By Patrick J. Buchanan
-- -- -Responding to the call of Pope Urban II at
Claremont in 1095, the Christian knights of the First
Crusade set out for the Holy Land. In 1099, Jerusalem was
captured. As their port in Palestine, the Crusaders settled
on Acre on the Mediterranean.
There they built the great castle that was overrun by
Saladin in 1187, but retaken by Richard the Lion-Hearted in
1191. Acre became the capital of the Kingdom of Jerusalem
and the stronghold of the Crusader state, which fell to the
Mameluks in a bloody siege in 1291. The Christians left
behind were massacred.
The ruins of Acre are now a tourist attraction.
Any who have visited this last outpost of Christendom in the
Holy Land before Gen. Allenby marched into Jerusalem in 1917
cannot – on reading of the massive U.S. embassy rising in
Baghdad – but think of Acre.
At a cost of $600 million, with walls able to withstand
mortar and rocket fire and space to accommodate 1,000
Americans, this mammoth embassy, largest on earth, will
squat on the banks of the Tigris inside the Green Zone.
But, a decade hence, will the U.S. ambassador be occupying
this imperial compound? Or will it be like the ruins of
What raises the question is a sense the United States, this
time, is truly about to write off Iraq as a lost cause.
The Republican lines on Capitol Hill are crumbling. Starting
with Richard Lugar, one GOP senator after another has risen
to urge a drawdown of U.S. forces and a diplomatic solution
to the war.
But this is non-credible. How can U.S. diplomats win at a
conference table what 150,000 U.S. troops cannot secure on a
Though Henry Kissinger was an advocate of this unnecessary
war, he is not necessarily wrong when he warns of
"geopolitical calamity." Nor is Ryan Crocker, U.S. envoy in
Iraq, necessarily wrong when he says a U.S. withdrawal may
be the end of the America war, but it will be the start of
bloodier wars in Iraq and across the region.
Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari also warns of the
perils of a rapid withdrawal: "The dangers vary from civil
war to dividing the country to regional wars ... the danger
is huge. Until the Iraqi forces and institutions complete
their readiness, there is a responsibility on the U.S. and
other countries to stand by the Iraqi government and the
Iraqi people to help build up their capabilities."
In urging a redeployment of U.S. forces out of Iraq and a
new focus on diplomacy, Lugar listed four strategic goals.
Prevent creation of a safe haven for terrorists. Prevent
sectarian war from spilling out into the broader Middle
East. Prevent Iran's domination of the region. Limit the
loss of U.S. credibility through the region and world as a
result of a failed mission in Iraq.
But how does shrinking the U.S. military power and presence
in Iraq advance any of these goals?
Longtime critics of the war like Gen. William Odom say it is
already lost, and fighting on will only further bleed the
country and make the ultimate price even higher. The general
may be right in saying it is time to cut our losses. But we
should take a hard look at what those losses may be.
It is a near certainty the U.S.-backed government will fall
and those we leave behind will suffer the fate of our
Vietnamese and Cambodian friends in 1975. As U.S. combat
brigades move out, contractors, aid workers and diplomats
left behind will be more vulnerable to assassination and
kidnapping. There could be a stampede for the exit and a
Saigon ending in the Green Zone.
The civil and sectarian war will surely escalate when we go,
with Iran aiding its Shia allies and Sunni nations aiding
the Sunnis. A breakup of the country seems certain. Al-Qaida
will claim it has run the U.S. superpower out of Iraq and
take the lessons it has learned to Jordan, Saudi Arabia and
the Gulf states. The Turks, with an army already on the
border, will go in to secure their interests in not having
the Kurdish PKK operating from Iraq and in guaranteeing
there is no independent Kurdistan. What will America do
As for this country, the argument over who is responsible
for the worst strategic debacle in American history will be
With a U.S. defeat in Iraq, U.S. prestige would plummet
across the region. Who will rely on a U.S. commitment for
its security? Like the British and French before us, we will
be heading home from the Middle East.
What we are about to witness is how empires end.
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