Captain Den Beste discusses
(again) the need for and consequences of an invasion of Iraq. He says of the Arabs:
They know full well that we can stomp them all flat, but they have never believed that we'd actually be willing to do so, and they won't believe it until we actually do so once and prove it.
The only comment I wish to add is that they won't believe it until we do it at least
Accomplishing a regime change in Iraq has been our policy goal (whether or not it was explicitly stated) since the end of the first Gulf War. It seems clear to me that there is no chance at all of establishing that we have the will to act in the region unless and until we act to accomplish that policy goal. But it is open to question whether a successful invasion of Iraq will (would?) itself be sufficient to convince the Palestinians, Syrians, Saudis and others that we have the will to crush them if they push us far enough.
We have a great deal of history to overcome in this regard, since we have been pushing Israel for years to make concessions (ie: provide signs of Israeli weakness, complete US impotence and imminent Arab victory) to the very people dead set on its extermination. This, of course, is comes on top of having been in the position to figuratively slit Saddam's throat and having backed away from doing so, apparently for fear of bloodying our hands.
Actually invading Iraq (and winning) will, at the very least, go a long way towards overcoming that history. It may even be probable that it would achieve the goal of establishing our credentials, so to speak. However, that is far from certain. We may end up having to act (and be seen as having acted) to replace the Iranian theocracy and/or Little Assad in Syria. Invasions of those countries might not be required.
For example, it is entirely possible that an Iranian revolution would be triggered simply as a result of our having deposed Saddam. Several years before the fall of the Berlin Wall, I read about a CIA assessment of many of the nations of Eastern Europe. The CIA concluded, correctly, as it turns out, that many of those nations were on the brink of revolution. I would be very interested in reading a similar assessment of Iran. I would also be interested in seeing the sources on which the CIA relied in making that assessment and comparing those sources to those used in making the earlier assessment of Eastern Europe. Since I don't work for the New York Times, however, I don't have the right job for that.
The situation in Syria appears to be more "stable" (scare quotes are used to denote that stability is not necessarily good for children and other living things) and less likely to revolt. Therefore, I would imagine that, to the extent there is a plan at all, it is to invade Iraq, foment an Iranian revolution and then see whether and how we can take advantage of whatever effects that has in Syria, Egypt and Saudi Arabia.