John McCain delivered a very important and moving speech today.
The war on terror, the war for the future of the Middle East, and the struggle for the soul of Islam — of which the war in Iraq constitutes a key element — are bound together. Progress in one requires progress in all. The many complex challenges we face require more than a military response. This is a contest of ideas and values as much as it is one of bullets and bombs. We must gain the active support of modernizers across the Muslim world, who want to share in the benefits of the global system and its economic success, and who aspire to the political freedom that is, I truly believe, the natural desire of the human heart. No matter how much attention their ruthless tactics receive, terrorists are not the true face of Islam. Devout Muslims in Lebanon, Indonesia, Pakistan and Egypt, Morocco, Bahrain, and in Iraq, aspire to progress for their societies in which basic human needs are met for more than the privileged few and basic human rights are respected.It is just as important when building relationships with other countries that we not only prove reliable partners in peace and diplomacy, but show determination and squelch our reputation of retreating at the first signs of adversity, breaking promises, and leaving the helpless at the mercy of tyrants. I would argue that the latter has been our legacy far more than the former, at least in the past 30 years.
The United States needs stronger alliances, coalitions, and partnerships worldwide to engage this long and multidimensional struggle. We need to pay careful attention to America’s image and moral credibility. And in this broad effort, the outcome of the war in Iraq will play a pivotal role.
On my trip I traveled to Baghdad, Ramadi, and Tikrit, met with Iraqi cabinet officers, our top military leadership, including Generals Petraeus and Odierno, and with embassy officials, including our new ambassador, Ryan Crocker. I also had the privilege of spending time with our soldiers, from generals to privates. Their courage and resolve in this frustrating war is an inspiration, and serves as a reminder of our obligations to avoid the expediency of easy, but empty answers or the allure of political advantage to choose the path in Iraq that best honors their sacrifices.
We’re going to need their courage more than ever. The divisions in Iraqi society are deep, and the need for greater security critical. Innocent Iraqis are still being murdered, and our soldiers are braving dangers no less threatening than in the past. Every day we read about or watch on television the latest car bombing, IED explosion or sniper attack. But something else is happening, too. There are the first glimmers of progress under General Petraeus’ political-military strategy. While these glimmers are no guarantee of success, and though they come early in the implementation of the new strategy, I believe they are cause for very cautious optimism.