The successful handover of sovereignty to the Iraqi people last month offers fresh hope for stability and democracy in their country, but it could also mark a turning of the tide in the world war against terrorism. While the deposed tyrant and terrorist Saddam Hussein stands trial, the people of the great Muslim country he suppressed for so long are now standing proud and free, and taking control of their own destiny. And they are showing strong support for their new leadership and new optimism about their democratic future. According to a BBC/Oxford Research International poll released this month, 55 percent of Iraqis believe their lives today are quite good or very good, 56 percent believe their lives will get better in the next year, and 70 percent believe Iraq needs democracy.
These survey results are significant because they show we are making real progress in the war of values and ideas in Iraq, ideas that are at the heart of the larger war on terrorism. Iraq has become a proving ground for the freedom and security we are fighting for, and a tough test of our resolve in this fight. The terrorists in Iraq and beyond will never beat us militarily. But they can defeat us politically if they succeed in their strategy to terrorize, demoralize and divide America and its allies.
The liberation of Iraq has important implications for the region and for the broader war on terrorism. The leaders of the Democratic and Republican parties have so far stood firm in their commitment to finish the job in Iraq and to fight to victory the war on terrorism. But that bipartisan consensus is coming under growing public pressure and could fray in the months ahead. Although the tide is turning in the war on terrorism, a political undertow in this country could wash out our recent gains. We must not let this happen.
To make sure it doesn't, we are relaunching today the Committee on the Present Danger, a group of citizens of diverse political persuasions who will work to sustain and strengthen bipartisan support for the war on terrorism in Iraq and beyond.
The Committee on the Present Danger was first formed at the dawn of the Cold War in 1950 to educate Americans about the growing threat of Soviet communism. Democratic senator Henry "Scoop" Jackson of Washington state revitalized the group in the mid-'70s; this time it was focused on working for a stronger stance toward the Soviets and the increased defense spending necessary to carry out that policy.
In this third incarnation, we intend to focus the committee on the present danger our generation faces: international terrorism from Islamic extremists and the outlaw states that either harbor or support them. The Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks awoke all Americans to the capabilities and brutality of our new enemy, but today too many people are insufficiently aware of our enemy's evil worldwide designs, which include waging jihad against all Americans and reestablishing a totalitarian religious empire in the Middle East. The past struggle against communism was, in some ways, different from the current war against Islamist terrorism. But America's freedom and security, which each has aimed to undermine, are exactly the same. The national and international solidarity needed to prevail over both enemies is also the same. In fact, the world war against Islamic terrorism is the test of our time.
True to its history, the reborn Committee on the Present Danger will advocate strong policies both against international terrorists and their sponsors and in favor of freedom and security. We are committed to advancing this common cause on a bipartisan basis.
In this war, our enemies do not distinguish between Democrats and Republicans. All Americans are the targets of their hate, because all Americans share the values they detest, the purpose that has defined America since the founders declared our independence -- to secure our rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
In his inaugural address, President John F. Kennedy said, "In the long history of the world, only a few generations have been granted the role of defending freedom in its hour of maximum danger. I do not shrink from this responsibility -- I welcome it." Our freedom is again in danger, this time from Islamist terrorism. Our generation must not shrink from the responsibility to defend it. Together, we will prevail, and freedom's reach will expand.
Joe Lieberman is a Democratic senator from Connecticut. Jon Kyl is a Republican senator from Arizona. They are honorary co-chairmen of the Committee on the Present Danger.