In Rudyard Kipling’s poem "If" he states that one of the characteristics of manhood is the ability to "keep your head when all about you are losing theirs." Many Washington insiders are losing their heads over the fact that coalition forces in Iraq are now fighting Sunni Muslim Ba’athist diehards, foreign jihadists, and illegal radical Shiite militias. Just like last April, dire predictions that Iraq is another Vietnam and a quagmire are flying thick and fast. Thankfully, as happened last April, President Bush is keeping his head, reiterating his sound advice of a year ago: the answer is not to panic — the answer is to win, and that means finishing the job. The first step is to recognize that our enemy in this war — radical Islam — is a dangerous and implacable one. The second is to recognize that we’re dealing not with isolated terrorist groups, but with an interconnected "Web of Terror" made-up of terror-sponsoring or terror-harboring states. And many of these are intently developing Weapons of Mass Destruction, including nuclear bombs. Before September 11, 2001, these states were Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, Syria, Libya, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, and rogue state North Korea, which has made an unholy alliance with radical Islam. To radical Islam, the United States is target number one, because we are the leader of the free world — or, as radical Islam sees it, of a new Crusade. Terrorists like Osama bin Laden believe that without the sword and shield provided by the U.S. military, the rest of the West will come to terms with radical Islam. Osama bin Laden wagered wrong when he thought that one spectacular strike against America would bring us to our knees. Today, similarly, anti-Coalition forces in Iraq must be convinced that terrorist atrocities won’t stop us from establishing a free, stable, and democratic Iraq. Unfortunately, they have reason to continue their atrocities because of how terrorism changed the election results in Spain and — given the terrorists’ long memories — because of the Clinton Administration’s weak response to terrorism. The terrorists plainly want to persuade the American people that Iraq is Black Hawk Down writ large. We need to make it plain to them, on the contrary, that the American people share President Bush’s determination; that we will hunt down and kill the terrorists; and that we will make state sponsors of terrorism in Iraq — and elsewhere — the next targets for regime change. Already the United States and its allies have eliminated two of the most important Web of Terror regimes; as a result, a third, Libya, has renounced terror and its pursuit of Weapons of Mass Destruction. Saudi Arabia and Pakistan are starting to clean out their own terrorist nests — but plainly need to do much more. Iran’s reformist majority is growing bolder against the tyrannical mullahs. And the Kurds in Syria are stirring against another long-time sponsor of terror — and the one most vulnerable to overthrow. We must move quickly and decisively, however, because Syria is allowing jihadists to flow into Iraq, and Iran is openly training and supporting terrorists in both Iraq and Afghanistan. Even more worrisome is Iran’s continuing "crash" nuclear weapons program that, unless serious, immediate action is taken, could give Iran a nuclear weapon within six to twelve months. The choice we now face is both simple and alarming: Either we take down the Web of Terror or the terrorists will strike the West with WMD. In our new book, Endgame, we set out a realistic and practical strategy to take down the Web swiftly, concentrating on its three most important remaining strands: Iran, North Korea, and Syria. Without the support of these terrorist states, the terrorist groups will wither and their sanctuaries and funding will dry up. We have some tough battles in front of us, particularly in Iraq. The radicals know that a successful, democratic Iraq will be a resounding, giant repudiation of radical Islam — and, therefore, they will stop at nothing to destabilize it. Our success in Iraq, however, is crucial: crucial to the Iraqi people, crucial to the region, and crucial to our own security in eliminating the Web of Terror. We speak as retired soldiers, not as politicians; and we say this as a practical matter upon which we believe all Americans should agree. The bottom line for us is that preserving American lives should not be a partisan issue, but a bipartisan national priority.
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