To me this sounds like Vietnam all over again: our government leaders have become entwined with local leaders with their own local interests, the latter make them want to encourage us to keep our troops there while also opposing other potential paths to peace because these threaten their local power ambitions. The Bush administration can play these forces to keep us there till he leaves in 2009. Only a strong, courageous American leader determined to extricate us could get us out. And there are so many essential things we could do with the money being squandered in Iraq that would truly strengthen us here at home. This makes me think again of Paul Kennedy's warning in his The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers: Economic Change and Military Conflict from 1500 to 2000:
Most of the historical examples covered here suggest there is a noticeable ‘lag time’ between the trajectory of a state’s relative economic strength and the trajectory of its military/territorial influence…. An economically expanding power… may well prefer to become rich rather than to spend heavily on armaments. A half-century later, priorities may well have altered. The earlier economic expansion has brought with it overseas obligations (dependence upon foreign markets and raw materials, military alliances, perhaps bases and colonies)…. In these more troubled circumstances, the Great Power is likely to find itself spending much more on defense than it did two generations earlier, and yet still discover that the world is a less secure environment—simply because other powers have grown faster, and are becoming stronger…. Great Powers in relative decline instinctively respond by spending more on ‘security,’ and thereby divert potential resources from ‘investment’ and compound their long-term dilemma (emphasis added).I believe there is a likelihood that the United States today is a "Great Power in relative decline" that is "spending more on ‘security,’ and thereby divert[ing] potential resources from ‘investment’."
There is a good chance our pseudo-conservative 'tough' leaders are running this country into a ditch and few will notice until it's too late. Through policies of failing to solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, starting a terrorist-producing war in Iraq, spending vast sums of money on useless war and starving investments that need to made at home (see Jacob Hacker's The Great Risk Shift), increasing the resources of the wealthy while advising working Americans to 'eat cake'--these pseudo-conservatives are destroying a great country while at the same time succeeding in convincing many that they are the true patriots. They are certainly masters of Madison Avenue PR, 'packaging', propaganda and 'spin'; you have to give them that.