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Debunking the myths
By Charles Bloomer
Since the devastating terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on September 11, a lot of ink has been spilt in analyzing the reasons for the attacks and in suggesting the proper method of response. Much has been intelligent and thoughtful; much has been utter drivel.
In order to clarify the situation, it is necessary to debunk several myths that have been put forward recently. Having a clear idea of what all this is about will help us come to logical conclusions about what to do about it.
Myth #1: We seek revenge for the attacks. In our era of feelings over logic, this is a typical response to the attacks, based, as it is, in emotion. But a response based on revenge only invites a counter-attack, based on further revenge. Europe, the Middle East, and other parts of the world are filled with examples of vengeful attacks and counterattacks whose roots go back hundreds, and in some cases thousands, of years - so far back that no one remembers the original reasons for the conflict. Our response to the crisis needs to be based on national security. We need to destroy, to the best of our ability, the capabilities of terrorists so that similar attacks are less likely. This approach is more difficult and will take longer than a rapid, short retaliation, and will require more sacrifice from American citizens.
Myth #2: America is to blame. This myth is perpetuated by attention seeking pundits from all over the political spectrum who are trying to impress us with their uncanny ability to predict the past. From a perspective of 20/20 hindsight, anybody with half a brain can figure out that we might have done things differently that might have prevented this attack, or that might have minimized its impact. Blaming America for the murderous terrorist attack smacks of "moral equivalency", a nonsensical concept that says that since America seeks to protect itself and its interests, we are equally to blame. Nothing that America has done, or failed to do can justify the cold-blooded murder of 6 000 innocents.
Myth #3: America needs a coalition before it can continue. While a coalition would be helpful, especially for intelligence gathering, America does not need permission or acceptance by any other country, organization, or alliance before it takes action to protect American citizens, property or freedoms. We can and should act alone if necessary. President Bush has made it perfectly clear: "You are either with us, or you are with the terrorists". We should respect neutrality, but we should not let others get in our way.
Myth #4: This is a law enforcement problem. The terrorist act committed against America is a law enforcement problem only inside our borders. Our law enforcement agencies will seek out those who have aided and abetted those who perpetrated this assault. In all other respects, this is an act of war, an attack on innocent civilians that is unforgivable and intolerable, and that requires an aggressive response driven by the rules of war rather than the rules of the courtroom.
Myth #5. Taking out Osama bin Laden will solve our problem. The terrorist problem is a Hydra-like creature. Lopping off one head only leads to the instant replacement by another fanatic. Bin Laden may be important to the terrorist movement, but he is not indispensable. It will be necessary to go after the entire terrorist creature, to take out the head, body, and heart. President Bush has stated his intention to go after the terrorist organizations, their financial support, and the states that support them. This effort must be ruthless and sustained. A half-hearted attempt will only leave terrorists with the resources to attack and kill again.
Myth #6: We should try non-violent means to settle this problem. The people who insist on this myth are those who are either ignorant of history, or too lazy to study the failures of the past. British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain is the best modern example of the failure of appeasement. The ability to negotiate a solution requires a logical, rational opponent. It is impossible to negotiate with a fanatic. These fanatics will accept nothing less than a total capitulation, nothing less than a total surrender to their totalitarian, oppressive rule. Consequently, we have nothing to offer for which they are willing to negotiate. Their fanatical hatred of our freedoms, our wealth, our entire way of life leaves them with nothing to offer to negotiation. Our desire to negotiate, to talk has obviously not had much impact in the past. The only things we have to show for the last 20 years of attempted discussion with terrorists are several destroyed buildings and over 6000 dead victims. The time for talking, negotiating and appeasement has passed. It is now time to act. The enemies of America understand strength, and strength is our long suit.
This list is by no means inclusive: many more myths are out there, eager to confuse us. Many more will rear their heads as we work through this crisis. One of the wonderful characteristics of America is the constitutional right to express one's opinion, no matter how far-fetched, how wrong, or how stupid it may be. The responsibility for separating the reality from the mythology in the great marketplace of ideas rests with each of us.
The president has made it clear that the attempt to eradicate terrorism will be long and difficult. But it is an attempt that must be made if we are to live in peace. In order to succeed, we must keep our minds clear and focused. Our security and our way of life depend on it.
Charles Bloomer is a Senior Writer for Enter Stage Right. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org. © 2001 Charles Bloomer
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