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The Way to Win This War

By Jon Kyl

The President recently gave a series of speeches about the serious threat we face from radical Islamic terrorists. On the observance of the fifth anniversary of 9/11, it is fitting that we recall the nature of the enemy we face and what will be necessary for us to prevail in what is bound to be a long and difficult struggle.

It was important for the President to define who the enemy is and to make it clear that we are not just fighting terrorism itself, but the people who commit terrorism. We could have just as easily called the war in the Pacific during World War II "the war on kamikaze terrorism." That, too, was a suicide tactic by absolutely driven people. But it was the people, not the tactic of war we were fighting. The conflicts of 1941-45 and, thereafter, were against those whole believed in Nazism, fascism, Japanese imperialism, and, later, communism. They were not against a tactic, but against people who fought in the name of evil ideologies.

The same thing is true today. It is important to define the nature of the enemy we face in order to be able to adequately confront that enemy. That is why the President drew a comparison between the adversaries of then and now. He spoke of Adolf Hitler and people's initial tendency not to take him seriously. At first, Hitler was a "crazy paper hanger" and was greatly underestimated. Then, for a time, influential voices said that this was a man who could be appeased. This was understandable, in a sense, because the devastation of World War I was so fresh in everyone's mind that war was to be avoided at all costs. But Nazism and Hitler had to be confronted.

With communism, it was similar. At first it was "Uncle Joe Stalin," who helped us defeat the Nazi threat. As soon as that was accomplished, though, we moved into the period of the Berlin blockade, the Russians' acquisition of the atomic bomb, and the Soviet coup against the democratic government of Czechoslovakia. It gradually became clear that communism was a danger for the United States and the free world. Eventually, when Americans understood, they committed themselves and their allies to winning a cold war to defeat that threat.

Granted, there is a difference between the Soviets of the communist era and the radical Islamists: the Soviets could be deterred, the radical Islamists can't. And there is a particular reason why. Unlike most who were under the sway of Marx and Lenin, the radical Islamists aren't rational about life itself. They seek to bend us to their will, to kill us, or die trying. Either way, in their view, they win.

What did Fox News journalists Steve Centanni and Olaf Wiig have to do before they were released in Gaza a couple of weeks ago? They had to bend to the will of Allah. They were coerced to convert to Islam before they were released. This is the jihadists' goal. It is to force the rest of the world (including other Muslims) to adhere to their illegitimate version of Islam; to kill those who resist; or to die in the effort to bring death to those who resist.

We will only win this war if we take the threat seriously. The sooner we commit to victory, the fewer our losses will be. The best strategy is to take the fight to the enemy. The worst strategy is to leave in the middle of a battle, for example, in Iraq. It would be difficult, if not impossible, to win the war if we abdicate that battle. What war ally will stand with us if we decide there that the fight is too tough? How would that help us influence the mullahs who rule in Iran?

The President said, as he has said before, that the road ahead is going to be difficult. It will require more sacrifice. Yet we can have confidence in the outcome, because we've seen freedom conquer tyranny and terror before.

This war will not be won by exaggerating partisan differences. It will not be won by deciding that the fight is too difficult and that there are places where this struggle is occurring where we cannot prevail. We cannot send a message to our enemies, let alone to our allies, that we are not up to the struggle, wherever it may break out.

The only way to win this struggle is to win it.

Sen. Kyl serves on the Senate Finance and Judiciary committees and chairs the Senate Republican Conference. Visit his website at

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