So far, I’ve given you the view from Main Street, USA. But now I’d like to share with you how a Common Sense Conservative sees the world at large.
This war – and that is what it is, a war – is not, as some have said, a clash of civilizations. We are not at war with Islam. This is a war within Islam, where a small minority of violent killers seeks to impose their view on the vast majority of Muslims who want the same things all of us want: economic opportunity, education, and the chance to build a better life for themselves and their families. The reality is that al Qaeda and its affiliates have killed scores of innocent Muslim men, women and children.
The reality is that Muslims from Algeria, Indonesia, Iraq, Afghanistan and many other countries are fighting al Qaeda and their allies today. But this will be a long war, and it will require far more than just military power to prevail. Just as we did in the Cold War, we will need to use all the tools at our disposal – hard and soft power. Economic development, public diplomacy, educational exchanges, and foreign assistance will be just as important as the instruments of military power.
We can win in Afghanistan by helping the Afghans build a stable representative state able to defend itself. And we must do what it takes to prevail. The stakes are very high. Last year, in the midst of the U.S. debate over what do to in Iraq, an important voice was heard – from Asia’s Wise Man, former Singaporean Prime Minister, Lee Kuan Yew, who wrote in the Washington Post about the cost of retreat in Iraq. In that article, he prophetically addressed the stakes in Afghanistan. He wrote:
“The Taliban is again gathering strength, and a Taliban victory in Afghanistan or Pakistan would reverberate throughout the Muslim world. It would influence the grand debate among Muslims on the future of Islam. A severely retrograde form of Islam would be seen to have defeated modernity twice: first the Soviet Union, then the United States. There would be profound consequences, especially in the campaign against terrorism.”
That statesman’s words remain every bit as true today. And Minister Lee knows, and I agree, that our success in Afghanistan will have consequences all over the world, including Asia. Our allies and our adversaries are watching to see if we have the staying power to protect our interests in Afghanistan. That is why I recently joined a group of Americans in urging President Obama to devote the resources necessary in Afghanistan and pledged to support him if he made the right decision.
Now in the region I want to emphasize today: The reason I speak about defense is because our strong defense posture in Asia has helped keep the region safe and allowed it to prosper. Our Asian allies get nervous if they think we are weakening our security commitments. I worry about defense cuts not because I expect war but because I so badly want peace. And the region has enjoyed peace for so long because of our security commitment to our longstanding allies and partners.
Asia has been one of the world’s great success stories. It is a region where America needs to assist with right mix of hard and soft power. While I have so much hope for a bright future in Asia, in a region this dynamic, we must always be prepared for other contingencies. We must work at this – work with our allies to ensure the region’s continued peace and prosperity.
Be sure to read the rest of the entire piece, which has a heavy focus on China.
Indeed, what Sarah Palin says – that terrorism and the War on Terrorism are ‘a war within Islam’ – is true. The main victims of Islamofascism are Muslims.
What was that about Lee Kuan Yew’s letter to the Washington Post? Some excerpts:
The Cost Of Retreat In Iraq
By Lee Kuan Yew
Saturday, March 8, 2008
There is no viable alternative to fossil fuels in the immediate future. Thus the security and stability of the Gulf and its oil supplies are vital for the United States.
America has been fighting an insurgency in Iraq for five years. Taking out Saddam Hussein was the right decision. Mistakes were subsequently made, though, and the price has been high.
Iraq is a key issue in the U.S. presidential campaign. Whether to maintain the U.S. presence in Iraq is for Americans to decide. But the general assumption has been that the only question to be resolved is the timing and manner of the withdrawal of American forces.
The costs of leaving Iraq unstable would be high. Jihadists everywhere would be emboldened. I have met many Gulf leaders and know that their deep fear is that a precipitate U.S. withdrawal would gravely jeopardize their security.
A hurried withdrawal from Iraq would cause the leaders of many countries to conclude that the American people cannot tolerate the nearly 4,000 casualties they have suffered in Iraq and that in a protracted asymmetrical war the U.S. government will not have its people’s support to bear the pain that is necessary to prevail. And this even after the surge of 30,000 additional troops under Gen. David Petraeus has resulted in an improved security situation.
Whatever candidates might say in the course of this presidential campaign, I cannot believe that any American president could afford to walk away from Iraq so lightly, damage American prestige and influence, and so undermine the credibility of American security guarantees.
A few years ago, the Taliban in Afghanistan and Saddam Hussein’s Iraq were a check on Iran. The Taliban is again gathering strength, and a Taliban victory in Afghanistan or Pakistan would reverberate throughout the Muslim world. It would influence the grand debate among Muslims on the future of Islam. A severely retrograde form of Islam would be seen to have defeated modernity twice: first the Soviet Union, then the United States. There would be profound consequences, especially in the campaign against terrorism.
Singapore supported the United States in Iraq and Afghanistan and continues to do so. My country has deployed amphibious support ships in the Gulf as well as transport aircraft and refueling tankers to assist U.S. forces. We are also helping with reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan. We have placed these symbolic chips on the table because we realize that the global stakes are extremely high.
The United States clearly cannot stay in Iraq alone. America needs a coalition. This will require a more multilateral approach, which in turn requires clarity and a close examination of the strategic stakes. The domestic American debate on Iraq affects world public opinion and thus the political viability and sustainability of any multinational coalition.
The writer, Singapore’s minister mentor, was prime minister from 1959 to 1990.
As Lee Kuan Yew says, abandoning Iraq would have had a dire effect on oil supplies. I mentioned this as Reason Two (and closely related to Reason One and Reason Three) of the Seven Reasons Why An Obama Presidency is Bad For Malaysia and the World.
And as he mentions, abandoning either Iraq or Afghanistan would give a huge boost to jihadist morale, perhaps causing an upsurge in terrorist attacks throughout the world.
This would be acutely felt in Southeast Asia, where there are large populations of Muslims and already many instances of jihadi activity.
Thus, a defeat or surrender in Afghanistan today would have dire effects in Southeast Asia by emboldening Islamic extremists, just as half a century ago America not intervening in Vietnam would have meant emboldened local communists. See What Did the Vietnam War Ever Accomplish?, which I actually wrote based on Lee Kuan Yew’s views, for more on the latter.
Thankfully for Iraqis (and the world), America did not withdraw from Iraq… Despite the insistence of then-Senator Barack Surrender Obama. Instead, they pressed on under President Bush.
As a result, real peace has been achieved in Iraq, at least 600,000 Muslim Iraqi lives have been saved, and 29 million set free from dictatorship and terror.
Now we just have to see if President Obama is going to retreat from Afghanistan and give a boost to the enemies of all humanity worldwide