Maybe the United States will just march into Iraq, take over and give Saddam Hussein the boot. Maybe it will get Iraqis or other allies to do the dirty work. Maybe economic strangulation will smoke Saddam out. Perhaps he'll even end up dead.
Such things have befallen America's enemies before.
Following are some of the varied examples of "regime change" instigated, approved or driven by the United States:
Hawaii, 1893 — U.S. forces invaded the island kingdom of Hawaii and forced the surrender of the ruling Queen Lili'uokalani as she secretly worked on a new constitution that would restore power and influence to native Hawaiians. Power had shifted to non-native sugar planters and businessmen via a "Bayonet Constitution" imposed in 1887, though the royal family continued to preside. After Lili'uokalani surrendered, local business interests pushed for annexation by the United States, which occurred in 1898. Hawaii became the 50th U.S. state in 1959. To this day, however, a few Hawaiians still dispute the validity of U.S. rule.
Colombia/Panama, 1903 — President Theodore Roosevelt was unable to reach a deal with Colombia to build a canal through its isthmus of Panama, so the United States took advantage of a revolt in the region and quickly recognized Panama as an independent country. The diplomatic recognition was followed quickly by a deal to build a U.S.-run canal. America ran the canal and a surrounding zone until turning it over to Panama in 1999.
Germany, 1945 — World War II's allied powers continued to run Germany for years after its surrender on May 8, 1945. The Soviet Union eventually converted its sphere of influence into the Communist satellite state of East Germany. But amid continuing economic and organizational aid, the United States, Britain and France created a functioning democracy in West Germany, also known as the Federal Republic of Germany. The country gained limited self-government in 1949, and later full autonomy and NATO membership. Following the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, East and West Germany reunited in 1990.
Japan, 1945 — Japan surrendered to World War II's allied powers on Sept. 2, 1945, and soon was placed under allied control administered by U.S. Gen. Douglas MacArthur. According to the U.S. State Department's Internet site, "U.S. objectives were to ensure that Japan would become a peaceful nation and to establish democratic self-government supported by the freely expressed will of the people." A new constitution took effect in 1947 and Japan — now a U.S. ally described by the State Department as "a constitutional monarchy with a parliamentary government" — gained full sovereignty in 1952.
Iran, 1953 — U.S. manipulation helped lay the groundwork for the overthrow of elected Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadeq, historians say, though the CIA claims documents related to the operation were subsequently destroyed. Mossadeq had incurred the wrath of Britain by nationalizing the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company, and U.S. President Eisenhower reportedly feared Iran was unstable and its oil might fall under the Soviet Union's sphere of influence. In Mossadeq's place, the pro-American Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi installed a puppet prime minister, reasserted his power and effectively ruled for decades. However, his regime was so brutal and unpopular that it is seen as a prime reason for Iran's vehemently anti-American Islamic revolution in 1979. Iran had shown signs of softening its anti-Americanism, but in January President Bush labeled it part of an "axis of evil" that also included Iraq and North Korea.
Guatemala, 1954 — A CIA-supported coup by Guatemalan exiles invaded from a base in Honduras and overthrew the democratically elected, but leftist regime of President Jacobo Arbenz, who was engaged in controversial land reform measures that transferred corporate land to farmers. Until Arbenz resigned during the coup, code named "Operation Success" by U.S. intelligence, CIA plots to assassinate him and other Guatemalan officials were under consideration, published reports on declassified government records say. U.S.-backed Col. Carlos Castillo Armas replaced Arbenz as president, but a decades-long civil war ensued, causing an estimated 100,000 to 200,000 deaths or disappearances during the rule of strongmen friendly to the United States.
Cuba, 1961 (failed) — The United States trained a force largely of Cuban exiles to invade Cuba and topple its Communist leader Fidel Castro. However, the so-called "Bay of Pigs" invasion failed, as did numerous subsequent U.S.-sponsored attempts to kill Castro.
South Vietnam, 1963 — President Ngo Dinh Diem and secret police chief Ngo Dinh Nuh, his brother and chief adviser, were assassinated while trying to escape the country during what historians believe was a U.S.-sanctioned coup. The assassinations led to a series of South Vietnamese leaders ineffective in the war against North Vietnam, which many believe drew the United States deeper into the Vietnam War.
Chile, 1973 — The Nixon administration provided covert funding and the CIA conducted operations to weaken democratically elected, socialist government of Chilean President Salvador Allende and pave the way for a military coup, according to reports on U.S. government documents declassified during the Clinton administration. Thousands of people died or disappeared under the subsequent 17-year rule of Allende's successor, Gen. Augusto Pinochet.
Grenada, 1983 — Bernard Courd, a leftist friendly to Communist Cuba, seized power after a series of coups on this Caribbean island nation where about 1,000 American medical students studied. President Reagan, saying the medical students were in jeopardy, soon ordered an invasion, dubbed "Operation Urgent Fury," which defeated the Marxists and resulted in a pro-U.S. democratic government.
Panama, 1989 — The United States already had indicted Panama's leader, Manuel Noriega, on drug-trafficking and racketeering charges in 1988, when it launched "Operation Just Cause" at the end of 1989 — invading Panama, seizing Noriega, and later putting him on trial in Miami. Panama turned to anti-Noriega leadership chosen in an election that Noriega had annulled months before, and continues to operate under democratically elected leaders. Noriega, who allegedly at one time was a paid CIA informant, was sentenced to 40 years in a U.S. prison in 1992 after a controversial trial, though a judge later reduced the sentence to 30 years. In 1999, the United States turned over control of the Panama Canal to the democratized government of Panama.
Haiti, 1994 — With a U.S.-led multinational invasion force poised to attack and restore democratically elected leaders under a United Nations mandate, military leaders on the poverty-stricken Caribbean island of Haiti stepped down. They had seized control in 1991 from the elected president, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, who was restored under the protection of the multinational force. U.S. peacekeeping troops quickly pulled out as Aristide consolidated power. However, Haiti's financial troubles continue, it has been criticized for its human rights record and subsequent elections were widely denounced as corrupt and undemocratic.
Afghanistan, 2001 — Following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States, President Bush demanded that leaders of the Taliban, the fundamentalist Islamic rulers of Afghanistan, turn over members of the terrorist organization al Qaeda, which Bush accused the Taliban of harboring. When the Taliban leaders failed to produce al Qaeda members — including Osama bin Laden, believed to have organized the Sept. 11 attacks — a U.S.-led force invaded, toppling the Taliban and installing Hamid Karzai as interim prime minister. Afghan elders from the nation's numerous ethnic groups later selected Karzai as leader of a new Afghan coalition government, which exists under the protection of U.S. troops and international peacekeepers.