What is war? All Americans of every political persuasion love war as a metaphor; we talk about it all the time. But are we ready for the real thing?
In my lifetime, we’ve seen a war on poverty, a war on drugs, a war on pollution, a war on obesity and a war on pornography, to name only a few. We lost most of those wars, but maybe the jury is still out on pollution.
But there is one thing I do know for certain. On the evening of Sept. 11, 2001, President George W. Bush declared a “war on terror,” and 13 years and $3 trillion later, that war has not been won. Why not?
Maybe it’s time to ask why we are not winning. Could it be that we are not winning because we have been fighting the wrong war? Could it be we have been fighting the enemy’s shadow, not the enemy itself?
Folks, it’s time we named the enemy responsible for acts of terror and adopted a strategy aimed at defeating that enemy? It is time we declared war not on “terror” but on the source and agent of the only terror in our world aimed at America and Americans: namely, radical Islam.
And by “declaring war,” I don’t mean another Rose Garden speech, I mean a formal declaration of war by the Congress of the United States.
Some very smart and prescient people have been suggesting this for a decade; Middle East scholar Daniel Pipes suggested it back in October of 2005. I have proposed it many times, for example in the New Hampshire Republican presidential debate in August of 2007, when I said, “This war is actually not in Iraq. The war is with radical Islam. … Iraq is a battlefield in that war.” In the debate at the Iowa straw poll, I said, “We are in a war with radical Islam. That is the war.”
The suggestion for a declaration of war is now coming from many officials, most recently from Rep. Louis Gohmert, R-Texas, vice chairman of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime and Terrorism, who told Bill O’Reilly last week he supports a declaration of war. He also told Neil Cavuto:
“I think a lot of us would be willing to have a declaration of war against radical Islam, including al-Qaida, ISIS, ISIL, all of these splinter groups, the ones in Libya. We can name them, and – and I don’t think a lot of us would have a problem.”
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Now, in the vein of our loquacious president, let me be perfectly clear. This proposal for a formal declaration of war is offered on the assumption that the large majority of Americans and American leaders are really serious about protecting our homeland against monstrous acts of terrorism planned and carried out by radical Islamists. And I do believe that the real question before us is, how serious are we?
IF we are serious about it, protecting our homeland requires a formal declaration of war by the Congress of the United States – with or without the president’s leadership. If Congress acts and President Obama vetoes the act, then we will have to wait for his departure and replacement, either in January of 2017 or earlier.
Why is declaring war on an enemy who has already attacked us so controversial and so difficult? In December of 1941, President Franklin Roosevelt went to Congress to state the obvious but did it eloquently and forcefully: that a state of war already existed between the United States and Japan by virtue of Japan’s Dec. 7 attack on Pearl Harbor. We were attacked, and we responded by recognizing and formally declaring that a state of war existed.
In 1941, we did not create the war, we did not seek the war; we responded to a war that was thrust upon us. And we decided and announced that victory over that enemy was our goal.
On Sept. 11, 2001, radical Islamists within al-Qaida sent agents to attack the United States, and on that day, radical Islamists killed more Americans than were killed at Pearl Harbor. Yet, strangely, 13 years later, we have yet to name the culprits and identify them as an enemy of the United States – even though they almost daily announce their hatred of us and their intent to murder and destroy us.
We were not attacked on Sept. 11 by “terror,” and “terror” will not and never can be defeated or annihilated because it has existed throughout human history in various forms. There are weapons and technologies and poisons that can terrorize nations and civilian populations worldwide. But like a loaded gun that is inert and harmless until it is picked up and aimed with criminal intent, those weapons are powerless and no threat to us without that missing element– the intent to do us harm.
Radical Islam openly proclaims that intent to do us harm on a daily basis. Thus, radical Islam has declared war on us, and it is time we acknowledged that fact and responded with a strategy to defeat their murderous plans.
It is becoming more and more obvious that a formal congressional declaration of war is necessary to bring clarity and resolve to our military and political efforts to defeat Islamist terrorism. Like any serious war effort, one that aims at victory, not “containment,” the declaration of war should encompass bold and comprehensive strokes in every realm of engagement – military, diplomatic, economic and cultural.
That declaration of war should name specific organizations that have declared war on America by announcing the intent to kill American citizens at home and abroad – to include ISIS, Hamas, al-Qaida and every al-Qaida affiliate and subgroup across the globe, from Syria to Indonesia, from Cairo to London, and from Caracas to Chicago. Yes, we need to name all of them as sworn enemies, and we need to destroy them before they destroy us.
That official declaration of war will need to define radical Islam with enough precision and clarity to allow the easy identification of those radical Muslims who are advocating violence against the United States and its citizens and the imposition of Shariah law on all peoples and nations by violence and the threat of violence. It probably should also contain provisions for denying United States citizenship to any person who adheres to radical Islamist principles, which are incompatible with an allegiance to the United States Constitution.
To be perfectly clear, again: Yes, indeed, this is a new kind of war, but it is a war we cannot run away from. It is coming to our shores and our streets – to our schools, our shopping malls, our sports events, as well as our military installations and our economic infrastructure. We can either continue to whistle past the graveyard, or we can face the truth and declare our readiness to fight and win that new kind of war.
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