Losing the Will to Fight

by Patrick J. Buchanan

Five years have elapsed since the war on terror began on 9/11. Yet even before nearly 3,000 were killed that day, there had been attacks by Islamic radicals on the World Trade Center, Khobar Towers, our embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, and the USS Cole.

U.S. dead in those attacks was fewer than 100. And while the losses were tragic, they may be put in perspective if we realize that 85,000 people have been murdered in the U.S.A. since 9/11—not one in a terror attack.

Since 9/11, too, six million babies have been aborted in the United States, their places in our national home taken by an equal number of immigrants, legal and illegal, from the Third World. While 9/11 is seared in our memories until death, the America our children will inherit will be far more affected by what is happening in our abortuaries and on our borders. There the fate of the nation is being decided.

In the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq that 9/11 produced, 3,000 Americans have died. Yet that is fewer than the number killed putting down the Filipino insurrection of 1899-1902.

By historical standards, the war on terror, or “World War III,” “World War IV,” or the “Long War” against “Islamofascism,” has been a relatively bloodless affair, if not for the families who have lost loved ones. Over 600,000 died in our Civil War, 3,000 a week for four years.

In World War I, where Doughboys were in heavy combat in 1918 for eight months, we also lost 3,000 men a week. In World War II, we lost about 4,000 every two weeks. In Korea (37,000 dead in three years) and Vietnam (58,000 dead in seven years) we lost an average of nearly 10,000 a year.

In G.J. Meyer’s A World Undone: The History of the Great War 1914-1918, the sentences on French losses in August 1914 alone read thus: “French casualties for the war’s first month are believed to have totaled two hundred sixty thousand of whom seventy-five thousand were killed (twenty-seven thousand on August 22 alone). Among the dead were more than ten percent of France’s regular and reserve officers.”

France lost as many men every day in August 1914 as we have lost in three and a half years. On Aug. 22, 1914, France lost ten times as many dead as we have lost during the entire Iraq War.

Those who mock alleged French cravenness might reflect: France fought for four more years after that horrible August and lost 1.3 million men. Yet 60 percent of Americans are ready to pack it in in Iraq.

Why were Western men willing to die in such numbers rather than accept defeat in the early 20th century, but this generation is not? Not only have we no draft, anyone who called for raising taxes—the top rate was over 90 percent in World War II—would face political retribution.

The reasons are many.

Despite all the propaganda about Islamofascism and the coming caliphate, Americans do not see the war in Iraq as an existential crisis. They do not want to lose the war but are unwilling to pay a much higher price in blood and treasure to win it.

But something more fundamental has happened. Western man is no longer into dying for God and country. Western man, including many Americans, is into self-indulgence. Make love, not war. For we can see war now, up close, and view its awful consequences. And Western man recoils.

Europeans who butchered one another with abandon in the two bloodiest wars of the last century have had their fill. As they age and their numbers shrink, why should they go to war? Their fathers didn’t want to die for Danzig. Why should they die for Kabul?

In the aftermath of 9/11, when President Bush ordered the U.S. military to remove the Taliban, who had given sanctuary to al-Qaeda and Osama, America was with him. When he identified Saddam as an integral part of an Axis of Evil hell-bent on America’s destruction, the nation supported him.

Now America is not so sure.

Preventive war as the antidote to terror seems, now that Anbar province has become the world’s newest base camp of terror, to have failed us. Democracy as the surest guarantee of U.S. security, now that Hamas, Hezbollah, the Muslim Brotherhood, and Moqtada al-Sadr are rolling up election victories, seems a less persuasive proposition.

Like the French, British, and Russians, the Americans, last of the Western imperial powers, are looking homeward. The cost of empire is too high, and our willingness to pay the butcher’s bill has diminished.