The Early Cost Of Empire

by R. Cort Kirkwood

We have the early returns on the war in Iraq.

Saddam's organized military is crushed, but the United States now faces a deadly, expensive, endless occupation, which is shaping up rather differently than the post-war occupation of Germany and Japan.

If we think much of the Muslim world hates us now, just wait five years. More importantly, our national character and liberty is at stake.

The Occupation

As it is, those of us who predicted the consequences of occupation were correct.

American military officials admit the occupation could be as long as five years. As well, war minister Donald Rumsfeld says the occupation of Iraq, now at 150,000 troops, costs $3.9 billion a month, on top of $900 million a month for Afghanistan.

Over 12 months, that's about $50 billion.

How long those military expenditures will continue is anyone's guess, but at least those are only money.

Our soldiers, now serving as urban police, get killed two and three at a time in gruesome attacks. They are nervous, scared and some now openly question, a recent article in the Washington Post reports, why they are there.

No wonder. Since May 1, when President Bush declared the war over, an Iraqi resistance, apparently organized to harass occupation troops, the paper reports, has killed 32 Americans.

Two died on Wednesday.

Not Like World War II

This is the cost of military aggression.

Whatever one thinks of World War II and its causes, the world viewed the United States as heroic liberator. We fought against powers that attacked or declared war on the United States. The Christian inhabitants of France and even Germany welcomed the American fighting man with a warm embrace and flowers.

Even the Japanese came to love the Americans; they admired Gen. MacArthur, the military regent who ruled Japan.

In all my reading about World War II, I don't recall anything resembling the attacks on our soldiers in Iraq. Yes, during the Cold War in the late 1940s, Americans were kidnapped from the streets of Berlin, never to return. But the aggressor there was the Soviet government.

German civilians did not plant land mines on bridges. They did not shoot Americans from ambush.

But Muslim Iraq is not Christian Europe.

Empires Fail

The point: A Republic, even one more powerful than any other nation, cannot manage an empire. Indeed, a ruthless totalitarian regime cannot manage an empire, as the Soviet Union found out.

If we can't form a stable government in Washington, D.C., how pray tell, can we form one in Baghdad?

Stories and photos tell the story: American soldiers search Iraqi citizens at gunpoint. They arrest newspaper editors who ask the wrong questions. An American soldier accidentally killed a young boy he thought was an aggressor.

The occupation hardens the hatred of the Muslim world for Americans. And it dissipates the morale of the soldiers, who cannot identify friend and foe and who work in unrelenting fear and tension.

Eroding The Republic

The United States is playing an untenable imperial role that history warns is the enemy of liberty at home. One small piece of evidence? While American troops patrol Baghdad, dangerous Illegal immigrants, some of whom kill Americans on returning after deportation, patrol American cities.

This lurch toward world dominion will destroy what is left of America's good will abroad. Even worse, it will further erode what is left of its republican government.

Time to come home.

Syndicated columnist R. Cort Kirkwood [send him mail] is managing editor of the Daily News-Record in Harrisonburg, Va.

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