How Empires End

Article excerpt

Responding to the call of Pope Urban II at Claremont in 1095, the Christian knights of the First Crusade set out for the Holy Land. In 1099, Jerusalem was captured. As their port in Palestine, the Crusaders settled on Acre on the Mediterranean.

There they built the great castle that was overrun by Saladin in 1187 but retaken by Richard the Lionheart in 1191. Acre became the capital of the Kingdom of Jerusalem and stronghold of the Crusader state, which fell in a bloody siege by the Mameluks in 1291. The Christians who had not fled were all massacred.

The ruins of Acre are now a tourist attraction.

Any who have visited this site, the last outpost of Christendom in the Holy Land before General Allenby marched into Jerusalem in 1917, cannot on reading of the massive U.S. embassy rising in Baghdad but think of Acre.

At a cost of $600 million, with walls able to withstand mortar and rocket fire and space to accommodate 1,000 Americans, this mammoth embassy, the largest on earth, will squat on the banks of the Tigris inside the Green Zone.

But a decade hence, will the U.S. ambassador be occupying this imperial compound? Or will it be like the ruins of Acre?

What raises the question is a sense that the United States, this time, is truly about to write off Iraq as a lost cause.

The Republican lines on Capitol Hill are crumbling. Starting with Richard Lugar, one GOP senator after another has risen to urge a drawdown of American forces and a diplomatic solution to the war.

But how can U.S. diplomats win at a conference table what 150,000 American troops cannot secure on a battlefield?

Though Henry Kissinger was an advocate of this unnecessary and unwise war, he is not necessarily wrong when he warns of "geopolitical calamity." Nor is Ryan Crocker, U.S. envoy in Iraq, necessarily wrong when he says a U.S. withdrawal may be the end of the American war, but it will be the start of bloodier wars in Iraq and across the region.

Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari also warns of the perils of a rapid withdrawal: "The dangers vary from civil war to dividing the country to regional wars. ... the danger is huge. Until the Iraqi forces and institutions complete their readiness, there is a responsibility on the U. …