Watching Congress debate the Iraq War last week reminded me of how many politicians in Washington still don’t get it. Some completely miss the lessons of history that teach us how important victory in Iraq is for the United States.
Fortunately, the House passed a resolution to “complete the mission” in Iraq and rejected a date certain for withdrawal of our troops. But before House Republicans prevailed on this resolution, we had to sit through a debate in which some members — amazingly — suggested that the death of the terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi by U.S. air strikes means it is a good time to withdraw our troops, completely ignoring the fact that coalition troops, along with the Iraqis, have conducted nearly 500 more raids since killing Zarqawi.
It is difficult for me to convey to you how wrong I believe this cut-and-run attitude is.
The killing of Zarqawi, as I discussed last week, was a substantial win — a win that should be built upon with greater resolve to finish the job in Iraq. It should not be used as a justification to withdraw before the job is done.
The ‘Grey World’ of Terrorism
More importantly, our efforts in Iraq have to be understood in a much bigger — a global — context. We are engaged in a global, long war with the irreconcilable wing of Islam. In many ways, this is the first war of globalization. Just as globalization lets us send messages all over the world instantaneously via e-mail, use our phones to call people all over the world, transfer cash in and out of stock markets all over the world and travel easily and globally, it also has a downside.
Former CIA Director George Tenet describes this downside of globalization as the “Grey World.” It’s the world of terrorists who can organize much more effectively and globally, trafficking in human beings for the sex trade and trafficking in drugs, international crime, illegal arms deals and illegal international transportation that is made possible by technological advances. This Grey World is the dark side of the stunning increases in standards of living, communications and transportation that have marked the modern world.
That’s why Zarqawi in Baghdad has a relationship with terrorists arrested recently in Britain and Canada. That’s why Zarqawi in Baghdad relates directly to what happened in Mogadishu, Somalia, where a group of Islamic extremists took control, creating the potential that Somalia could become a new Afghanistan-like center of opposition to the civilized world. And that’s why Zarqawi in Baghdad relates to the developments in Aceh in Sumatra, where a local group made a deal with the central government allowing them to impose sharia, the extremist, medieval Islamic law, on all citizens, including non-Muslims. By acquiescing to the imposition of Islamic law, a new center of militant behavior is being created right in the middle of Indonesia.
President Bush Should Call a Long War Council
Each of these developments is tied together by the fact that in this globalized long war, terrorists reinforce each other’s worldview on websites, they study each other, they communicate with each other by e-mail and mobile phones, and they very often travel to many different countries. That’s why we have to recognize that while it was right for President Bush to convene a war council on Iraq last week, my hope is that he will convene a council to plan for the long war. And in the months and years ahead, we need to have an open, honest dialogue around the world with those who are willing to defend our civilization. We need to discuss how we’re going to make sure that the forces of democracy, the forces of the rule of law and the forces of freedom defeat the forces of terror and tyranny who seek to threaten us in every country in the world.
P.S. — The rush to judgment over allegations of military misconduct in Iraq got me thinking about its effect on our fighting men and women. So I asked a former Marine who served two tours in Operation Iraqi Freedom how all this talk is effecting morale. His remarkable answer follows:
It should be noted that the Marines on patrol in Iraq and Afghanistan are the true embodiment of what America and Democracy are about. They are the 19-year-old young men and women that are making a sacrifice. They are not enjoying rush week at a university or going to the beach for the summer, but rather offering their lives in the defense of each other, their families and their homes. These 19-year-olds are the true tip of America’s spear and bear more responsibility each day than most Americans do in lifetimes.
It seems that in this day and age there is more support and misdirected justice for prison inmates than these dedicated young Marines. For any American — most especially the media — to condemn or judge them is absurd. They will be investigated and judged by fellow warriors who understand the circumstances and the enemy involved. Rest assured, no one holds their people more accountable than the military, most especially the Marine Corps. “Keep our Honor Clean” isn’t just a catch phrase.