The Brits are going home.
Forty thousand marched in beside the Americans. Only 7,100 remain; 1,600 will be heading home by Easter.
By August, the Danish force of 470 is to be withdrawn, as is the tiny Lithuanian unit. South Korea has 2,200 troops in the Kurdish north. Though they rarely leave base, 1,100 are to depart by August, the rest by year's end.
The Italians are gone. The Spanish pulled out after the Madrid bombings. Ukraine's 1,600 have departed. The Japanese have gone. Declaring the war "unjust and wrong," Slovakia's new prime minister just ordered home his country's contingent of 110 engineers.
Only the Americans are going deeper in. Aussies excepted, the "coalition of the willing" is no longer willing.
In Afghanistan, Americans, and Brits, Canadians and Dutch fight, as Germans, French and Italians do "reconstruction." In World War I, France, Italy and Germany lost 4 million men. In Afghanistan and Iraq, the three together have probably not lost 50.
Prime Minister Romano Prodi resigned Wednesday, when his plan to stay in Afghanistan and enlarge a U.S. base in Italy, lest refusal be seen as "a hostile act toward the U.S.A.," was rejected in the Senate.
Vice President Cheney hails Tony Blair's announced withdrawal of British troops as a sign of success. Yet, he says the Pelosi-Murtha plan to withdraw U.S. troops would only "validate the al-Qaida strategy."
The White House says the British pullout is an affirmation of our partnership, but the Brits could have sent those 1,600 to Baghdad or Anbar. They did not.
The Brits are leaving with mission unaccomplished. They are being shot at and mortared every day in Basra. Tribal and Shia militias have not been disarmed. The Sunni are being ethnically cleansed from the south. Militant Shia want the Brits gone, so they can take over.
The British people are bridling at the cost in blood and money of a war that destroyed Tony Blair, who is weeks away from resigning as prime minister. One British historian said at year's end he has never such levels of anti-Americanism in his country.
There is a larger meaning to all this, and Americans must come to terms with it. NATO is packing it in as a world power. NATO is little more than a U.S. guarantee to pull Europe's chestnuts out of the fire if Europeans encounter a fight they cannot handle, like an insurgency in Bosnia or Kosovo. NATO has one breadwinner, and 25 dependents.
At the end of the Cold War, internationalists like Sen. Richard Lugar of Indiana declared, "NATO must go out of area, or go out of business." What Lugar meant was, with the Soviet threat lifted from Europe, NATO must shoulder more of the global burden.