Pretty interesting analysis from two State Department types.
Marc Shulman over at American Future and gEye at The Glittering Eye take pretty interesting shots at it, too.
Eric Martin, at Total Information Awareness, provides an alternate viewpoint and a fascinating look at a very positive future that might have occurred had the US not invaded Iraq.
Finally, Dr. Demarche posts readers' comments on the topic.
My own "what if" scenario would begin with Bush bowing to international pressure and allowing the UN six more months to scour Iraq for WMDs. They find very little, and certainly nothing provocative. The sanctions are ended, and with them the no-fly zones.
Meanwhile, the US concentrates more on securing and rebuilding Afghanistan. Reconstruction is faster than has happened in reality, and increased troop strength there leads to increased pressure on warlords to work with Karzai's government. However, the Pakistani border increasingly becomes a rallying point for anti-American jihadis, leading to frequent bombings, temporary jihadi capture and "cleansing" of Afghan villages, and a continuing need for Coalition security operations there. The Pakistani military begins operations against jihadi forces in Pakistan, but is only moderately effective due to widespread sympathy in Pakistan (and the Pakistani army) for the jihadi cause.
Saddam proclaims the lifting of sanctions a great victory over the West in general and the US in specific. He declares the day sanctions end as "Iraq Victory Day." It becomes a new national holiday with mandatory anti-US and pro-Saddam demonstrations. Saddam is confirmed as the hero of the Arabic world and is almost universally praised in Arabic media for his stoicism and refusal to give in to American hegemony.
The Europeans do not lionize Saddam much, but rather focus on how America has been defanged, with condescending praise of the new US multilateralism and harsh criticism of Bush for dragging the sanctions out for so long. The number of Iraqis who died or are projected to have died because of sanctions is emphasized again in European media just to remind everyone that America's "good deed" was something that should have happened years earlier and, because it didn't, killed hundreds of thousands. The idea that Bush actually agreed to end the sanctions in order to secure cheap oil contracts with Iraq becomes "common wisdom" in Europe and the US is demonized for it's greed and destructiveness.
Saddam begins calling for jihad to free Afghanistan from the Crusaders' boots, and secretly begins providing millions of dollars to recruiting, training, and arming jihadis for the war there. Arab leaders around the world follow his lead and begin calling for a return of the Taliban, declaring jihad the duty of every Muslim. Arab jihadists pay drug runners to smuggle them through southern Iran on their way to southern Afghanistan. The smugglers make a bundle, shipping opium out and jihadis in. The Iranians, threatened by a strong US military presence in Afghanistan, turn a blind eye to jihadi smuggling. There are unsubstantiated reports that Iranian special forces are conducting their own operations against US troops in Afghanistan. As violence increases, the US media continues to report it as a quagmire, citing the US defeat in Vietnam and the Soviet defeat in Afghanistan to call for US withdrawal. Ignoring the lessons of past insurgencies, the US sends more troops to Afghanistan, to no real effect. Losing confidence, the US increasingly turns responsibility for Afghanistan over to the UN.
Naom Chomsky writes a book blaming American imperialism for the whole affair. Michael Moore, bent on removing Bush from office in 2004, receives permission from Saddam and makes a documentary in Iraq about the effects of sanctions and depleted uranium munitions used by US forces in the 1991 Gulf War. His interviews with several maimed and deformed Iraqi children and their families, complete with Iraqi doctors claiming these are the results of US actions and use of DU, shock many and fan hatred of the US. Although wildly overestimating the number of Iraqis who died under sanctions (and ignoring Saddam's role in their deaths), and taking the most conspiratorial tone about DU munitions (he suggests it was an attempt at genocide), it becomes an instant mainstay of anti-US, anti-Bush movements in Europe, the US, and the Arab world, though not getting much big screen time in America. American actors and musicians denounce the US for the effects of the sanctions and DU rounds.
Around Christmas, 2003, the no-fly zones ended and with nothing to stand between it and the rebellious Kurds, Saddam's Republican Guard sweeps into the Kurdish region. The Kurdish militias fight valiantly, but are overwhelmed. The UN Security Council, while recognizing the need for Iraq to consolidate its sovereign territory, offers mild condemnation of the killing of civilians and asks Saddam to be gentle, but French and Russian oil contracts signed during the sanctions era (not to mention outright bribes to French and Russian officials) ensure vetoes of any UN move to prevent the slaughter. Concerned about Kurdish insurgents, Turkish and Iranian soldiers seal their respective borders, leaving the Kurds alone and trapped, facing the Republican Guard. Entire Kurdish towns are butchered. No one knows how many Kurdish civilians die, but certainly tens of thousands, maybe more. When Kurdish resistance fighters begin guerrilla warfare against the Republican Guard, scoring early successes, Kurdish towns near their victories are destroyed by heavy and sustained artillery fire, killing tens of thousands more, and the guerrillas quickly lose any popular support. UN condemnation becomes shrill, but no actions are agreed upon or taken by the Security Council. European editorialists claim the slaughter is unfortunate but necessary for a sovereign nation to secure its lands, and ultimately the fault of the US for building Kurdish autonomy during the sanctions era.
