Peter Wehner

In a major foreign policy speech to the Council on Foreign Relations today, former Senator John Edwards said this:

"The core of this presidency has been a political doctrine that George Bush calls the 'Global War on Terror.' He has used this doctrine like a sledgehammer to justify the worst abuses and biggest mistakes of his administration... The war on terror is a slogan designed only for politics, not a strategy to make America safe. It's a bumper sticker, not a plan. It has damaged our alliances and weakened our standing in the world... The 'war' metaphor has also failed because it exaggerates the role of only one instrument of American power—the military... we must move beyond the idea of a war on terror." Click here to go to Edwards's speech

That would be one way to look at it. There are others.

Another view goes something like this: The global war on terror is not a "political doctrine" advanced by the Bush Administration or a bumper sticker slogan. Rather, it refers to an epic struggle we are engaged in against Islamic jihadists. These jihadists -- years before George W. Bush became president and years before Operation Iraqi Freedom -- publicly announced, through their fatwas, that they were at war against us.

Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, terrorists struck against us by bombing Marine barracks, the World Trade Center, American embassies in Africa, and the U.S.S. Cole. And then, after years of lassitude and indifference, came a day of flames and ashes, of bent steel and fallen buildings, of wrecked planes and thousands and thousands of dead bodies, of grief that has not yet receded and memories of loved ones that will not pass.

In response to the attacks of September 11, 2001, the United States went on a war footing. In the words of President Bush:

"On September the 11th, enemies of freedom committed an act of war against our country. Americans have known wars -- but for the past 136 years, they have been wars on foreign soil, except for one Sunday in 1941. Americans have known the casualties of war -- but not at the center of a great city on a peaceful morning. Americans have known surprise attacks -- but never before on thousands of civilians. All of this was brought upon us in a single day -- and night fell on a different world, a world where freedom itself is under attack."

Peter Wehner

Peter Wehner, former deputy director to the President, is a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center.

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