By Jim Garamone
BAGHDAD, Aug. 12, 2006 – The will of the United States is the only question in whether the nation's effort in Iraq and Afghanistan will succeed, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said today. "There is no way to militarily lose this war," Marine General Peter Pace said, speaking to reporters traveling with him while en route here. "The only way we can lose is if we decide that we just don't want to do it. And if we decide that, that would not end the involvement, it would simply shift it from its current battlefield in Iraq and Afghanistan to our home."
Pace said support for the war is a concern for him, "because the American military fights the wars that the nation wants us to fight. The American people's will is a very important part of that," he said. "I have faith in the American people's ability to find the right boundaries." He said Americans need to remember the events of Sept. 11, 2001. The United States did not start the war, he said,but "if we were to come home, the war would simply follow us home. I believe the American people would understand that."
Pace, a Vietnam veteran, said the American people are still very supportive of servicemembers. He assures soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines he meets during trips of that fact. Americans must understand that this is a long war, he said, and it is not of U.S. choosing. "Our walking away would not stop the enemy from following us home," he said. Al Qaeda extremists have been very explicit in their aims, he noted; they want their ideology to triumph, and they want the freedoms and liberty personified by the United States to end.
"Americans are slow to anger, desirous of living peacefully, but also have a point that if you cross it, they raise up a strength that our enemies will never understand," he said. "That strength was manifested on 9/11, and it will continue." The chairman said a dialogue about U.S. involvement in the war is important. "But there shouldn't be one about whether we will defend ourselves," he said. "As a nation, our enemies must know we will do this as long as it takes. We fought the Cold War for 50 years, we'll fight this one for 50 years if we have to."