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Panorama
The next move for the US
American flag draped over Saddam statue
After toppling the Iraqi regime, what will US do next?

America's first war fought under the Bush doctrine of pre-emptive action appears to have been won.

The sceptics in the media and the State Department are eating humble pie. The supporters feel emboldened. So is America about to rearrange the diplomatic furniture in the Middle East, taking on Syria, Iran and Saudi Arabia?

Or will it return to the old status quo? Much of it depends on how the peace will be won in Iraq and on the largely unpredictable chain of responses from the region.

There are a growing number of influential people in this administration who have now acquired the taste for bold foreign policy experiments.

Flourishing democracy

Paul Wolfowitz
Paul Wolfowitz believes democracy can take hold in the Middle East

Paul Wolfowitz, perhaps the most prominent deputy secretary in the history of the US, has been promoting his vision of a democratic Iraq, emerging from the rubble of war and the Saddam regime ever since 11 September.

In fact at the first crisis meeting in Camp David after the attacks he brought up the Iraq issue, when no one else was interested. His view has now become the view of the administration and it has been vindicated by the war so far.

Mr Wolfowitz worked on Asia during the Reagan administration, he was ambassador to Indonesia and he told editors this week that the Middle East should be viewed much like the Far East.

A decade ago no-one would have thought that South Korea, Taiwan or Indonesia could become flourishing democracies. And look where they are today.

He and much of the White House believe that the same miracle can take place in the Middle East. The difference is many of those Asian countries, especially South Korea and Taiwan, were advanced industrialised nations before they became democracies.

Caution to the wind

Compared to his father's tenure in the White House this George Bush is a radical

Moreover, Mr Wolfowitz's instrument of change is also the prime cause of resentment in the Arab world: US military power, coupled with unstinting American support for Israel.

Nevertheless he is supported by his boss, Donald Rumsfeld, by the vice-president, the National Security adviser, much of the American media and it seems by the president himself, who uses increasingly evangelical language to describe America's mission to "bring the God given right of freedom to the world".

This country has always balanced idealism with power - guns and incense - but this time there are fewer restraints. Complaining Germans and lily-livered Frenchmen do not replace the Soviet Union. They are seen as a nuisance but not as a disincentive.

Compared to his father's tenure in the White House this George Bush is a radical, who has flung caution to the wind not just on foreign policy but also on economic policy, running up the largest deficit in US history and proposing tax cuts that benefit the wealthy in times of rocketing unemployment.

Family history should teach President Bush that this is playing with fire. But: "It's NOT the economy stupid. It's 9/11."

Public opinion

Damascus
Is Syria next on the list?

The 11 September attacks have blooded this nation and turned this president into a war-time leader. Economic wellbeing is now considered less important that national safety. Even if the economy continues to plummet as a result of government policy, American voters will not punish this Bush at the polls as before.

The radicals in the White House may still lose their appetite for adventure if Iraq becomes an intractable mess - the first signs of that happening are already here - or if public opinion polls turn overwhelmingly against the new foreign policy.

But for now the administration is as engrossed in its new experiment (Iraq) as it resents all those governments who tried to derail its mission at the UN.

Matt Frei will be among a group of BBC correspondents answering your questions related to post-war Iraq in a Panorama special on Sunday, 13 April.

To send a question to one of the panel simply fill in the form and click on the "send" button.

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Panorama: After Saddam

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