TCS Daily

Bush at Fort Bragg

By Ariel Cohen - July 1, 2005 12:00 AM

In his speech before the men and women of the Airborne and Special Operations Forces at Fort Bragg, President George W. Bush clarified for the American people what is at stake in Iraq. He defined the enemy as Islamist totalitarians who are willing to kill innocent men, women and children -- including fellow Muslims -- for the sake of their ideology.

The president also defined the path forward: "As Iraqis stand up, we will stand down." He established, however, that there would be no deadline or schedule for pulling out American troops.

Finally, the president thanked the men and women of U.S. armed services and their families for their sacrifices in the cause of freedom. He called for young people to volunteer for military careers -- an important message in these days of declining enlistment rates and some schools closing their doors to military recruiters.

In all, President Bush presented a broad strategy to the American people. Iraq is an important part of the long war on terror, and no matter how long it takes, we must prevail there.

Wartime Leadership

In the next few days it will become clear whether the American people heed the president's message. Bush was re-elected as a wartime leader. In November 2004, voters trusted him more than they did his opponent to plot the course to victory in Iraq and in the war on terror. Tuesday's speech provided clarity that will help Americans to decide whether he is on the right track.

It is clear that Iraq cannot fully develop as a free nation when terrorists, both foreign and domestic, are killing thousands, including politicians, members of the judiciary, and the technocrat elite.

The Middle East cannot overcome the afflictions of radicalism, fundamentalism and terrorism without democratic reforms and alternative political models being allowed and promoted in key states, such as Saudi Arabia and Egypt. Achievements in Lebanon and the Palestinian Authority are baby steps in comparison with what must happen in the future for democracy to take root in the Middle East.

In World War II, the military defeats of Nazism and Japanese militarism were followed by de-Nazification and war crime trials. In the Middle East, things cannot go much differently if the cause of freedom is to prevail.

Challenges Ahead

In the months to come, Iraqis will finally hold trials for Saddam Hussein and his henchmen. This is a good start, but other challenges remain. As CENTCOM Commander General John Abizaid recently testified in a Senate hearing, more jihadi fighters are converging on Iraq today than six months ago. These are terrorists who come from all corners of the Muslim world to take part in jihad, or holy war, against the American "infidels" and their allies.

After using the fighting in Iraq to train, many of the battle-hardened survivors return to their countries of origin to prepare the next step of jihad. Terror generals from Osama bin Laden to Ayman al-Zawahiri want Iraq to become a major terrorist training ground, as Afghanistan was during the long battle against the Soviets in the 1990s. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld recently testified that the U.S. engagement in Iraq could last years.

To sustain a struggle, the terrorists are dependent upon a global network of recruiters from London to Lahore. These recruiters are financed by hundreds of millions of dollars collected through Al Qaeda-owned businesses and by the donations of rich businessmen around the Persian Gulf. These donors are brainwashed in hundreds of mosques by radical imams and mullahs, who are often on government payroll.

The Islamist terrorist worldview is formed and reinforced by a network of well-financed anti-American and anti-Western media, also predominantly government-supported, such as Hezbollah's Al Manar, which continue to broadcast with impunity. Education systems that are influenced by Wahhabi and Moslem Brotherhood clerics from kindergarten to graduate school reinforce radical Islam's murderous views. Their curricula are imbued with anti-Western, anti-Christian, anti-Hindu, and anti-Semitic messages.

Beyond Iraq

The social pathologies of the Middle East, which have given birth to two failing ideologies-Nasser-style Arab nationalist socialism and extremist Islamism-will take time to address. They need be dealt with primarily by Middle Eastern societies themselves, drawing on American, Western, and global support and know-how. The world cannot afford to tolerate the spread of Islamist terrorism, especially when terrorists and terror-supporting regimes covet weapons of mass destruction.

A major improvement in U.S. intelligence and covert action is still needed to identify and neutralize the brainwashing, recruitment, and terrorist smuggling networks that enable the Iraqi jihad and other terrorist actions to continue.

The governments of Syria, Saudi Arabia and Iran need to stop the terrorist operations that are being conducted on their soil or on their payrolls. This will not happen until they come under heavier U.S. pressure. The Syrian-Iraqi border must be sealed, and the terrorist smugglers there deterred or eliminated. Bankrolling and harboring terrorists and terrorist organizations must stop.

Jihadi and anti-American propagandists must be rendered silent, be it in the mosque, the madrassah, or the TV station. Just as the United States and its allies did not tolerate Nazi propaganda in 1946, incitement to kill Americans and American allies should not be tolerated today.

It is also high time for major curriculum revision in the Middle East. Countries awash with oil cash can no longer afford to refuse to reform and modernize their education systems. Schools must be transformed from jihad factories into agents of change, institutions that actually educate tolerance and modernity.


To defeat Iraqi insurgents and global terrorists, the Bush administration will need to win in Iraq and go beyond Iraq -- diplomatically, economically, intelligence-wise, and perhaps even militarily. The United States needs to support moderate Islamic and secular forces in the Muslim world, not just to discredit Islamism, but to promote and instill new ideas of tolerance and freedom. It will be long and tough war, but defeat is not an option. President Bush made that patently clear last night.

Ariel Cohen, Ph.D., is Senior Research Fellow at the Sarah and Douglas Allison Center for Foreign Policy Studies of the Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis Institute for International Studies at The Heritage Foundation.


TCS Daily Archives