Obama concluded his single-paragraph disquisition with this: “Nevertheless, this ideology persists.” Yes, it does, and that raises the key strategic question: What is to be done? The president answers: “This war, like all wars, must end. That’s what history advises. That’s what our democracy demands.”
Wars do end — but rarely because one side declares them over unless, of course, that side is prepared to accept defeat. Imagine President Roosevelt, circa 1943, deciding it was time to end the “wars” in Europe, Asia, and North Africa, even as German and Japanese troops continued to spread fascism. Imagine President Kennedy saying it was time to wind down the Cold War even as the Soviets were expanding the frontiers of Communism. The ideology that confronts us today is no less totalitarian, no less supremacist, and no less bellicose.
Surely, what history advises is that appeasement is a policy certain to fail. Surely, what democracy demands is that we stand up to those who threaten our freedom — even if that means paying the price and bearing the burden of a long war.
— Clifford D. May is president of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a policy institute focusing on national security.