I've known President Bush since he was governor of Texas and gave us permission to start the first Christian prison in this country. One thing I've always liked about him is that he says what he means and means what he says.
That's why I felt something was missing in his speech and press conference Tuesday night. I think he would have liked to have told us the whole story, but it's impossible for him to do so.
The president said we weren't on a war footing before September 11, 2001. That's true. He went on to say that we are now on a war footing and are in a war-also true, but I think he had to pull his punches in telling us the character of that war.
We Westerners forget history. We forget that from the time Muhammad began writing the Qur'án in 610 A.D., Islam and the Christian West were engaged in armed conflicts that lasted for a thousand years. Islam even occupied Spain during much of this period, and it wasn't until 1683 that the Ottoman Empire was finally defeated at Vienna.
We see what is happening today as an isolated case of terrorists taking a misguided reading of the Qur'án. I wish it were that simple. The truth is there's an element in Islam-some estimate as high as 20 percent-who see this battle as a resumption of the thousand years of war. In fact, Osama bin Laden was a student of Mohammed Qutab whose brother, Saeb Qutab, a radical Egyptian Islamist, argued for a resumption of this conflict with the West. Saeb Qutab was thoroughly anti-Semitic, had a burning hatred of the West, and saw its destruction as the world's only hope. And that's what filled the mind of Osama bin Laden.
We're kidding ourselves if we think that containing a few terrorists will allow America to live in peace and safety. We're kidding ourselves if we think we can bring troops home from Iraq and that's the end of the war. This war is going to be with us for generations. Millions of followers of Osama bin Laden and those like him believe that it is their manifest destiny as Muslims to bring about the utter destruction of Jews, Christians, and Western civilization.
But those of us on the sidelines can say things the president can't say. If we can create a democracy in the Middle East, Muslim people will see it and realize it is good for them. And moderate Muslims may then capture control of Islamic governments.
As I see it, it's our only hope. I think that President Bush sees this too and recognizes that a flagship democracy in Iraq can bring democracy and freedom to the Muslim masses. Yes, it's a tough job, but it is our only hope.
We need a sober realistic view of what is happening, and we need to recognize that Iraq is not another quagmire like Vietnam, but a beachhead of democracy and freedom in the Middle East that may win over the Muslim masses and isolate the terrorists and radical Islamists.
Bush could promise a quick end to Iraq, as the partisan choruses are demanding in this election year-and he'd ensure his reelection. But to abandon Iraq would be to surrender to radical Islam. That's why Christians have a duty to bring some historical perspective to this debate.