Here's an interesting piece from the historian Gabriel Kolko on the background to Iraq and other current crises. Money quote:
"George W. Bush and his cronies have done incalculable damage and committed terrible follies, but it is a fundamental error to assume that he is somehow original and the genesis of our present crisis." Kolko argues that "George W. Bush inherited conventional wisdom regarding the world mission and universal interests that guide American policies on the world scene. The same ambitions have been shared by leaders of other powers who believe that wars serve as effective, controllable instruments of national goals." Bush merely intensified attitudes toward the Middle East that have been prevalent among U.S. policy types since the end of World War II. And in some ways the region's trouble go back to the unjust and unnatural order imposed on the area by the Western powers after World War I.
The upshot? It will take more than Bush leaving office to restore something like sanity and modesty in U.S. foreign policy. There's a much longer history to reconsider and for many people to recant. But I still think that while they can be worked up to believe official demonization of other regimes, most Americans still don't want their government running an empire.