Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Lessons we keep learning...

Donald Rumsfeld has an opinion piece in The Australian. In it, he draws a parallel between the War on Terror and the Cold War, and makes some of the same points I made in my “Reagan, on Peace” post. These are points that need to be made again and again.
It has been said this global war against extremism will be the task of a generation, much like the Cold War, which lasted for decades.

We look back now at the Cold War as a great victory for freedom. But nothing was certain or preordained.

The 50-year span of the epic battle between the free world and the Soviet empire was filled with division, uncertainty, self-doubt, setbacks and failures.

Even with our closest allies, there were disputes over diplomatic policy, weapons deployment and military strategies. In the 1960s, France pulled out of NATO's military organisation altogether.

In the US, columnists and editorialists questioned and doubted US policies. There were even instances where US citizens saw their own government challenged as being warmongers or aggressors.

But the US – under leaders of both political parties – and our allies showed perseverance and resolve, year after year. The strategies varied, from coexistence to containment to detente to confrontation. Our leaders continued to stand up to what many thought an unbeatable foe, and eventually the Soviet regime collapsed.

That lesson has had to be relearned throughout the ages: the lesson that weakness is provocative, that a refusal to confront gathering dangers can increase, not reduce, future peril and that victory ultimately comes only to those who are purposeful and steadfast.

Have there been setbacks in Afghanistan and Iraq? Of course. But the enemy cannot win militarily. Their weapons are terror and chaos. They attack any sort of hope or progress to try to undermine morale. They know that if they can win the battle of perception, we will lose our will and leave.
Indeed. Our military might is not in question. Our most potent weapon in this conflict is, and will remain, our resolve. The enemy’s only hope is to outlast us, to break our will. They know this, but I’m not convinced that we do.

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