Perhaps not since his post-9/11 address to Congress has President Bush laid out with such clarity the purpose and cost of war against terrorism and for the liberation and emancipation of Iraq.
He answered his critics who had been asking to know the goal, and the methods he intends to employ to reach it, as well as an indication of when the troops might start coming home.
Americans are used to instant oatmeal and instant replays, and they need to understand there can be no instant war with instant results. President Bush repeated Tuesday night that this war will take time; it will cost a lot of money and lives, and it will not be over soon. World wars never are, and the president said troops across the world are fighting a global war on terror.
Perhaps afraid to offend Muslims, the president did not refer to the real motivational force that fuels the killings and chaos. He said these terrorists "murder in the name of a totalitarian ideology." But that totalitarian ideology has a name and a religion that drives its fanaticism. It is Islamofacism.
The president hopes this pep talk will shore-up public support for the war. It should, in the short term. What is the alternative? Some Democrats criticized the president's address even before it was delivered, taking partisan advantage of a dip in the polls about a struggle that must succeed.
Sen. Joseph Biden, Delaware Democrat, said in his post-speech analysis on NBC that "no one is talking about cutting and running." Yes, they are. There have been claims of failure and calls for a withdrawal timetable, mostly by Democrats, but also by some Republicans.
Bush answered such criticism in his speech: "Setting an artificial timetable would send the wrong message to the Iraqis, who need to know that America will not leave before the job is done. It would send the wrong signal to our troops, who need to know that we are serious about completing the mission they are risking their lives to achieve. And it would send the wrong message to the enemy, who would know that all they have to do is wait us out."
Bush has bet everything on a single principle, enunciated by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on her recent Middle East trip and believed as a matter of faith by the president: All people yearn to breathe free and live in a democratic nation. That ideal remains to be achieved, but it is now being tested in the most difficult region of the world to plant democracy.
One reason for this difficulty is that radical Islamists see the United States as un-free and in bondage to rampant sexuality, female immodesty and a general disdain for God. They believe they are the free ones.
Cal Thomas is co-author (with Bob Beckel) of the book, "Common Ground: How to Stop the Partisan War That is Destroying America".
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