Robert Stein 1924-2014

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Saturday, August 21, 2010

Slouching Out of Iraq

Generations of Americans have to take it on faith that wars can be won. Not since V-J Day in 1945 has there been dancing in our streets and strangers kissing in joy and relief.

With the mission in Baghdad far from accomplished, the last U. S. combat troops leave behind 4415 dead, billions of dollars spent (or stolen) and come home to a nation that is much less safe or united after seven years of sacrifice.

As the New York Times sums up the departing soldiers' mood, the war has been "not a glorious cause or... an adventure" but "a job that remains unfinished."

This echoes a Times report 35 years ago: "The last American troops left South Vietnam today, leaving behind an unfinished war that has deeply scarred this country and the United States.

"There was little emotion or joy as they brought to a close almost a decade of American military intervention."

The difference between then and now is that there is no foreseeable close. The 50,000 in so-called advise and assist brigades that remain behind, a military commander admits, although they "do not have a formal combat mission will, however, be combat capable. Some of those forces that will be embedded with Iraqi forces could indeed be drawn into combat."

What Barack Obama in his campaign called a "dumb war" is winding down not with a bang but a whimper of indefinite occupation in a country that was supposed to possess Weapons of Mass Destruction and to have harbored the 9/11 terrorists, neither of which turned out to be true.

With our human sacrifices continuing in Afghanistan, the American mood resembles that immortalized by William Butler Yeats at the end of World War II:

Things fall apart; the center cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world...
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

Yeats ended "The Second Coming" with

And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

In this century, a "rough beast" of anarchy is being gestated not only in the Middle East but here at home. Its coming is no cause for celebration.

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