Receding memories of 9/11 and a sense of lost momentum – if not of futility – has combined with the effects of natural disasters and political ones. Support has eroded for the war effort and for those who lead it.
Worse yet, our enemies are emboldened by the demonstrations and calls for withdrawal from the Iraqi front. They redouble their efforts to kill and maim Iraqis and, if possible, American and other Coalition personnel. These terrorists are confident that doing so will reinforce popular demands to set an early date for bringing the troops home.
All other things being equal, this cycle could continue for some time in a sort of death-spiral. The problem is that its end result would be not only defeat and mayhem in Iraq. It would have devastating consequences far beyond the Tigris and Euphrates.
That is because we are not, in fact, fighting a global war on terror. It is a global war, alright. But it should instead be called the “War for the Free World.” Such a designation has the following advantages:
O It is accurate. We who love freedom are locked in a struggle to the death with totalitarian enemies who subscribe to ideologies that require our destruction. Sound familiar? The Nazis, Fascists, Imperial Japanese and Soviet Communists had in mind for us the same fate. We had to wage war effectively (using non-military as well as military means) on a global scale to defeat each of them in turn.
Today, the immediate threat to the Free World comes from Islamofascism – yet another totalitarian ideology, this time masquerading as a religion. Most Muslims around the world do not subscribe to the Islamist agenda. They are increasingly being forced to embrace it, or at least go along with it, however, under threat of violence or other coercive techniques. By demonstrating our resolve to resist the Islamofascists and to help non-Islamist Muslim to do so as well, we can enlarge the Free World and secure the allies we will need to prevail.
O It makes clear that the war is about much more than Iraq and Afghanistan. Seductive as the idea sounds, withdrawing from such far-flung battlefields is no solution. Since the fight is about nothing less than whether there will continue to be a Free World – one in which we are able to speak, publish, assemble, vote and practice our religions as we wish – ceding ground to our enemies will only bring closer the day when we cannot do any of those things.
O It restores the moral clarity that Americans – and other democracies – typically need to sustain war’s expensive costs (in both human and financial terms). There can be no moral equivalence between our Islamofascist enemies on the one hand and, on the other, those who are fighting and dying to protect freedom here at home and, as a bulwark for our own security, to promote it elsewhere.
Shortly after 9/11, President Bush rightly said to the nations of the world “You are either with us or against us.” That is true. You are either part of, and willing to help defend, the Free World or you are with the unfree. The latter are at best, playing a double-game. Among them are nations like Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, China and Russia – all of whom profess friendship, but are simultaneously working to support our enemies and undermine the interests of the Free World.
In theory, it is possible carefully to make tactical arrangements with such states. As a practical matter, however, doing so usually results in a loss of moral clarity and an overlooking of the unfriendly, if not overtly hostile, things they do. Examples include successive U.S. administrations; giving the Saudis a pass as they continue to underwrite Islamofascist proselytizing and terror; tolerating the training of terrorists in and proliferation of weapons of mass destruction from Pakistan; ignoring China’s arms and oil deals with our Islamist enemies; and overlooking wholesale Russian transfers to the PRC of weapons designed to kill Americans.
O It harkens back to a time when the American people understood that they had a critical role to play in the war effort, just as they do at the moment. Today, as in the past, we need to fight as though our lives, fortunes and freedom depend on it, for indeed they do. We need to put the country on a true war footing in which every American can and must be asked to play a part in order to preserve the Free World.
Now is, in short, the time for a return to first principles. Properly labeling the present conflict is not a panacea. But making it clear that we are engaged in nothing less than a War for the Free World will make it easier to take the steps necessary, both at home and abroad, to secure the victory we literally cannot live without.
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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