From Copenhagen to Samara, the radical Islamists are on the offensive. From Tehran to Damascus, the dictators are trying to regain the upper hand in the Middle East. From Moscow to Beijing, the enemies of liberal democracy are working to weaken the United States. Across the world, the forces of terror and tyranny are fighting back. Are we up to the challenge?
It's not clear that we are. Many liberals, here and in Europe, long ago lost the nerve to wage war--or even to defend themselves--against illiberalism. Parts of the conservative movement now seem to be losing their nerve as well. In response to an apparent clash of civilizations, they would retrench, hunker down, and let large parts of the world go to hell in a hand basket, hoping that the hand basket won't blow up in our faces.
Remember: The United States of America and its allies--regimes that seek to embody, or at least to move towards, the principles of decent, civilized, liberal democracy--did not seek this war. But we are at war, and we could lose it. Victory is not inevitable.
Does that make Bush-supporting, liberal-democracy-promoting, Iraq-war-defending neoconservative "Leninists," as Francis Fukuyama has recently charged? No. Does it mean we believe--as Fukuyama defines Leninism--that "history can be pushed along with the right application of power and will"? Does it mean that history does not automatically move in the right direction, that justice does not necessarily or easily prevail? Yes. …
[I]t would be nice if we lived in a world in which we didn't have to take the enemies of liberal democracy seriously--a world without jihadists who want to kill and clerics who want to intimidate and tyrants who want to terrorize. It would be nice to wait until we were certain conditions were ripe before we had to act, a world in which the obstacles are trivial and the enemies fold up. Unfortunately, that is not the world we live in. …
Moral seriousness in this case means political seriousness. Insist on going ahead with the ports deal so that Arab governments who have stood with us in the war on terror are not told to get lost when one of their companies acquires port management contracts in the United States. Make a real effort to destabilize Ahmadinejad in Iran. Do what it takes to defeat Zarqawi and secure Iraq. Stand with Denmark, and moderate Muslims, against the radical mob. This is no time for dishonorable retreat. It is time for resolve--and competence.
The rest of his piece is here.