My fellow Americans, my parents’ generation is known as the Greatest Generation. But it was not because they were the Greatest Generation that they prevailed in World War II.
#ad#Rather, they became the Greatest Generation because of the struggles and hardships they were willing and able to endure–in order to win World War II.
Their struggle then was against the forces of totalitarianism and terror.
Our struggle today is–once again–against the forces of totalitarianism and terror.
Their challenge was immense and the stakes were historic.
Our challenge is immense and the stakes are historic.
In the 20th century, the United States defeated both the Nazis and the Communists. But those victories will be for nothing if we do not defeat forces at war with us today, forces that are just as malevolent, just as intent on the destruction of the free world, just as devoted to an ideology of supremacism and dictatorship.
In this new century, a new generation will prevail. We will prevail because the American people–still the last, best hope of mankind–have the strength, the resilience and the determination required to prevail.
The front lines of this war are in Iraq. In Iraq–and only in Iraq–an al Qaeda commander is murdering innocent people virtually every day.
Some are urging us to withdraw from Iraq, to withdraw from the front lines of this war. But we will not be forced to retreat. We will not surrender–and pretend it’s just an “exit strategy.”
I have confidence that you understand that if we were to allow our enemies to destroy our will to fight, if we were to let our enemies defeat us on the battlefield in Iraq, that would not be the end of the war.
Rather, fortified by his victory, our enemy would go on to challenge us on other battlefields. I ask those calling on us to withdraw from Iraq leaving the Iraqi people to the tender mercies of al Qaeda: Where would you prefer we fight this enemy? Where would you like the battlefield to be? Or do you think we can hide from this enemy or cut a deal with him or make ourselves inoffensive to him? If so, you are seriously mistaken.
No, the American people understand that we must and will prevail in Iraq. We will defeat these enemies. We will help the good people of Iraq hold on to their newfound freedoms. We will assist others who are fighting for freedom in the Middle East and elsewhere.
And someday, our children will say that we, too, were the Greatest Generation.
–Clifford D. May, a former New York Times foreign correspondent, is president of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, a policy institute focusing on terrorism.