- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 11, 2002

Ask any American beyond the age of 5, and they will be able to tell you exactly where they were and what they were doing one year ago today. We all have our stories, whether we lost someone, a relative or a friend or whether we simply saw our world change in the blink of an eye. Our memories and our grief for those who were lost have become part of the fabric of American history for good. While evil triumphed that day, Americans rallied, motivated by love for their country which many had never felt as strongly before. Memorial services throughout the United States today will reinforce those feelings.

Anniversaries, however, are also a time to take stock. For the past few weeks, the papers have been full of commentary and analyses of where we are in the war against terrorism. Unfortunately, the debate seems to have settled back into predictable patterns. Those who thought that President Bush came into office with a unilateralist agenda are finding confirmation of that idea. Those who never believed that Iraq's program of weapons of mass destruction must be rooted out, remain as skeptical as ever.

On the other hand, of course, those of us who believe that the president of the United States has a right and an obligation to defend Americans (with or without the consent of other nations), who believe that Saddam Hussein is a ticking time bomb, are likely to applaud Mr. Bush's leadership. Both sides would certainly agree, however, that September 11 profoundly changed U.S. foreign-policy priorities.

A radical change has been the readiness to use force. Having been subject to an unprovoked attack, the Bush administration has been unapologetic in its use of force to defend Americans security interests. The war in Afghanistan was waged less than a month after the September 11 attacks to destroy the al Qaeda network. Righteous anger and a sense of victimization have eradicated any lingering trace of Vietnam War syndrome.

Despite criticism that the war against terrorism is getting bogged down, after the initial successes in the campaign in Afghanistan last fall, the war continues on a worldwide scale. To say that it is running out of steam is simply not correct.

Right now, the question of whether war against Iraq is to constitute the next phase of the war on terror is hotly debated in print and on television. Tomorrow, Mr. Bush will make his case before the General Assembly of the United Nations. Statements on the weekend news shows by Vice President Dick Cheney and National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice about the Iraqi nuclear program as well as by British Prime Minister Tony Blair indicate that the Bush administration has committed itself to a cause of action to oust the intransigent dictator. Whether or not there is a smoking gun connection between al Qaeda and Saddam, it is certainly about time we finished the unfinished business of the last Gulf War.

Other battlefields include Yemen, once a haven for al Qaeda terrorists, where Green Berets are training local security forces, as well as Sudan and Somalia, also suspected of being friendly territory for Osama bin Laden. In the Philippines, 600 Green Berets are likewise training local forces. Georgia in March asked for American help in training its forces to combat terrorists, operating near the Russian border. Uzbekistan and Kyrgistan agreed to host U.S. bases on their territory.

Now, the Bush doctrine holds that those who are not for us in the war against terrorism are against us. That becomes problematic when large swaths of our nominal allies are highly reluctant to follow where the U.S. government wants to lead. This is particularly true of our NATO allies, with the exception of the trusty British.

The enlargement of the NATO alliance has been indisputably affected. Before September 11, the idea of a second round was endorsed by the White House, but still met a certain amount of congressional resistance. Today, as many as seven new members are thought likely to be named in November in Prague, with barely any controversy. Solidifying alliances and friendships has become essential, even as it has become more difficult.

There is no doubt that the United States finds itself in a new kind of conflict, a creation of the 21st century, which is yet reminiscent of the Cold War insofar as it is founded on ideology in this case religious fanaticism. We really are engaged in a clash of worlds one civilized, the other barbaric and we need all the tools at our disposal from military to diplomatic in order to fight it.

On this first anniversary of September 11, we owe a debt of gratitude to those who have guarded our peace and safety for the past year. They will need our support in years to come. God bless them, and God bless America.

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