Bush’s Reminder

I managed to catch Bush’s speech tonight while on the road, and thought it was about time Bush reminded the American people of why we’re doing what we’re doing. (The full text of the speech is here.) There was a lot in what was a short speech even by the President’s standards. Here are some of the highlights in commentary:

For a generation leading up to September the 11th, 2001, terrorists and their radical allies attacked innocent people in the Middle East and beyond, without facing a sustained and serious response. The terrorists became convinced that free nations were decadent and weak. And they grew bolder, believing that history was on their side. Since America put out the fires of September the 11th, and mourned our dead, and went to war, history has taken a different turn. We have carried the fight to the enemy. We are rolling back the terrorist threat to civilization, not on the fringes of its influence, but at the heart of its power.

The people of Iraq are emerging from a long trial. For them, there will be no going back to the days of the dictator, to the miseries and humiliation he inflicted on that good country. For the Middle East and the world, there will be no going back to the days of fear, when a brutal and aggressive tyrant possessed terrible weapons. And 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.

These sections bookend the speech (the speechwriter who wrote this speech is an absolute genius) and do a brilliant job of rhetorically framing the American mission in the 21st century. This is the crux of the war on terror: we are doing what must be done. Under no circumstances can the bloody status quo in the Middle East be allowed to continue. We learned the hard way that we cannot simply isolate ourselves from the world – the oppression and tyranny of radical Islam is a clear and present threat wherever it lies. The President also singled out the fact that a decade ago with the first World Trade Center attack we did not respond to terrorism as we should. He also made the absolutely critical point that terrorism is not created by military force – it is made stronger by weakness. Bush expands on this theme as well:

There is more at work in these attacks than blind rage. The terrorists have a strategic goal. They want us to leave Iraq before our work is done. They want to shake the will of the civilized world. In the past, the terrorists have cited the examples of Beirut and Somalia, claiming that if you inflict harm on Americans, we will run from a challenge. In this, they are mistaken.

The line about Beirut and Somalia is a reference to an interview conducted with Osama bin Laden in 1998 in which bin Laden stated that he believed that the Americans would always back down from a fight. If we back down, if we do not follow the course of freedom in the Middle East, bin Laden will have been proven correct. Bush is pointing out that we are not about to go wobbly on this – we will continue the war on terror until al-Qaeda and other groups that seek to destroy this nation are ground into dust. This is exactly the message we need to send at this critical point in the war.

Two years ago, I told the Congress and the country that the war on terror would be a lengthy war, a different kind of war, fought on many fronts in many places. Iraq is now the central front. Enemies of freedom are making a desperate stand there — and there they must be defeated. This will take time and require sacrifice. Yet we will do what is necessary, we will spend what is necessary, to achieve this essential victory in the war on terror, to promote freedom and to make our own nation more secure.

There are some shades of Churchill and Kennedy in this section, and it reinforces the absolute commitment this Administration has to finishing what was started just under two years ago.

I recognize that not all of our friends agreed with our decision to enforce the Security Council resolutions and remove Saddam Hussein from power. Yet we cannot let past differences interfere with present duties. Terrorists in Iraq have attacked representatives of the civilized world, and opposing them must be the cause of the civilized world. Members of the United Nations now have an opportunity — and the responsibility — to assume a broader role in assuring that Iraq becomes a free and democratic nation.

This is a challenge to the Axis of Weasels: if you want to support democracy and freedom worldwide, then you have an obligation to help create both in Iraq. If you wish to place petty politics and self-interest above the interests of peace and security, then the UN is not living up to its own responsibilities. Of course, for many of us we already know the UN has already turned its back on the best interests of world security, but right now the UN can serve some purpose as a way of getting some additional forces to provide basic security so that we can free our forces to do more of what they’ve done brilliantly: hunt down and eliminate terrorists.

All in all, this was a speech that needed to be made – and should have been made long before this. In contrast with the bitter and childish partisan sniping from the Nine Doomed To Die, Bush’s speech was filled with a sense of vision and purpose. It was the kind of speech Bush does well – a speech in which the President stands clearly for what he believes in and makes the case in plain and clear Texas speech.

We will not surrender in this war. We will not retreat. We will not allow terrorists to dictate our actions. We will fight these terrorists and we will hunt them down until that point at which they can no longer present a credible threat to us. This is the World War of our generation – a different kind of war than we’ve seen before, a war often conducted in the shadows with battles that only a few will know about for years, but a war nevertheless.

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