Wednesday, May 19, 2004


Which segues to my summer and early fall in uniform: For a short time, the U.S. Army will make me part of the minute-by-minute, ground-level effort in Iraq. I specify in Iraq, for every American, in some form or fashion, is part of this war. It is sad that some people do not realize that.

America's wealth makes it easy to create the perception of distance, that "here" and "over there" aren't intimately linked. American successes in the War on Terror have created, for a vocal segment of the America body politic, the illusion that 9-11 didn't change things too darn much. The inevitable difficulties of war -- war, by definition, is a mistake-ridden enterprise, Carl von Clausewitz's realm of "friction" -- lead another vocal faction into the delusion that America is somehow responsible for fomenting the conflict.

That clan touts figment utopias and fantasy options that ignore the difficult facts. This war cannot be willed away, it cannot be won by slick talk or poignant U.N. resolutions. The war is not America's fault. Islamist terrorists -- the export of decayed Middle Eastern dictatorships and autocracies -- decided if they could knock out America they could knock off the world.

We are now fighting a worldwide, "simultaneous war" in at least two dozen places around the planet, with the fight in Iraq key to America's long-term strategy. The dysfunctional political systems in the Middle East export their tribal, civil and religious wars as international terror. Porous borders, weapons of mass destruction, commercial jet transports, ballistic missiles, mass communications -- the light and dark of modernity -- mean their tribal battles are no longer local horrors.

Removing Saddam began the reconfiguration of the Middle East -- a dangerous, expensive process, but one that will lay the foundation for true states where the consent of the governed creates legitimacy and where terrorists are prosecuted, not promoted. The job of building New Iraq falls on the Iraqi people, but they have a precious opportunity, one supported by government civilians and contractors, volunteer workers and, of course, the uniformed military personnel serving with the U.S.-led coalition.

It is my privilege to join that group for the next few months. I know the hardest burden in this deployment will be borne by my wife and daughters. I thank them for their sacrifice.

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