A commenter over at Feministe asks me how the invasion of Iraq serves the war on terror. My (slightly edited) response:
The specific enemy that the GWOT is most concerned with is a brand of militant Islamic irredentism/imperialism that has failed to make a sufficient foothold in the population to be democratically viable. (Think the Nazis if Hitler hadn't managed to squeak out electoral victory.)
Saddam Hussein's Iraq exemplified one possible variant of the state such folk would establish; Afghanistan under the Taliban, the other. Secular or religious in nature, it's essentially the Nazis, Islamic style. Some of the would-be tyrants, like bin Laden, have global visions. Others, like Saddam, were more regional in scope - so far as we know. (What proof would we have of Hitler's geopolitical intentions, if he had been stopped and deposed after knocking over Czechoslovakia in 1938-1939? None that would stand up.)
Deposing the Iraqi state and re-establishing it under at least reasonably republican principles drives a stake into the global aspirations of the bin Laden wannabes. Can I become a feared terrorist warlord? Sure, kid. Can I set up my own private empire with cities and palaces and nuclear bombs? Well, uh, no. Because if you do, the Americans will come and kick seven kinds of hell out of you.
Palaces, unfortunately for the bad guys, have fixed street addresses.