We stood at a historic crossroad. President Bush’s victory in one of the most important elections in American history has several immediate consequences.
The Bush vision of the war against militant Islam has prevailed. If the election was a referendum on anything, it was on American national security. At a very basic level, this means Americans accept that we are at war. While this will seem to some like a banal observation, it is not. There are many in the legal and academic spheres who have insisted that the president launched an eccentric police action, at best. The American people knew better. This is, as Norman Podhoretz wisely counsels, World War IV.
A Bush victory means we not only get to acknowledge that fact. It means we fight to win. Islamic militancy is not a law-enforcement problem, or a nuisance like drugs, prostitution, or gambling. It is a global menace–a threat to U.S. national security akin to Nazism or Communism. The voters understand that it must be defeated with the same force and the same resolve, however much and however long it takes. Make all the tapes you like, Osama. We’re coming for you.
Law enforcement is not on the sidelines, and it is more essential than ever that the Justice Department and the FBI become adept at analyzing intelligence and preventing attacks. Gathering clues to solve completed bombings is not enough. The game plan is no longer the game plan of the 1990s.
The American people have reaffirmed that the first responsibility of government is the security of the governed. That means we must pursue the enemy overseas. For now, that is Afghanistan and Iraq. Eventually, it could be Iran, Syria or Pakistan.
The voters have spoken, and what they want is American national security ensured by American power. We don’t want to fight al Qaeda in Manhattan, although we will if we must. We hope for the cooperation of worthy allies, whose backs we have in this defining struggle. But we accept that our well-being is, in the final analysis, our own to defend. And, tonight solemnly reaffirms, defend it we shall.
As President Bush has urged, we want to take the battle to the enemy–to stay on offense until the enemy’s capacity to project power is nullified. This means our military must carry the heaviest burden, and must remain the best trained, best equipped, best fighting force in the history of mankind. In terms of priorities, we must be ready to pay to ensure that this remains so.
Nonetheless, we know that the enemy is capable and clever. We know al Qaeda, even as we dismantle its capabilities overseas, will attempt to infiltrate our country and kill our citizens.
Thus we must, going forward, support our law enforcement and intelligence agencies rather than cavil over past failures–failures that are more a product of paranoia over imagined civil rights abuses than agency ineptitude. Bottom line: The good people at DOJ win; the lost souls at the New York Times lose. A Bush victory is a mandate for domestic security. We must make the Patriot Act permanent, particularly the commonsense provisions that knock down walls and make it possible for national security agents and criminal investigators to pool intelligence.
Of course, there are many other challenges. But Tuesday, America herself was on the line. America prevailed.
–Andrew C. McCarthy, who led the 1995 terrorism prosecution against Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman and eleven others, is a senior fellow at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies.