Time and effort will decide war on terrorism
Like most of us, I woke up to those horrific scenes streaming unedited across the television screen.
Screaming New Yorkers frantically scrambling to safety, unsure of the proper direction of travel. The first emergency workers dragging dazed workers, covered with white dust and carrying their briefcases out of habit.
As a nation, we watched, collectively hoping for the safety of our fellow humans and wondering “Did these attacks come from afar?” The horror continued to unfold. A second, a third and then a fourth plane, purposely crashed in an unmatched display of evil.
And in the ensuing days, the evidence has mounted, telling us that in all likelihood the attack did come from afar.
From here the question becomes “What is the distinction between terrorism and war?”
On one hand, terrorism is often nameless, faceless and without place. So the act of retaliation is complicated by the fact that those responsible for creating murder and mayhem, can easily live and work among those who aren’t.
And as a nation with a foundation in justice, we are philosophically opposed to indiscriminate retaliation – That is to say, we will not knowingly kill our enemy’s neighbor in the effort to extinguish our enemy.
But despite our national attitude about justice, Tuesday’s attacks do not have to be specifically characterized as criminal acts, and not acts of war. Although the line is blurry, it is reasonable to interpret Tuesday’s attack as the first in a war, albeit war with a new definition.
Nationhood is not the sole determinant of a “government’s” ability to engage an enemy. From what we have heard about this case, evidence points to the coordinated terrorist regime of Osama bin Laden as the lead suspect for the murder of an estimated 5,000 people.
If this is the case, the “government” of bin Laden’s terrorist organization has attacked American civilian targets – buildings that symbolize the United State’s position of power in the world, in cities that symbolize our country’s most cherished principle: Freedom.
Why then are some apprehensive to characterize bin Laden’s efforts as the beginnings of a war against our country? Is is because his is a nomadic following, with a nomadic government? Is it because we assume suicide bombings could only be perpetrated by the fringe elements of the anti-American movements in the Middle East?
President George Bush correctly identifies anti-terrorism as “the new focus of his administration” and as a “new kind of war.” He is also correct to announce to the world that those countries that harbor terrorists are as culpable as that nameless, faceless, placeless government that would perpetrate evil acts of the magnitude we saw Tuesday.
To simply say the United States will use its international persuasion to find the guilty and bring them to justice is not enough. This is our first test of the 21st century, and we have to be unswerving when we answer.
Unlike our European and African brethren, we will not learn to live with terrorism. We will snuff it out. Remove it like a cancer. Eliminate those who would perpetrate it and do our best to prevent the rise of those who would follow.
What happened Tuesday changes everything about the way we carry ourselves in the world. Our presence in the Middle East will grow. If the governments in that region are uncomfortable hosting us in our time of crisis, we will employ economic pressures and recruit our foreign allies. They will cave.
We will patrol known enemy territory, and deploy military operations where the enemy is located. We will not stop until the United States and the civilized world feels its joint effort has eliminated the need for bomb-sniffing dogs at our airports, gunmen on our streets, and suspicion about who is coming to our country and for what reason.
It is with a heavy heart that I feel this is war. It’s a war of a different nature.
Jim Scripps is the business reporter for the Nevada Appeal.