As the 20th century was drawing to a close, Francis Fukuyama argued that the great debate between freedom and oppression had been won by the United States and the West. But history was not over, and totalitarianism, hatred, and imperialism were not dead. While the United States faced down the Soviet empire, another ideology of hate and oppression was gaining strength.

The United States saw it but did not fully understand it: Munich in 1972, Iran in 1979, Beirut in 1983. We saw it in Pan Am flight 103, in Riyadh, in Khobar Towers, in the attack on the USS Cole. And, too late, the United States saw it fully revealed on September 11.

Now the United States understands that it is in another ideological struggle, with an enemy just as evil as the ones it faced in the 20th century. Today the United States fights fanatics who have perverted a religion of peace into a vile belief that our very freedoms—those freedoms that the United States has fought and shed blood for since the founding of this great nation—are in and of themselves decadent and evil.

Former US Senate Democratic Leader Tom Daschle (“US Foreign Policy: Missteps, Mistakes, and Broken Promises,” Spring 2006) does not seem to understand these new threats or the fact that the United States must now devote its full energies to protecting the country from terrorist attacks and infiltration.

The US government’s job is not to sit back and wait for threats to become realities. It is important to remember that the threat in Iraq did not develop overnight. US President George W. Bush saw the threat, the previous administration of US President Bill Clinton saw the threat, and members of both political parties in the US Congress saw the threat and passed a resolution calling for a regime change in Iraq. Following the attacks of September 11, US citizens and the Congress vowed to defend the United States, defeat the terrorists overseas so we did not have to face them in the United States again, and bring them to justice. Today we are engaged in a war that is not quick or easy. But we now have lawmakers who are shifting their positions and wanting to deploy a “cut and run” strategy that will not work.

My parents fled to the United States from a war-torn Vietnam in 1975. My family knows the horrors of war, but we also know that the United States, just as it did in the Cold War, is fighting with every tool at its disposal, be it diplomatic, economic, or military. But when the war is against an unyielding totalitarian ideology, we must recognize that there is only one way to final victory: change the conditions that breed hatred and oppression.

History has taught us that democracies do not fight each other and that free nations do not give rise to mass terrorist movements. There is a reason Al Qaeda is desperate to fight the United States in Iraq—because planting the seed of democracy in the Middle East could be fatal to their terrorist ideals.

We must go to root causes, and that is what the United States is doing in Iraq. After three nationwide elections, a distinct Iraqi democracy is forming. The people are experimenting with freedom. It is not easy, and the path has not always been—and will not always be—a smooth one. But it can and must be done.