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Have We Lost Our Warrior Spirit?
by Alan Caruba
10 May 2004

Having accepted the challenge of ending the threat to this nation and the world, are we losing our nerve?


I seriously doubt that any of the detainees in the jails in Iraq have ever read, nor even heard of the Geneva Convention. When I was in the Army, no one ever devoted a minute to discussing it, but maybe things have changed. These rules of conduct for war certainly are unknown to the terrorists who have been waging war on the United States of America.

There clearly were abuses, maybe even criminal acts committed against some of the Iraqi detainees, but the huge uproar over these isolated events is designed to (1) undermine homefront and military morale, and support for the war, and (2) to bolster the resistance to the creation of a democratic nation, Iraq, in the midst of a region that has no other true democracy other than Israel. We seem to have instantly forgotten the killing and mutilation of the bodies of US contractors and the constant danger that confronts our fighting forces. We pay scant attention to the endless bombings and murders perpetrated against the Israelis.

All of the major problems of the world these days come from the Middle East. We either change that region through force of arms and through diplomacy or none of us will ever sleep peacefully in our beds.

I have not liked the American reaction and I have not liked seeing our President publicly apologize for the acts of a few soldiers. From a public relations point of view, I suppose this was necessary, but I don’t recall hearing anything from the Arab press over the three decades that Saddam was jailing, torturing, and killing millions of Iraqis. This is the same Saddam whose cousin, dubbed “Chemical Ali,” gassed thousands of Kurds and used chemical warfare during the eight-year war with Iran. And people are still saying there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

Except for those extraordinary young men and women who volunteered to defend us, I fear we have lost our warrior spirit, the kind of beliefs that permit us to face danger and defeat it. Have we forgotten that the same kind of people attacking our soldiers in Iraq were the ones that attacked us on 9-11?

War is a monstrous undertaking. Americans have fought their share of wars and, most notably, have not done so in quest of an empire. In the last century, we fought to preserve freedom. In this century, we are fighting to expand it against one of its most ancient and ruthless enemies, the Islamic Jihad.

Americans need to remember how we accomplished the end of World War II. We destroyed two Japanese cities with A-bombs in order to secure that nation’s surrender and in Europe we reduced the cities of Nazi Germany to rubble. That war cost the lives of an estimated sixty million people around the world. We made the sacrifices necessary to protect the world against two vile dictatorships. We did what was necessary to end it.

It is the warrior spirit that enabled the first Americans to fight the greatest military power of its time in order to found a new nation; we survived a Civil War and we emerged victorious from two World Wars. We stymied enemies in Korea and everywhere else other than Vietnam. We lost Vietnam because of too much political interference with the military and because Americans had grown weary of the conflict.

This nation gave up the notion of a citizen army after the Vietnam conflict in favor of a volunteer army. Now, in Iraq, that army, plus our National Guard units and reserves, may not to be sufficient to meet the challenge. If you wonder why, just think back to the eight years of the Clinton-Gore administration that did its best to decimate our fighting forces on the land, the sea and in the air.

If you watch C-Span, you can listen to generals of those units tell Congress they are undermanned, they are not battle ready. There are plans to expand the numbers of our active military forces because they are insufficient to meet our worldwide commitments. It will take three years. If we were to announce tomorrow that we will pull our troops out of the many nations we protect and assist, the outcry would be heard from every capital.

Meanwhile, our troops are on the Iraq battlefield, sometimes driving humvees that don’t even have doors, let along armor plating. They are being picked off in small, but steady numbers by mortars, roadside improvised explosives, and by small arms. Americans are watching this war on television and the news for weeks now has been bad. Despite the fact that we are having considerable success fighting the Shiite militia of the radical Muqtada al-Sadr, that news is drowned out by the PR fiasco. Thanks to the abysmal press coverage of the war there is the feeling we are bogged down.

There is yet another, virtually unspoken factor. Here at home, Americans are growing increasingly fearful of another terror attack. Forget about whether such an attack would politically “benefit” either Bush or Kerry. It would not take much to plunge us back to the days following 9-11. The economy was severely harmed. Our airlines are still in big trouble. It took two years before consumers began to feel safe enough to spend money.

And this war is costing us about $60 billion a year while Congress continues to spend money on a whole range of other things including a level of pork-barrel projects that defy the imagination. This Congress is one of the worst in decades. Both sides of the aisle are selling us down the river.

The war is taking place in Iraq and Afghanistan these days, but it’s here, too. Having accepted the challenge of ending the threat to this nation and the world, are we losing our nerve?

A new memorial to those who sacrificed their lives in World War II is a vivid reminder of what the last big war required of us. We call them “the greatest generation,” but will we—that’s all of us--be able to pick up the banner of freedom and fight the greatest enemy of this new century and defeat it?

In November, we will vote for either the President who committed us to the war after we were attacked on 9-11 or a candidate who, from week to week, can’t decide if he is for or against it. If Kerry’s track record means anything, he is against it. If Kerry wins, it will mean our warrior spirit, our willingness to fight for freedom will have been abandoned.

Alan Caruba is the author of Warning Signs, published by Merril Press. His weekly commentaries are posted on the Internet site of The National Anxiety Center.

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