United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan says the world is not a safer place than it was before 9-11. President Bush and even the 9-11 Commission say it is -- at least they say the United States is. I think we're asking the wrong question.
The question is not whether at this moment the world (or the United States) is safer than it was on Sept. 10, 2001.
In the middle of World War II could we reasonably have said that the world (or the United States) was safer than it was before the war? The world was on its way to being, but wasn't yet, a safer place.
Even if President Bush has been pursuing the most prudent anti-terrorism policies since 9-11, the world may still not be a safer place today. It's going to take some time.
And safety is not the only consideration. We might have been "safer" had we capitulated to Nazi Germany and Japan. We could have averted a 50-year-long Cold War had we surrendered to the Communists.
We could have avoided all casualties in Iraq had we followed Kofi Annan's counsel and that of the United Nations, France and Germany, and allowed Saddam Hussein to continue to snub his nose at the world, violating his treaties and U.N. resolutions, and pursuing WMD.
You can almost always avoid a fight with a bully if you cave in to his every demand. But once you do, what do you have left? If the Neville Chamberlains, J. William Fulbrights, George McGoverns, Teddy Kennedys and John Kerrys had their way, we could certainly have avoided more military conflict. But at what cost?
In order to preserve "the blessings of liberty (for) ourselves and our posterity" it is sometimes necessary to make hard choices, and those choices may sometimes lead to a less peaceful "present." But the alternative -- to surrender our liberty -- is unacceptable.
That's why we must discount the criticism that we were wrong to invade Iraq because it just spawned more terrorists in the Arab world. That's why we must consider the whole picture, including the potential consequences of our failure to act against Saddam Hussein, when we hear President Bush's critics say that Iraq has become a haven for terrorists now that we have attacked.
It may be true that our aggressive, pro-active approach against terrorism and its sponsoring states is being used by terrorists as a recruiting tool. But realistically, our enemies don't need any other tools.
They will continue to hate us whether or not we take the war to them on their own turf. But if we don't, they'll not only hate us, but also disrespect us. (Bin Laden has said as much.) And we'll be much more effective if we take the offensive against them while simultaneously augmenting our defenses.
The war against Islamofascism is not a war for the hearts and minds of the terrorists -- they cannot be persuaded or appeased. Their minds are already made up. No concessions will satisfy them since their demands transcend policy and national boundaries.
Their principal beef with us is not our support of Israel or even our counter-aggression against them. The problem inheres in our "infidelity." Short of a wholesale national conversion to radical Islam, we can probably expect a decades-long war. Actually, I'm not sure we'll ever enjoy the type of domestic tranquility we did prior to 9-11.
The only way to better insulate ourselves against an enemy that indiscriminately targets innocent civilians is to forfeit our liberties and our open society -- which are, obviously, too great a price to pay.
No, the question is not whether we are safer today than we were on 9-11. Rather, it's whether President Bush has effectively conducted the War against Islamo-terrorists and whether he is still pursuing the best course of action with the goal of safeguarding not just our short term, but our long-term security, our liberty and our quality of life.
And would Senator Kerry have done better, or will he do better from this point forward than Bush would? Between President Bush and Senator Kerry, who has the sounder vision and the proper resolve concerning the War on Terror?
In this short space, I just ask that you consider their respective records on national defense and their relative consistency of purpose and statesmanship throughout the war on terror. Under whose leadership would you rather entrust the future security and liberty of the United States?