Bush American Legion Speech
After controversial speeches to the American Legion by Vice President Cheney and Defense Secretary Rumsfeld, President Bush yesterday delivered a speech that, finally, outlines his strategy in the fight against the Jihadists in a succinct, comprehensive way.
The enemies of liberty come from different parts of the world, and they take inspiration from different sources. Some are radicalized followers of the Sunni tradition, who swear allegiance to terrorist organizations like al Qaeda. Others are radicalized followers of the Shia tradition, who join groups like Hezbollah and take guidance from state sponsors like Syria and Iran. Still others are “homegrown” terrorists — fanatics who live quietly in free societies they dream to destroy. Despite their differences, these groups from — form the outlines of a single movement, a worldwide network of radicals that use terror to kill those who stand in the way of their totalitarian ideology. And the unifying feature of this movement, the link that spans sectarian divisions and local grievances, is the rigid conviction that free societies are a threat to their twisted view of Islam.
The war we fight today is more than a military conflict; it is the decisive ideological struggle of the 21st century. (Applause.) On one side are those who believe in the values of freedom and moderation — the right of all people to speak, and worship, and live in liberty. And on the other side are those driven by the values of tyranny and extremism — the right of a self-appointed few to impose their fanatical views on all the rest. As veterans, you have seen this kind of enemy before. They’re successors to Fascists, to Nazis, to Communists, and other totalitarians of the 20th century. And history shows what the outcome will be: This war will be difficult; this war will be long; and this war will end in the defeat of the terrorists and totalitarians, and a victory for the cause of freedom and liberty. (Applause.)
To understand the struggle unfolding in the Middle East, we need to look at the recent history of the region. For a half- century, America’s primary goal in the Middle East was stability. This was understandable at the time; we were fighting the Soviet Union in the Cold War, and it was important to support Middle Eastern governments that rejected communism. Yet, over the decades, an undercurrent of danger was rising in the Middle East. Much of the region was mired in stagnation and despair. A generation of young people grew up with little hope to improve their lives, and many fell under the sway of radical extremism. The terrorist movement multiplied in strength, and resentment that had simmered for years boiled over into violence across the world.
The status quo in the Middle East before September the 11th was dangerous and unacceptable, so we’re pursuing a new strategy. First, we’re using every element of national power to confront al Qaeda, those who take inspiration from them, and other terrorists who use similar tactics. We have ended the days of treating terrorism simply as a law enforcement matter. We will stay on the offense. We will fight the terrorists overseas so we do not have to face them here at home. (Applause.)
Second, we have made it clear to all nations, if you harbor terrorists, you are just as guilty as the terrorists; you’re an enemy of the United States, and you will be held to account. (Applause.) And third, we’ve launched a bold new agenda to defeat the ideology of the enemy by supporting the forces of freedom in the Middle East and beyond.
The freedom agenda is based upon our deepest ideals and our vital interests. Americans believe that every person, of every religion, on every continent, has the right to determine his or her own destiny. We believe that freedom is a gift from an almighty God, beyond any power on Earth to take away. (Applause.) And we also know, by history and by logic, that promoting democracy is the surest way to build security. Democracies don’t attack each other or threaten the peace. Governments accountable to the voters focus on building roads and schools — not weapons of mass destruction. Young people who have a say in their future are less likely to search for meaning in extremism. Citizens who can join a peaceful political party are less likely to join a terrorist organization. Dissidents with the freedom to protest around the clock are less likely to blow themselves up during rush hour. And nations that commit to freedom for their people will not support terrorists — they will join us in defeating them. (Applause.)
So America has committed its influence in the world to advancing freedom and democracy as the great alternatives to repression and radicalism. We will take the side of democratic leaders and reformers across the Middle East. We will support the voices of tolerance and moderation in the Muslim world. We stand with the mothers and fathers in every culture who want to see their children grow up in a caring and peaceful world. And by supporting the cause of freedom in a vital region, we’ll make our children and our grandchildren more secure. (Applause.)
The speech also outlines a way ahead in Iraq that, while perhaps wishful, at least demonstrates a cohesive vision rather than a reactionary ad hocracy.
More troubling, however, it seems to be a continuation of a case for war with Iran.
This summer’s crisis in Lebanon has made it clearer than ever that the world now faces a grave threat from the radical regime in Iran. The Iranian regime arms, funds, and advises Hezbollah, which has killed more Americans than any terrorist network except al Qaeda. The Iranian regime interferes in Iraq by sponsoring terrorists and insurgents, empowering unlawful militias, and supplying components for improvised explosive devices. The Iranian regime denies basic human rights to millions of its people. And the Iranian regime is pursuing nuclear weapons in open defiance of its international obligations.
We know the death and suffering that Iran’s sponsorship of terrorists has brought, and we can imagine how much worse it would be if Iran were allowed to acquire nuclear weapons. Many nations are working together to solve this problem. The United Nations passed a resolution demanding that Iran suspend its nuclear enrichment activities. Today is the deadline for Iran’s leaders to reply to the reasonable proposal the international community has made. If Iran’s leaders accept this offer and abandon their nuclear weapons ambitions, they can set their country on a better course. Yet, so far, the Iranian regime has responded with further defiance and delay. It is time for Iran to make a choice. We’ve made our choice: We will continue to work closely with our allies to find a diplomatic solution — but there must be consequences for Iran’s defiance, and we must not allow Iran to develop a nuclear weapon. (Applause.)
Despite the rhetoric, beginning with the “Axis of Evil” speech, the administration has thus far seemed content to approach the situation in Iran diplomatically. Frankly, it hasn’t worked. Unfortunately, as I’ve noted here on multiple occasions, there do not appear to be any better options.