The Ripon Forum

Volume 40, No. 5

Oct - Nov 2006 Issue

Keeping our Nation Secure

By on October 21, 2015 with 0 Comments

The path to victory begins with making the right choice


This November, American voters will vote in the third federal elections since the 9/11 attacks.  Once again, as in 2002 and 2004, we are having an important national dialogue as to how we will win the war against our enemies and protect Americans from an increasingly organized anti-American coalition of terrorists and dictators. 

In this dialogue, voters should first consider five big facts. 

First, the threat to our survival is mortal, direct and immediate. In the age of nuclear and biological weapons, even a few determined hateful people can do more damage than Adolph Hitler did in the Second World War. The loss of two or three American cities to nuclear weapons is a real threat. The loss from a biological attack would be even more devastating.   

Second, the threat is global in nature and involves increasing cooperation among an emerging anti-American coalition. America is unavoidably engaged in an emerging third world war, and any look at the active players and the centers of violence indicates just how worldwide it is. North Korea with its missile and nuclear weapons program are potential assets for Iran, which is allied with Syria and subsequently Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas, which operates not only in the Middle East but also in South America. Iran also has ties with Hugo Chavez in Venezuela. Simply marking on a map every place where there are acts of terrorism or dictatorships actively engaged in strengthening themselves for a possible future confrontation with the United States unmistakably reveals just how worldwide this threat is. 

Third, our enemies are increasingly confident. Their statements of their intention to defeat us are direct and clear. Iranian Dictator Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has said, “To those who doubt, to those who ask is it possible, or those who do not believe, I say accomplishment of a world without America and Israel is both possible and feasible.” 

meetIranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has said: “The world of Islam has been mobilized against America for the past 25 years. The peoples call, ‘death to America.’ Who used to say ‘death to America?’ Who, besides the Islamic Republic and the Iranian people, used to say this? Today, everyone says this.”  

In our own hemisphere, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has called on Iran to “save the human race, let’s finish off the U.S. empire.” 

Fourth, despite these unambiguous statements from our enemies, there is still great confusion among our elites and in the news media. Changing this by getting agreement on the scale of the threat is vital to the successful prosecution of the war. The key in this conflict – in military terms, the center of gravity – is the American people and, secondarily, all the free people of the world.

America is unavoidably engaged in an emerging third world war, and any look at the active players and the centers of violence indicates just how world wide it is.

Fifth, we have to confront the fact that while much has been accomplished in the last five years, much more must be done if we are to win. Time is not on our side. We must confront the reality that we are neither where we want to be nor where we need to be.  We have not captured Bin Laden. We have not defeated the Taliban in its sanctuaries in Northwest Pakistan. We have not stopped the recruitment of young fanatics into terrorism. We have not stopped either the Iranian or the North Korean nuclear programs. We do not have a stable, democratic Pakistan capable of securing its own nuclear weapons. Neither Afghanistan nor Iraq is stable and secure. The United Nations is unreformed, and we have failed to convince the people of America and of our fellow democracies of the correctness and necessity of what we are doing. We have vastly more to do than we have even begun to imagine. 

The evidence from even before 9/11 through today is that our enemies are vivid, direct, and unequivocal in their desire to defeat us – even if they have to die to do so. If they were to acquire a biological or nuclear weapon, they would not hesitate to use it in order to kill us in substantial numbers and shatter our freedom. We cannot afford to be confused. Our cities and our own lives are at risk. 

As the November election draws near, there are two factions of American politics that predominate. The appeasement wing declares the war too hard and the world too dangerous. These defeatists try to find some explainable way to avoid reality while advocating a return to “normalcy” at home and promoting a policy of weakness and withdrawal abroad.   

A second faction argues our national security system is doing the best it can and that we have to “stay the course” – no matter how unproductive.  

With American survival at stake, Americans must choose a path to victory that rejects as unthinkable the first group’s strategy of negotiated surrender and rejects as insufficient the second group’s unwillingness to do whatever it takes to win. The path to victory requires that we are willing to reorganize everything as needed in our national security system. We are in a real war in a lot of places, and all of our national institutions need to be in that war. This path will require more entrepreneurship and more speed as well as more resources and more accountability.           


Civilizations rise and fall because of the decisions of their political leaders. In the world’s democratic societies, these leaders are chosen by their voters, and it is ultimately their choice that matters.

A new war budget should be developed from war time requirements rather than peacetime constraints.  Intelligence and the land forces (Army and Marines) are all underfunded. Those who think we currently have a wartime budget simply have no notion of the scale of American war efforts historically.   We have a robust peacetime budget while trying to fight three wars and contain four dictatorships. That is a risky formula and makes victory much more difficult. 

But to do what is required, pro-victory leaders must first understand Margaret Thatcher’s axiom that “first you win the argument, and then you win the vote.” In the end, it is only with the support of the American people that political leaders can do what it takes in order to protect us from these mortal threats.  

America knows how to win; we have been in such a situation before. In  November of 1980, voters had had enough of the domestic and foreign policy failures of the Carter administration. They had just experienced the first year of what Mark Bowden in Guests of the Ayatollah called, “the first battle in America’s war with militant Islam” – the seizure of the American embassy in Iran in November 1979. 

In choosing to replace President Carter with former movie actor and former California Governor Ronald Reagan, the American people embraced a clear vision of victory. Famously asked by a reporter during the campaign about his vision of the Cold War, Reagan answered with these four words: “We win – they lose.” 

Reagan’s personification of strength and courage, coupled with his ability to connect with the American people through his warmth and his wit, stood in stark contrast to Carter’s humorless acceptance of weakness abroad and lowering economic standards at home. The voters heard Reagan loud and clear, and so too did our enemies. On the day of Reagan’s inauguration in January of 1981, the 444-day ordeal of the 52 American hostages finally ended. 

President Reagan, along with his allies, Margaret Thatcher and Pope John Paul II, went on to implement a systematic plan using economic and political might to defeat the Soviet Union without going to war. A few short years after Reagan left office, the Berlin Wall collapsed and the Soviet Union was no more.  

Civilizations rise and fall because of the decisions of their political leaders. In the world’s democratic societies, these leaders are chosen by their voters, and it is ultimately their choice that matters.  In the 2006 midterm election, the stakes for this choice couldn’t be higher. 

We are in an emerging third world war. We must choose leaders who will insist upon victory. We owe it to our children and grandchildren who deserve an even safer, freer and more prosperous American future.  RF

Newt Gingrich, former speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, is a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and the author of “Winning the Future: A 21st Century Contract with America”
(Regnery, 2005).

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