No More Leading from Behind for America

By Rick Santorum
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Much like Ronald Reagan called out for freedom in the symbolic heart of communism, I will call upon the Muslim world to tear down the walls of oppression that oppose freedom of conscience and religion, equality of women, the security of Israel and support violence and Jihadism, which inverts the concept of martyrdom from one who dies for his or her faith to one who kills for his or her faith. I will not coddle those who want to kill and destroy. I will seek peace with those who treasure freedom for all.

Christianity struggled with these issues of freedom of conscience and violence largely hundreds of years ago; Islam is struggling with them now. We will stand with the true advocates of freedom who define freedom not just by a ballot box, but also by meaningful protections for minorities. This is the message of freedom that should be proclaimed and practiced from Cairo to Tehran. This is consistent with universal human dignity, our values and our national security interests.

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Informed Americans are opposed to those who want to kill and destroy, not to those who want to make peace and treasure freedom for all. I supported America's security and freeing Muslims and others from oppression in Iraq and Afghanistan. I stood for the Green Movement in Iran when President Obama sat down. I support freedom of religion - for Muslims and other religious minorities - but believe they should provide the same.

I also understand that at this time in history many of the most influential voices in the Muslim world come from intolerant and destructive strains of Sunni and Shia leadership and theology in places such as Saudi Arabia and Iran. Days before the election in 2006, I was still challenging America to stand against radical Islam and Iran at the height of unpopularity of the Iraq war not because of polling but because I felt it was the primary threat facing America. It's no accident that the vast majority of the 9/11 hijackers came from Saudi Arabia, and that the Iranian regime exports anti-American and anti-Israeli terrorism around the world while pursuing nuclear weapons capacity. Radical Islamists oppose us not because of our policies, but because of our freedom.

As President of the United States, I will stand for America's interests around the world as well as universal and American values rooted in the God-given dignity of every human being. I understand with the clarity that we saw from Ronald Reagan that these are walls that need to be torn down, not remodeled or repainted. America should unabashedly stand for freedom - this includes freedom of religion and conscience, here in the United States and around the world.

We need to stand with the real freedom fighters. We need to stand with those human rights defenders wrongfully in prison in Cuba, Iran, China and around the world. Just as we did for those who stood up to communism, including Polish activist Lech Walesa and the late Pope John Paul II, who warned of the "death of true freedom" and observed that "freedom itself needs to be set free." Both have inspired me through my time with them and through their examples.

When Lech Walesa visited our nation a couple of years ago he offered this observation:

The United States is the only superpower. Today they lead the world. Nobody has doubts about it. Militarily. They also lead economically but they're getting weak. But they don't lead morally and politically anymore. The world has no leadership. The United States was always the last resort and hope for all other nations. There was the hope, whenever something was going wrong, one could count on the United States. Today, we have lost that hope...

It is time that America stop leading from behind and stand for freedom once again. Pretending that this battle isn't raging will not protect our families and our interests, nor will it strengthen our allies; it will only diminish our nation, increase our risk and grow our security challenge.

In his farewell address to the nation, President Reagan reminded us of this when he told the story of the USS Midway that was patrolling the South China Sea in the early 1980s. A sailor on the Midway saw a tiny boat, filled with refugees from Indochina, and a rescue launch was sent to them. As the Americans came into view, one of the refugees smiled, stood up and shouted out: "Hello American Sailor. Hello Freedom Man!"

That is who we are: Freedom Men. And Women. And Children. Let us not forget that privilege nor neglect that legacy. Stand for freedom.

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Rick Santorum, a former U.S. senator from Pennsylvania, is a Republican candidate for president.

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