I live in Nijmegen, which is close to Arnhem. Remember 'A Bridge too far'? Yeah, there. WW2 is not that far away: there was a war memorial and cemetary a few hundred meters away from our old-old flat. There's a really large WW2 museum in Groesbeek. The central square in Nijmegen is called 'Plein 1944', because it was liberated that year.
When you see footage of the end days of WW2, you see cheering people waving at soldiers from the US, the UK and Canada, sitting on tanks that roll through the streets. People were really being liberated: their freedom was increasing, and they knew it and welcomed it.
Reading through the history of WW2, it seems to me that the US didn't have ideological motives for entering the war, but economical: by extending "all aid short of war" to the allies, they would gain access to the protectionist markets of the European colonial powers.
How is this different from today? The Bush administration maintains that their Iraqi adventure is based on ideological motives, but cynics maintain there is an economical motive. And yet the Iraqi don't feel liberated. What went wrong? Was Saddam not oppressive enough to the common man, so that his removal from power was not felt as greatly as the defeat of the nazis? Or did the US fail to create stability, and did the warring factions simply fill the power vacuum with their own struggles, thereby not really improving the lot of the common population?
I don't have answers. But I do wonder how the Iraqi of sixty years later will look at this period in the history of their country. I wonder if they would feel the same gratitude and respect for the American soldiers who fought in their country, as we Europeans have for those who fought to liberate Europe.
Then the timer ran out, and I popped the PCB into the developer. Life goes on, but it pays to think about these things once in a while.