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Monday, May 03, 2004

Victor Davis Hanson

We are presently engaged in a world war for our civilization and its vision of a just and humane society. Our values will either endure this present struggle and indeed be invigorated by the ordeal, or like once great civilizations of the past we will stumble in the face of barbarism and lose all that we hold dear. Across the world in places as diverse as Madrid, Fallujah, Kandahar, Thailand, Amman, and Bali agents of intolerance and religious fascism seek to terrorize and thereby eventually destroy the promise of a free and tolerant mankind. We must be as determined to defeat them as they are to destroy us.

Americans believe that freedom and consensual government — far from being the exclusive domain of the West — are ideals central to the human condition and the shared aspirations of all born into this world. That is the great hope we embrace now in Iraq, that as we rout those who advocate fundamentalism and intolerance, millions of others will gain confidence and join the struggle for democratic change. But until then, even as we speak, millions, sometimes in fear and silence, are watching our present efforts. They are uncertain of the outcome. They wait to pledge their allegiance to the victor, hoping, but not yet convinced, that we can defeat those who would impose tyranny and intolerance on any who would seek to reform and escape from their present misery.

What are the values for which hundreds of Americans have now fallen in Afghanistan and Iraq? They are not new or hard to fathom, nor are they the easily caricatured images of American popular culture. Rather they are the same principles for which Americans died at Valley Forge, Gettysburg, Iwo Jima, and Pusan: the guarantee of free association and expression, the tolerance of different ideas, a respect for the rule of law, and the right to enjoy equality under the aegis of consensual government. So this is what we believe in and this is what we have made it our mission to preserve.

Make no mistake: As we learned on September 11, our enemies do not merely disagree with us. They demand our very destruction for what we believe and who we are. Against savages who knock down skyscrapers and blow up innocents, we understandably speak of a war against terror. Indeed we are fighting against cowardly and cruel people who behead, desecrate, blow up, and know only how to harm and torture the innocent — never to create or build a just society.

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