Leon Panetta, former director of the CIA and secretary of defense, says that defeating our enemies in the Middle East and North Africa “is going to take a long time.” How long? “I think we’re looking at kind of a thirty-year war,” Panetta predicts.

Whether or not the United States will be involved in this war for thirty years is an open question. But the notion that such a lengthy war is necessary is nonsense.

America has astoundingly sophisticated weaponry—combat drones, nuclear submarines, satellite surveillance, aircraft carriers, stealth bombers, GPS-guided missiles, bunker busters, thermobaric bombs, and so on. We have the most intelligent, best trained, most competent soldiers and special operations forces on the planet. We can eliminate large cities in a matter of seconds. We can take over large countries in a matter of weeks, if not days. We can bring any enemy to its knees in short order—if we so choose.

So why accept a thirty-year war? Why accept even a thirty-week war?

The only reason Americans will accept a long war is that they have lost (or never gained) confidence in their right to defend themselves against those who seek to kill them. If we are to defeat this god-awful enemy and return to normal, jihad-free living in a reasonable amount of time, Americans must regain confidence in the fact that we have certain rights and that our government must use the full capacity of our military to protect these rights when foreign aggressors aim to violate them.

We have a moral right to live our lives free from “Allah’s will” or any such nonsense. We have a moral right to defend ourselves against those who have faith or “just know” that they should convert or kill us. We have a moral right to kill those who seek to kill us. In short, we have a moral right to life, liberty, and self-defense. . . .

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