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John Campbell

John Campbell (R-Irvine) is an Assemblyman representing the 70th District in Orange County. Mr. Campbell is the Vice-Chairman of the Assembly Budget Committee. He is the only CPA in the California State legislature and recently received a national award as Freshman Republican Legislator of the Year. He represents the cities of Newport Beach, Laguna Beach, Irvine, Costa Mesa, Tustin, Aliso Viejo, Laguna Woods and Lake Forest. He can be reached through his Assembly website and through the website for his California Senate campaign. [go to Campbell index]

No Quick Wars
Why the terrorist threat will be with us for a while....
[John Campbell] 5/12/04

We have become accustomed to things happening quickly. If our Internet connection does not bring up the requested Web page in a fraction of a second, we become impatient and may change our ISP. If we walk into a restaurant and are not greeted and seated immediately, we may not return there. If the car in front of us at a stoplight lets as much as 2 seconds pass after the greening of the light, our instinct is to fall on our horn in disgust for this blatant waste of our valuable time.

The societal ills caused by this epidemic of impatience are vast. But the greatest of these is when we superimpose these expectations of speed onto our era's great issues of public policy. It seems that we now expect our geopolitical conflicts to be resolved as quickly as our cell phone's lack of signal on the toll road. That is unrealistic and dangerous.

The armed conflicts in which our country has been engaged in the last couple of decades have been very short in duration. Gulf Wars, Afghanistan, Kosovo, Somalia and Panama all had "hot" conflicts of relatively short duration. But when the conflict is part of a broader confrontation with a continuing enemy, history shows that the enemy and therefore the confrontation can go on for decades.

Arguably, this country's first continuing conflict was that with Britain, the country from which we gained independence in 1776 through a war. But Britain remained a threat and a source of conflict for nearly 100 years thereafter. Long after the Revolution and the subsequent war of 1812, the British provided aid to the fledgling Confederate States of America during the American Civil War in a continuing attempt to bring down or weaken the United States.

Similarly, we saw the Germans as a threat from the outbreak of World War I until the end of World War II. The end of that war signaled the beginning of the fight against communism and the Soviet Union, which continued until that nation's demise 46 years later.

Terrorism, and more specifically Islamic terrorism, is clearly our country's new enemy and threat. This enemy is not as easily geographically categorized as Soviets or Germans, but it is an enemy that would, if it could, bring down our system of government and rain death and destruction on our people. Even those easily identified enemies remained threats for decades through one or more "hot" wars.

Since the terrorism enemy is so amorphous, it will be even harder and may take even longer to reach a final victory. Just as communism continued to be a threat despite wars in Korea and Vietnam and a Soviet loss in Afghanistan, we cannot expect our recent victories in Afghanistan and Iraq to end terrorism all by themselves. It is way beyond the scope of this column to get into some of the root causes of the terrorism and the various steps needed to eventually declare a full victory. They are numerous and complicated. Those recent military victories are steps in a process which history would indicate could take decades.

That means that although George W. Bush was president when the conflict reached a new plateau on September 11th, 2001, he is unlikely to be the president able to declare final victory against terrorism, even in a second term. Although Presidents Nixon and Reagan arguably made the greatest strides in defeating communism, the Berlin Wall came down under the watch of George W. Bush's father.

So, as we examine these issues in the context of the upcoming presidential election, we should not be thinking so much about who will end the war against terrorism. Neither candidate is likely to do that. Instead we

should examine who will best prosecute that conflict through the next 4 years in order to bring an eventual victory closer to reality and to safeguard American lives and property in the meantime.

For me, that decision is abundantly clear. The John Kerry strategy (assuming that he actually has one that is consistent and does not change based on the audience to which he is speaking) seems to be one that has been tried in the past and has failed. History tells us that a Kerry strategy of ignoring the enemy until it gets stronger and attacks us again will result in longer conflicts of greater casualties over time. Our enemy's hatred for us will not go away simply by pulling all our troops home.

No. Give me the strong, resolute hand of President Bush on the tiller of national defense for another 4 years. Give me a foreign policy based on projecting strength and consequences rather than weakness and capitulation. Give me leadership with the courage to go where we must and where it is right, even if we must go alone.

All our desires to have a quick and simple war against terrorism so that we can check that off our personal organizer's to do list are simply not realistic. We will have to exercise what has become a rare quality, patience. But in November we can exercise a more common quality, judgment, and allow President Bush to continue down the path of eventual victory. CRO



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