President Bush delivered a wonderful, stirring speech to members of the Idaho National Guard yesterday. In ringing terms, he set out his strategy for victory in Iraq and in the Global War on Terror, and vowed to stay the course until victory is achieved. I caught the last part of the speech over the lunch hour; Bush’s military audience was wildly enthusiastic. Here are a few key paragraphs; you can read the whole thing here:
An immediate withdrawal of our troops in Iraq, or the broader Middle East, as some have called for, would only embolden the terrorists and create a staging ground to launch more attacks against America and free nations. So long as I’m the President, we will stay, we will fight, and we will win the war on terror. (Applause.)
Since September the 11th, we’ve followed a clear strategy to defeat the terrorists and protect our people. First, we are defending the homeland.
The second part of our strategy is this — and it’s based upon this fact: In an open society like ours — and we will keep it open and we will keep it free — it is impossible to protect against every threat. … And so the only way to defend our citizens where we live is to go after the terrorists where they live. (Applause.)
When the terrorists spend their days and nights struggling to avoid death or capture, they are less capable of arming and training and plotting new attacks on America and the rest of the civilized world. So we’re after the enemy across the globe. And we’re determined, and we’re relentless, and we will stay on the hunt until the terrorists have nowhere to run and nowhere to hide. (Applause.)
And the third part of our strategy is this: We’re spreading the hope of freedom across the broader Middle East. In the long run, the only way to defeat the terrorists is by offering an alternative to their ideology of hatred and fear. So a key component of our strategy is to spread freedom. History has proven that free nations are peaceful nations, that democracies do not fight their neighbors. (Applause.) And so, by advancing the cause of liberty and freedom in the Middle East, we’re bringing hope to millions, and security to our own citizens. (Applause.)
The stakes in Iraq could not be higher. The brutal violence in Iraq today is a clear sign of the terrorists’ determination to stop democracy from taking root in the Middle East. They know that the success of a free Iraq, who can be a key ally in the war on terror and a symbol of success for others, will be a crushing blow to their strategy to dominate the region, and threaten America and the free world. They know that when their hateful ideology is defeated in Iraq, the Middle East will have a clear example of freedom and prosperity and hope. And the terrorists will begin to lose their sponsors and lose their recruits and lose the sanctuaries they need to plan new attacks.
And so they’re fighting these efforts in Iraq with all the brutality they can muster. Yet, despite the violence we see every day, we’re achieving our strategic objectives in Iraq. The Iraqi people are determined to build a free nation, and we have a plan to help them succeed. America and Iraqi forces are on the hunt, side-by-side, to defeat the terrorists. And as we hunt down our common enemies, we will continue to train more Iraqi security forces.
The battle lines in Iraq are now clearly drawn for the world to see, and there is no middle ground. Transforming a country that was ruled by an oppressive dictator who sponsored terror into a free nation that is an ally in the war on terror will take more time, more sacrifice, and continued resolve. Terrorists will emerge from Iraq one of two ways: emboldened or defeated. Every nation — every free nation — has a stake in the success of the Iraqi people. If the terrorists were to win in Iraq, the free world would be more vulnerable to attacks on innocent civilians. And that is why, for the sake of our children and our grandchildren, the terrorists will be defeated. (Applause.)