with his party's goals in 2002 and 2004 but a poor one with international law and world consensus. And the results mattered; his early approach shaped the international and local terms of the occupation of Iraq, and these in turn shaped ensuing international relations and the situation in Iraq.
Although fifteen of the nineteen hijackers and Osama bin Laden himself came from Saudi Arabia, President Bush first paused and then systematically excused the Saudis from their responsibility and instead took us into Iraq. Why? His approach to occupation alienated the world community and shut out even supportive elements of his own government, such as State Department and military service planners. The timing, in particular, of many steps seemed far more attuned to the calendars of the 2002 and 2004 elections than to the national interest. Why?
This chapter follows a particular line of reasoning, mostly legal: I describe the legal arrangement set up by a president whose background lay in the oil industry and in Texas and a vice president whose background lay in strategic thinking about the Middle East as an oil source—both of whom thought of the national strategic interest as interwoven with their party's