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.
Totalitarian ideologies based on atheistic humanism are easier to defeat than this enemy, which finds its motivation in the direct orders it claims to have from Allah. So not only must these terrorists be defeated militarily, they must also be defeated religiously. Moderate Muslims must take the leadership away from the misnterpreters of their faith, if misinterpreters they are.
The president properly warned the American people that this world war will not end soon because the stakes could not be higher. He quoted Osama bin Laden as saying: "This Third World War is raging" in Iraq. "The whole world is watching this war." Bin Laden says it will end in "victory and glory or misery and humiliation."
The president wants to make sure the misery and humiliation is theirs, not ours. That will be determined not just by Iraqi and American troops on the ground in Iraq, but by the level and intensity of support at home.
Bin Laden and his co-murderers are making a huge bet of their own. They are wagering that as in Vietnam 30 years ago, Lebanon 20 years ago and Mogadishu 11 years ago, America will lose heart and retreat.
This may not be the war to end all wars, but if it isn't won, it could be the beginning of endless wars in which the United States and the rest of the free world never again know peace.
The president listed the failures of the terrorists. His hope is he will never have to list ours.
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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