The Iraq War as a warning for America
Part V of a series about America’s new Long War
October 1, 2007
Failure to achieve our objectives in Iraq (peaceful, united, stable, and secure …) means that our military score since WWII will be no wins, one tie, and two defeats. Not a pleasant portent for those believing we wage a new Long War. Should we learn nothing from this about 4GW, as we did from Vietnam, America’s only hope for survival might be prayer.
Three big picture lessons emerge for America, as we look about in the middle of this war. First, two important but lesser warnings:
A greater warning for America
Consider Iraq. A sovereign state since 1932. A state so strong that it survived nine years of brutal war with far larger Iran, survived humiliating defeat following its invasion of Kuwait, and survived 13 years of painful trade sanctions. This apparently strong state disintegrated almost instantly in spring 2003.
While an extreme case, Iraq is a paradigmatic story of our time. The Decline of the State. People’s allegiances shift from the state to larger entities, such as transnational ideologies or religions – or smaller entities, like clans or regions. Or to other allegiances, such as to ethnic groups.
We should heed the words of a not yet famous historian1/:
The edifice of the state began cracking in Europe during WWI. The power of the state peaked almost everywhere during the 1970’s. It is happening everywhere. The America political regime is deteriorating slowly, not like the collapse of Iraq’s regime, but it is declining just a surely.
The decline of the state is too slow and too large a process for most of us to even see until someone points out the cracks in this gigantic edifice. That someone is Martin van Creveld.
For an introduction to his thinking about this see his essay “The Fate of the State.”
For the full story read his magnum opus “Rise and Decline of the State.”
1/ This paragraph paraphrases the words of the historian Hari Seldon speaking about similar events in our distant future. From chapter one of Isaac Asimov’s “Foundation” (1951).
Are the things reported here good or bad? Please consult a priest or philosopher for answers to such questions. This author only discusses what was, what is, and what might be.
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Fabius Maximus was the Roman leader who saved Rome from Hannibal by recognizing its weakness and therefore the need to conserve its strength. He turned from the easy path of macho “boldness” to the long, difficult task of rebuilding Rome’s power and greatness. His life holds profound lessons for 21st Century America.
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Read the past articles by Fabius Maximus. A work of intellectual analysis stands on its own logic, supported by the author’s track record.
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