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The Loss Of Will On Iraq

"If this generation of Americans is to act responsibly, it cannot walk away from what it has wrought in Iraq, nor can it ignore the character of the adversary that so bedevils it there." Photo courtesy AFP.
by Loren B. Thompson
UPI Commentator
Arlington VA (UPI) Aug 02, 2007
Something happens to countries when they become empires -- real or metaphorical. Over time their ruling elites grow so affluent and insular that they lose discipline and abandon the habits that made them great. They rationalize away evidence of internal decay and ignore external threats in pursuit of their factional desires. And then one day, they discover they are empires no more.

Americans began hearing about this danger long before anyone ever called their nation an empire. The first volume of Edward Gibbon's "The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire" was published in 1776, and 200 years later another Briton, Alistair Cooke, warned at the conclusion of the acclaimed PBS documentary "America" that the race was on in his beloved republic between decadence and dynamism. During the intervening years, each generation produced observers who thought they detected the beginning of the end for American civilization.

They were all wrong, but the current generation has produced something novel in our history that makes fear of decline more plausible: America has begun losing wars on a regular basis. In the 1970s it was run out of Indochina by Vietcong guerrillas. In the 1980s it withdrew from Lebanon after a terrorist attack. In the 1990s it fled Somalia rather than fight local warlords. And now it is preparing to retreat from Iraq. Even as we laud the fading heroes of World War II as "the greatest generation," we are establishing a pattern of defeat against lesser enemies that signals a profound loss of political will.

Everybody knows that the Iraq conflict could have been avoided if our leaders better understood the history and current conditions in the region. But the same might have been said of every conflict in our history, including the 1861-65 Civil War. If only Lincoln and the Republicans had understood how highly the South valued its slaves! Think of how many lives could have been saved!

If this generation of Americans is to act responsibly, it cannot walk away from what it has wrought in Iraq, nor can it ignore the character of the adversary that so bedevils it there. To quote an editorial in the July 8 New York Times, "Americans must be clear that Iraq, and the region around it, could be even bloodier and more chaotic after Americans leave. There could be reprisals against those who worked with American forces, further ethnic cleansing, even genocide. Potentially destabilizing refugee flows could hit Jordan and Syria. Iran and Turkey could be tempted to make power grabs. Perhaps most important, the invasion has created a new stronghold from which terrorist activity could proliferate."

Aside from the minor detail that most of the world's oil is located in the same region, The Times seemed to capture the consequences of an American retreat quite well. But then, in a heroic non sequitur, it called for the immediate withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq. Such "reasoning" isn't just typical of the mindset currently prevailing in the Democratic Party; it mirrors the emotionalism that got us into Iraq in the first place. Whether we like it or not, we are now responsible for Iraq. We must see the mission there through to a successful outcome or accept history's verdict that the children of America's greatest generation were the moral equivalent of Gibbon's later emperors.

(Loren B. Thompson is chief executive officer of the Lexington Institute, an Arlington, Va.-based think tank that supports democracy and the free market.)

earlier related report
UPI Daily Iraq Press Roundup
by Hiba Dawood - UPI Correspondent
"200 people dead, wounded in three car bomb attacks in Baghdad." A police source, the paper said, confirmed that "a terrorist driving a fuel tank rushed into Al Mansour fuel station." The newspaper also reported on the other two explosions. In Karada, a suicide car bomber sat off his vehicle in the Shiite majority area of Baghdad, killing 20 and wounding 60 others. The third attack took place in the Assyrian Market neighborhood, south of Baghdad, taking the lives of three people and wounding five.

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The independent Al Mada newspaper Wednesday carried a front-page story with the headline "Ministry of Defense calls former army airmen to join the army." The report cited a Defense Ministry source calling on those who were employees of the former Iraqi army to register every Monday and Wednesday to join the army. The requirements for recruits are: must have the will and determination, must pass the medical test, must not to be involved with any political side, must be only loyal to Iraq, and must not been convicted of any crime.

"The pilots will get very good wages and benefits," it said.

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The Patriotic Union of Kurdistan-backed Al Itihad newspaper on its news and reports page published a news article demonstrating that Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki received a letter from British Prime Minister Gordon Brown renewing support for the Iraqi government and its efforts toward a stable and secure Iraq.

The paper also reported that in a meeting with the Muthana province council chief, Maliki said, "We will not withdraw our national responsibility to build the state establishments, and impose the law."

He then added, "The big challenges we are facing are internal ones represented by the destroyed infrastructure that the former regime left behind, and the outside support to terrorism."

Al Itihad also reported that two mortars fell on Al Rasheed hotel, an international hotel inside the Green Zone. They fell in a park close to where a group of international journalists had gathered. In other incidents, the paper reported on its security page, "tens of gunmen set up fake checkpoints on the highway between Tikrit and Baghdad and kidnapped 18 people, mostly residents of Balad district, north of Baghdad." It is unclear what might have happened to those kidnapped, the newspaper said Thursday.

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The Iraqi Nation Congress-backed Al Mutamar reported in its "Raids" section that U.S. forces conducted air raids over Dhiloyah city, north of Baghdad, resulting in the killing of one civilian and the arrest of 20 people. The paper said Thursday that the raid was ongoing and U.S. forces prohibited entry into or exit from the city.

Source: United Press International

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Over the past two years, this Iraq Benchmarks column has been probably the most controversial and criticized column or product that United Press International has published. Curiously, the controversy and criticism has never queried the reliability or accuracy of the statistical figures on U.S., Iraqi civilian and insurgent casualties, or other statistics on the Iraq war that the column monitored.







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