The Arabic media portray the slaughter as a necessary action to end US/Israeli-inspired and funded revolt, although no evidence exists that the US or Israel encouraged or funded the Kurdish resistance. There is an international outcry in the press against the slaughter, especially in Europe and the US. Both Europeans in general and many American scholars and military leaders blame the US for not protecting the Kurds. There are demonstrations and street protests against Bush for helping Saddam commit genocide, although the US does not participate in any way and in fact is the loudest voice calling for UN action to protect the Kurds and places unilateral sanctions on Iraq over the massacres. Where noticed, these US efforts are seen as cynical attempts to pretend innocence.
Leftist cartoonists begin depicting Bush and Saddam as twins or lovers. Bush is often depicted in an Iraqi military uniform (much like the one Saddam wears) eating Kurdish children. A few photos of the carnage leak out and become instant Internet sensations, as well as finding use in anti-Bush / anti-US posters in demonstrations. Leftist sources in the US begin circulating the European idea that Bush backed off the sanctions not out of multilateralism or respect for world opinion, but rather in exchange for promises of cheap Iraqi oil, and the "No Blood For Oil" slogan (this time no Kurdish blood) makes a comeback. World opinion about the slaughter in Iraq spills over to American involvement in Afghanistan, and there are increasing calls for the US to get out of Afghanistan. American popularity sinks to an all-time low, even in America.
The Shiites may or may not take the fight with the Kurds as an opportunity to rebel, but if they do, it merely results in pinprick attacks against Saddam's army and brutal reprisals against Shiite towns.
In 2004, Bush is defeated. The world says "good riddance" and welcomes the new Democrat in the White House. American popularity briefly sees a rise in Europe. Dan Rather retires as one of American journalism's heroes and publishes his best-selling autobiography. Of no consequence whatsoever, A Guy In Pajamas is chosen as a blog name by an ex-pat Hugh Hefner fan living in Brazil, who dedicates his site to pleasure and leasure, and completely ignores politics.
Saddam, after consolidating his nation, continues ruling Iraq for some years. He rebuilds the Iraqi armed forces, increases funding for Palestinian terrorist organizations and Afghanistan-bound jihadis, and rebuilds his WMD stocks, secretly at first, although increasingly openly as European powers help him. He maintains his limited ties with Al Qaeda, funelling money to them secretly and providing a constant stream of jihadis for their campaigns in Afghanistan. Attacks against US institutions abroad increase and are increasingly sophisticated. American foreign policy becomes increasingly isolationist, with "send money" becoming its primary response to international problems. When Arafat dies, Saddam's money and a number of political assassinations ensure a Palestinian leader with similar views succeeds him. The Israeli-Palestinian bloodshed worsens as Hamas uses its increased Iraqi funds well.
Libya, on the other hand, announces its break with Saddam and declares its intent to eliminate all its WMDs. This is hailed as a great victory for multilateralism and European diplomacy, with some positive comments on the US contribution and Johnny-come-lately multilateral cooperation.
The US finally leaves Afghanistan in the care of the UN and European peace keepers, and France takes the lion's share of credit for the rebuilding and for democratic elections there. The Arab world rejoices in a second American defeat. With the US gone, the jihadis in Afghanistan declare victory. They cut some behind-the-scenes deals with France, hide their weapons, and re-infiltrate Afghanistan. Their threat, and a number of assassinations, prevents real democratic elections from continuing, although the pretense of democracy is maintained, and gradually extremist Muslim rule is reintroduced. Already well-organized and funded, these veterans form the basis for a stronger Al Qaeda. The jihad having died down, the UN declares Afghanistan a success story and ends the peacekeeping mission.
As America gradually withdraws from the world and China becomes more powerful, Japan slowly begins to realign itself with China. China opens its markets more to Japanese companies and in exchange Japan increases investment there and gives China more and more technology. Chinese threats against Taiwan increase, and European opinion, led by the French, puts pressure on the US to end the standoff in the Formosa Straits. North Korea continues to be a boil on the world's butt, but massive food aid from the US and Japan, along with Chinese inducements, keep the peace on the Korean peninsula.
At some point, for some reason, Saddam dies and is succeeded by one of his sons, who continues his father's reign. Saddam may have died from old age, or it may have been assassination. The world doesn't know, although the Arabic press claims the Jews poisoned him for being an Arabic hero and this precipitates anti-Israeli and anti-US demonstrations, and a few riots in the Arabic world. Saddam is proclaimed a martyr. Many world leaders gather for his funeral, praising his stoicism and the leadership he gave to the Arabic world.
Conspiracy theorists note that no US companies ever got Iraqi oil contracts and theorize the US had Saddam killed for breaking his promises to provide it with cheap oil in exchange for an end to sanctions. With broad domestic support for the US president, these remain in the conspiracy theorist realm until surfacing in a Naom Chomsky book published just before a presidential election. The same book also notes that Muslim extremists have regained control in Afghanistan and blames it on lack of US commitment there. Although unrelated, the Democrats increase their hold on American political power. Chomsky goes on an international speaking tour.
Update 1: The Daily Demarche's update link is fixed.
Update 2: I defend my honor and my Japan-China alliance assertions. Hah! Take that!