by Austin Bay
November 3, 2004
The next administration's most important job is continuing to fight and win The War on Terror.
I'm talking about the presidential administration that will be elected in 2008 and inaugurated in 2009. For that matter, I'll include the administrations elected in the campaigns of 2012 and 2016. As for the 2020 campaign�we should have a good feel for the War on Terror in that campaign by 2015 or so.
The re-election of George W. Bush bodes well for peace in 2020. A John Kerry victory would have cost us an additional two years of blood, toil, sweat, and tears -�the two years it would take the Kerry Administration to discover that the Bush Administration's strategy in the War on Terror is the right one.
However, the linked threat posed by theo-fascist terrorism, petty despots, and the proliferation of weapons of capable of killing innocents by the millions remains the Hell Forumla for the 21st century.
Like it or not, the bitter task of breaking our planet's Hell Formula falls on the American people, led by American presidents a decade after Bush leaves office.
Is it a complex task? Of course� we're fighting history's most intricate war. Is it a hateful and odious task? I've thought so from the get go. I didn't like the burden of the Cold War falling on America either, though Poles and Hungarians I served with in Iraq last summer thank Americans in the most reverential terms for standing up to the terror of the Soviet empire.
Is the task shirkable, deflectable, rejectable, add-any-word-you-want-that-suggests-letting-it-slide?
The answer: an unequivocal NO.
It is also a task that requires ten to fifteen years of effort, through Democratic and Republican administrations.
Any wannabe leader who suggests otherwise at best exploits what President Franklin Roosevelt called the fear of fear itself, at worst lies about our world's afflictions and America's capacity to address them.
The War on Terror is as much a war of political liberation, reconstruction aid, and economic development as it is a war of combat troops, spies, and policemen.
In the first column I wrote after returning from Iraq, I said: �If there is one mistake I think we've made in fighting this war, it's been the way we've soft-pedaled the ideological dimensions.� This really is a fight for the future, between our free, open political system and the unholy alliance of despots and Islamo-fascists whose very existence depends on denying liberty. �
The Afghan people made the case that this is a war the pits liberty against tyranny as they dodged mortar rounds while waiting in line to vote in last month's Afghan presidential election. Unfortunately, the US and European media largely ignored that demonstration of mass courage.
Bombs always have more media sizzle than bricks; while a big bang is hot footage on television, a new building is a static bore. In the long haul, however, bricks trump bombs. If we intend to win the War on Terror, our presidents of 2009, 2013, and 2017 will be directing a large-scale nation-building effort�because it is in our own direct security interest.
Poverty does not create terrorists, that's a falsehood and a smear. However, corruption and stolen opportunity stalk the streets and hard corners where terrorists recruit. Theft of wealth and development denied inevitably seed resentment�and resentment is the slow fire terror's masters know how to stoke. Political liberalization and the rule of law, combined with free trade and free economies, are an anti-poverty program that is also sound counter-terror policy.
Liberty (the right to responsibly pursue happiness) is the creative source of American wealth and power. For all but a handful of American citizens, the "futures" presented by the planet's Osama Bin Ladens pale utterly when compared with the opportunity to pursue "the American Dream." Certainly, examples of American excess and silliness abound, but examples of American success and largesse are even more abundant. Extending political and economic opportunity into the world's hard corners, by curbing the power of corrupt autocracies, are the strategic goals of America's War on Terror.
Achieving that takes patience, commitment and persevering leadership, both Democratic and Republican.