- The Washington Times - Saturday, September 10, 2005

It has been four years since our nation and the world were forever altered by the cowardly September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. It is not only appropriate, but vital, that U.S. policymakers, scholars and media come together to help find ways to effectively fight the global war on terrorism.

September 11 demonstrated to everyone — those to the left and to the right right on the political spectrum — that terrorism is a major national security problem.

Four years later, there is still no consensus on how terrorism challenges our national security. This is a serious problem: If we cannot agree on the nature of the challenge, we will not create a coherent policy to combat it.

In my view, radical Islamic terrorism is an existential threat to our nation and to the Western values upon which it rests. Radical Islam is an ideology akin to fascism and communism in terms of demonizing Western democratic values and suppressing universal freedoms.

Radical Islamic terrorism is an insidious threat involving religious fundamentalism, powerful state sponsors, substate networks and mass destruction capabilities in a lethal combination that could prove more destructive than fascism or communism.

After the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, America came to realize radical Islam’s lethal nature. The Bush administration understood Islamic terrorism could not be solved by one battle or a Security Council resolution. The War on Terrorism, like the Cold War before, is a generational war that must defeat terror and the ideology that fuels it.

I often am asked why we haven’t been attacked since September 11, 2001. The usual theories include successful reorganization of homeland security, enhanced intelligence-gathering, closer cooperation between agencies and greater international cooperation, among other factors.

My view of this “lull” is twofold: The terrorists understand the U.S. mentality, and know we are tiring of the war on terror, especially in Iraq. Eventually, they believe, we will turn our attention elsewhere. Secondly, they know they must disrupt the everyday lives of Americans. They can do this only by attacking our national economy — our banking infrastructure, the electrical grid or transportation systems.

How is this vast front secured? President Bush in May said: “The best way … is to stay on the offensive. … Across the world, our military is standing directly between the American people and the worst dangers in the world, and Americans are grateful to have such brave defenders.”

Nevertheless, maintaining a robust military capability is not enough — we must have the political will to use it. Fortunately, Mr. Bush had the foresight and the will to take the fight to the terrorists, destroy their capabilities and put them on the run.

Only the spread and promotion of human freedom and human rights will counter the seeds of rejection and despair radical Islam has sown across the world, especially in Iran.

Iranian influence is felt deeply throughout the Middle East and, to some extent, around the world.

It is evident the ayatollahs have used surrogates to create regional destruction and mayhem. Terrorist organizations like Hezbollah, Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad are actively and fully supported by Iran, often through Syria in an attempt to avoid fingerprints.

For this reason, I believe the U.S. needs a renewed Iranian policy with both traditional and nontraditional partners, inside as well as outside Iran. We must be innovative in our response. This need not include a military component but must take to heart the severity of the Iranian threat.

The antidote to radical Islam is clear: promoting democracy, spreading human freedom and creating economic opportunity. As the president has said, “The only force powerful enough to stop the rise of tyranny and terror, and replace hatred with hope, is the force of human freedom.”

More needs to be done. The right to vote is meaningless unless it is an informed vote without fear or retribution.

Jim Saxton, New Jersey Republican, is chairman of the House of Representatives’ Armed Services Subcommittee on Terrorism and Unconventional Threats.

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