On the eve of the second anniversary of the deadly 9/11 attacks, George W. Bush offered the country a visionary, courageous and correct assessment of the progress of the War on Terror – and his strategy for waging and winning it.
One particularly noteworthy passage in the President’s address televised to the Nation last Sunday was his characterization of the high stakes involved in this global conflict:
“For America, there will be no going back to the era before September the 11th, 2001 -- to false comfort in a dangerous world. We have learned that terrorist attacks are not caused by the use of strength; they are invited by the perception of weakness. And the surest way to avoid attacks on our own people is to engage the enemy where he lives and plans. We are fighting that enemy in Iraq and Afghanistan today so that we do not meet him again on our own streets, in our own cities.”
Unfortunately, this presidential affirmation of U.S. policy geared towards fighting the terrorists and their state-sponsors on others’ soil rather than our own is at risk of being undermined by recent actions the President has allowed to be taken in his name.
Preeminent among these was the decision announced last week that Secretary of State Colin Powell had been authorized by Mr. Bush to seek a UN Security Council mandate for post-war Iraq. At best, the effect was to signal the President’s recognition that his U.S.-led liberation had failed and could only be legitimated, and salvaged, if those who had opposed it (in particular, the French, Germans, Russians, Syrians, Chinese and Secretary General Kofi Annan) were placated with American concessions leading to new military and/or political arrangements. At worst, the signal was the United States was preparing, once again, to bail out on a difficult and costly international mission.
Matters were made worse by the coincidence of this apparent volte face with several others. For example, Secretary Powell pointed last week to the fact that talks about North Korea’s nuclear weapons programs had taken place in the context of the six-party “framework” as evidence the United States was successfully containing the danger that Pyongyang will soon be able to wield and export the ultimate weapons of mass destruction. This claim rang all the more hollow for it being accompanied with reports that the Administration had decided to revert to the Clinton policy of giving Kim Jong-Il financial and other rewards before the North demonstrably abandoned its nuclear ambitions.
Frank Gaffney Jr. is the founder and president of the Center for Security Policy and author of War Footing: 10 Steps America Must Take to Prevail in the War for the Free World .
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