No More Leading from Behind for America

By Rick Santorum

My passion for protecting and preserving freedom is a gift that comes to me from my grandfather, an immigrant who brought my father to this country and whose well-weathered hands mined coal in Southwestern Pennsylvania until he was 72. He left the totalitarian regime of Mussolini's Italy to bring his family to freedom.

He worked hard and committed himself to creating a better life for his children and grandchildren. He taught me how to treasure the gift of freedom, to have faith in God's grace, to achieve what American liberty offers to those who work hard and to love and support a family. The Pennsylvania town my grandfather called home is just a few miles down the road from the field where Flight 93 crashed on that beautiful, blue-sky September day; a day when radical jihadists declared war on America, in America, on our own soil. The passengers and crew bravely stood up for freedom.

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Some wonder why conservatives like me have such a problem with the oppressive Castro regime of the relatively tiny Island nation of Cuba. We do because we believe in freedom and don't like the stink of oppression next door. We believe in the God-given dignity of all human beings, and we believe, like the American founders, that religious freedom and freedom of conscience is the foundational freedom for civil and political freedom and rights. Dictatorships like the former Soviet Union and Cuba believed and continue to believe this as well. This is why they seek and sought to oppress the Church and others who believe in the inalienable rights of life and liberty.

It is no surprise that the same Cuban regime that locked hands with the Soviet Union is aligned today with the Islamic Republic of Iran. Though Iran is not secular, the Iranian Mullahcracy opposes freedom, including religious freedom. They are not radical secularists but radical Islamists and the result is the same: They oppose liberty. Tehran has already demonstrated its desire to thwart freedom with whatever tools at its disposal. The U.S. must halt them in their march toward a nuclear weapon before it's too late.

Some wonder if I can get along with the Muslim world. I understand that there are 1.3 billion Muslims in the world and that many of our allies are majority-Muslim countries. I want to work with those nations and challenge them where and when they are wrong. I also understand, unlike President Barack Obama, that radical Islamists are not going away in 2012, and that we still need to be capable of walking and chewing gum at the same time in our foreign policy. We need to defend America and her interests and values while also engaging with "Three Cups of Tea" (or as many as are necessary) around the world. Conservatives, along with most Americans, desire peace, but we know that freedom is worth defending. Standing with strength and core principles separates the pursuit of peace from appeasement.

President Obama went to Cairo early in his presidency not to stand for our values and interests, but, as his subsequent actions have shown, to just drink tea. In his speech, he sought a "new beginning" for the United States and the world's Muslims. But he also gave his first interview as president to Al Arabiya television, apologized for America's past behavior, bowed before Saudi royalty, sided with the Palestinians against our ally Israel, did next to nothing in his first two years to forestall Iran's development of nuclear arms and released a National Defense Strategy which ignores the connection between radical Islam and terrorism.

I want to work with those in the Muslim world. But unlike President Obama, I will not bow before dictators, fanatics and thugs. I will not ignore the relationship between radical Islam and terrorism. I will not give in to those who oppose freedom. To do so would threaten the safety and security of the American people and turn a blind eye on those who are oppressed and struggling for freedom in other parts of the world.

And what has changed in Egypt since the president's speech? Yes, an initial new birth of freedom, but the result has thus far been an Islamist parliament in Egypt, turning an Arab Spring into winter. Coptic Christians and other minorities are dealing with the consequences, and there is growing uncertainty and risk for neighboring Israel. This is democracy rushed and reduced to voting alone - rather than one built into the DNA of democracy with properly understood and meaningful protections for political and religious minorities. We abandoned an imperfect but longtime American ally without a better plan B.

This confusion and these outcomes impact our own security, our other allies and the nations now struggling to define the meaning of freedom in the Arab Winter and around the world. This is not what the President of the United States says or does to those who oppose fundamental freedoms like radical Islamists in Egypt or elsewhere.

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

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