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‘The President's Turf’

1:02 PM, Sep 11, 2012 • By WILLIAM KRISTOL
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Someone rushed into our office and said that a plane had hit the World Trade Center. I turned on the small TV on the desk and watched in shock as flames and smoke erupted from the North Tower. 

I called my wife Ann. She too watched the tragedy from her TV and wondered how a plane could fly into a building in clear daylight.  And then we saw the second plane crash into the second tower. These, then, were purposeful acts, these were terrorist acts, these were evil and cowardly and heinous acts.

Leaving the city, I drove toward Alexandria, Virginia. The highway I was on came within a few hundred yards of the Pentagon, which had been hit. Cars had stopped where they were, and people had gotten out, watching in horror. I could smell burning fuel and concrete and metal. It was the smell of war, something I never imagined I would smell in America. 

In our own ways, we each were overwhelmed by the enormity of the loss of life. We struggled to comprehend the magnitude of what this meant for the families of those who had been killed, and for our own families, for our nation, and for the world. For some, there was also anger. But grief and anger soon turned to action – and among those taking the lead were members of the National Guard.

Members of the National Guard secured our airports and borders, and members of the Guard began to mobilize to deploy half a world away – where you would become all too familiar with the mountains of the Hindu Kush and the streets of Fallujah. Throughout the last eleven years, Guardsmen and women have helped keep us safe from attack.

I wish I could say the world is less dangerous now – that it is less chaotic. I wish I could predict with certainty the threats we will face in the years ahead.   But on September 10, 2001, we had no idea that America would be at war in Afghanistan. In December of 2010, we had no idea that a Tunisian street vendor would inspire a revolution that would topple three dictators. We live in a time of turbulence and disruption. What I can say with certainty is that we need the National Guard’s vigilance and strength now as much as ever before.

With less than two months to go before Election Day, I would normally speak to a gathering like this about the differences between my and my opponent’s plans for our military and for our national security.  There is a time and a place for that, but this day is not it. 

It is instead a day to express gratitude to the men and women who have fought – and who are still fighting – to protect us and our country, including those who traced the trail of terror to that walled compound in Abbottabad and the SEALs who delivered justice to Osama bin Laden.  

This is also a day in which all of us – in this convention hall, in this campaign, and in this country – can hopefully agree on important things.

This century must be an American Century.  It began with terror, war, and economic calamity.  It is now our duty to steer it onto the path of freedom, peace, and prosperity.  America must lead the free world, and the free world must lead the entire world.  In our dealings with other nations, we must demonstrate confidence in our cause, clarity in our purpose, and resolve in our might. 

For this to be an American Century, we must have a military that is second to none. American military power is vital to the preservation of our own security and for the preservation of peace around the world.  Time and again, America's military might has been the best ally of liberty and peace: American forces rescued Europe, twice.  American forces stood up to brutal dictators and freed millions living under tyranny.  America’s military leads the fight against terrorism around the world – and secures the global commons to keep them safe for the trade and commerce that are vital to lifting people from poverty.

While the war in Iraq is over, nearly 70,000 American troops still remain in Afghanistan.  Our goal should be to complete a successful transition to Afghan security forces by the end of 2014.  We should evaluate conditions on the ground and solicit the best advice of our military commanders. 

We can all agree that our men and women in the field deserve a clear mission, that they deserve the resources and resolute leadership they need to complete that mission, and that they deserve a country that will provide for their needs when they come home.  

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