Sunday morning’s march in Paris was a remarkable display of worldwide unity and courage against Islamic terrorism. It reminded me of one of the most important speeches given by President George W. Bush, delivered to a joint session of Congress after 9/11.
It was received by an approving Congress unified by the conviction to defend American values and way of life. He said:
“Americans are asking, how will we fight and win this war? We will direct every resource at our command, every means of diplomacy, every tool of intelligence, every instrument of law enforcement, every financial influence, and every necessary weapon of war, to the disruption and to the defeat of the global terror network.
“This war will not be like the war against Iraq a decade ago, with a decisive liberation of territory and a swift conclusion. It will not look like the air war above Kosovo two years ago, where no ground troops were used and not a single American was lost in combat.
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“Our response involves far more than instant retaliation and isolated strikes. Americans should not expect one battle but a lengthy campaign, unlike any other we have ever seen … We will starve terrorists of funding, turn them one against another, drive them from place to place, until there is no refuge and no rest. And we will pursue nations that provide aid or safe haven to terrorism. Every nation, in every region, now has a decision to make. Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists.”
The speech reminded Americans that defeating Islamic terrorism required a comprehensive approach, to be fought by all civilized nations, and that it would be a lengthy campaign.
It is natural for people to forget about the horrors of terrorism unless it affects them directly. We also know that Americans live insulated from most of the horrors affecting the world because of how fortunate we are to live in our free and prosperous nation.
Many of us have forgotten that there were compelling, justifiable reasons for our government to undertake vigilant surveillance measures to prevent terrorism, including through the use of the National Security Agency.
Those reasons remain as compelling today, if not more so, than during the period immediately after 9/11.
We cannot let our guard down against terrorism, although we must always be vigilant never to undermine our civil liberties when defending against extreme threats to our civilized order. It is a tension natural to how we wish to govern ourselves as a free people, and not one for which there is a ready-made solution. It is the reason why our nation is as magnificent as it is, and we are as fortunate as we are.
Bob Martinez, Miami