We should reflect on our successes in war on terror

Throughout 2005, our men and women in uniform have continued their valiant efforts in Iraq, Afghanistan and so many other places in the world against an enemy who knows no borders. We know all too well that terrorists know no limits to their ambitions and the means by which they would achieve those ambitions, however violent and horrific.

America’s continued progress in the war on terror is critical to protecting our nation and our very way of life. As this year comes to an end, I hope Americans will reflect on the tireless commitment and good works of our troops and the progress that has been made, and that they will reject defeatist rhetoric and baseless partisan attacks.

It has been less than three years since Iraq was liberated, and in that time tremendous advancements toward democracy have occurred. A constitutional democracy is taking hold, and the Middle East is moving toward greater stability. It is integral to the continued progress in this region and to the overall war on terror that we not allow the cowardly acts of insurgents to derail our efforts.

In January, the world watched as 8.5 million Iraqis went to the polls to vote in a free national election. In October, Iraqis returned to the polls for a referendum on a new constitution. This time, we saw significantly fewer insurgent attacks, with 9.8 million Iraqis voting and 79 percent supporting the approval of the new constitution.

Iraq also has seen tremendous improvement in new public services, infrastructure, free press, economic activity and legal institutions that are critical to the long-term success of this democracy. For example, more than 3,400 public schools have been built and hundreds of water and sewer projects, 149 new health facilities and over 250 fire and police stations have been completed.

Evermore, Iraqis are seeing the insurgents for the thugs, thieves and indiscriminate killers that they are. In just the past nine months, there has been an astonishing 500 percent increase in the number of tips regarding insurgents that Iraqi civilians are providing to security forces.

Despite the evident progress, some want to cut and run, claiming that our troops have done all they can do and that the United States should set arbitrary timelines for withdrawing our forces. I strongly disagree; that would only embolden the terrorists and send the message that the United States has lost its resolve.

The timeline we should focus on is the Dec. 15 election of a parliamentary government. The establishment of a constitutional democracy, coupled with the continued training of Iraqi security forces — now exceeding 211,000 personnel — will in time allow the Iraqis to defend themselves and the United States to bring our troop levels down.

This is not the first time in our history when skeptics have balked in the face of landmark challenges. A few years may have passed since I served President Ronald Reagan in his Cabinet, but I can still remember naysayers attacking him for his fixed resolve in fighting the Cold War. They questioned his reasoning, his strategy and America’s chances of coming away victorious in a battle to free Russia and other countries from communism.

While the Soviet Union was extending its doctrine, President Reagan, in the face of severe criticism, pursued a different vision. We now know he was right in his actions to bring an end to communism. Millions were freed, and that global threat no longer exists.

In 2005, naysayers are at it again and their droning doubt is all too familiar. Much of this criticism is being leveled by the very same people who, having access to the same intelligence as the president, agreed that Iraq posed a real and immediate threat and supported going into Iraq to fight the war on terror. Now they want to throw up their hands and walk away before the job is done.

No one ever said this would be easy, and mistakes have certainly been made. This is a war, and it is painful and horrific. Every life lost is one tragic loss too many.

But we must ensure that their sacrifice was not in vain. Terrorists seek to destroy our very way of life, and we cannot cut and run — for the sake of future generations. We know all too well what is at stake in this global war against terror.

The new year will soon be upon us, and we must keep our resolve. Our withdrawal should be driven by success and not tied to a calendar. While I predict the same negative partisan attacks will continue, I believe the American people will reject them.

Dole is the chairwoman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee and sits on the Armed Services Committee.