In his first non-Senate appearance since Terrible Tuesday, Sen. John McCain checks himself, balances on his two feet and stands up tall. He'll restart his presidential campaign in Concord, the capital of New Hampshire, and is returning to his roots. In a speech this afternoon, McCain will steel his audience to prepare for a "Long War." And he challenges Democrats and Republicans to explain how they'll fight it.
“I want to talk today about the national security challenge of our time, the war which radical Islamist extremists have been waging against us for the better part of three decades, and in which Iraq, according to the commander of our forces there, General Petraeus and our enemies, is a central front. My father’s generation successfully fought the Second World War. Succeeding American generations successfully fought the Cold War. And, my friends, we will successfully defend ourselves against this new and very dangerous threat. But as we have done in the past, we must not take counsel of our fears, nor avert our eyes from the imminence and complexity of the threat, nor let our will weaken because of the sacrifices we have already made and the false assumptions and tactical mistakes we have made in Iraq and in the wider struggle against enemies who are as determined to harm us as we must be to defeat them.
“Today, our goal must be to effectively counter the plans of our enemies not simply with military force but with all the other tools at our disposal—economic, diplomatic, political, legal, and ideological. We must not only track down and capture or kill confirmed jihadists, we must stop a new generation from joining the fight. This Long War is not with Islam but within Islam – a small minority of extremists against the majority of moderates…
“To talk about the struggle against Islamic extremists is, of necessity, to talk about our war with al Qaeda in Iraq. Many Democrats claim this is a conflict we cannot win. They ignore the consequences of a US defeat at the hands of al Qaeda – and some ignore al Qaeda altogether. Just this week, Senators Clinton and Byrd wrote an op-ed about the war in Iraq and never once mentioned al Qaeda or the terrorist presence in Iraq. Foreign jihadists—Al Qaeda operatives--are responsible for at least 80% of the suicide bombings that are the driving force of sectarian strife. They are in this war to win and we cannot let them.
“Defeatism will not buy peace in our time. It will only lead to more bloodshed—and to more American casualties in the future. If we choose to lose in Iraq, our enemies will hit us harder in Afghanistan hoping to erode our political will and encourage calls in Western capitals for withdrawal and accommodation with our enemy there as well."
“These are the decisions confronting American voters in this election, and they will confront the person you elect President. In November, 2008 the American people will decide with their votes how and where this war will be fought or if it will be fought at all. I have told you how I intend to fight this war. Other candidates will argue for a different course. Democratic candidates for President will argue for the course of cutting our losses and withdrawing from the threat in the vain hope it will not follow us here. I cannot join them in such wishful and very dangerous thinking. Peace at any price is an illusion and its costs are always more tragic than the sacrifices victory requires. I will stand where I stand today and trust you to give me a fair hearing. There is too much at stake in this election for any candidate to do less…”