The criminals who vandalize New Haven’s sidewalks with the shibboleth “No More Victims” apparently do not grasp that if the perpetrators and enablers of Sept. 11’s attacks on America are not brought to justice, there will undoubtedly be more victims, and they will be us.
In their search for the fantasy of peace, the vandals forget fundamental truths.
Delusion and relativism, indeed, do not lie on the sidewalk alone. There have been “teach-ins” for justice at Dwight Hall, vigils for peace on the New Haven Green, and pleas in these pages for the United States to coddle the terrorist Yasser Arafat and distance itself from the Middle East’s sole democracy and America’s only reliable ally in the region, Israel.
While these absurdities abound in their irrelevant glory on campus, the Bush administration is executing a masterful war in Washington, D.C., and around the world by wisely heeding two lessons from history.
The first is that the only way to repel aggressors and those who support them is through force, not negotiation. The idea of negotiation with bin Laden or the Taliban is farcical; their pronouncements are duplicitous, flippant and contradictory. Negotiation would lead nowhere.
Anyone who thinks negotiation is possible with authoritarian rogues should recall the British foreign secretary’s recent unsuccessful visit to Tehran, in which he told the Iranians how the British government cracked down on an anti-Iranian movement and how he wished Iran would, reciprocally, halt its support of terrorism. Of course he came home empty handed; it was an absurd trip.
Armed confrontation is the necessary and just means for eliminating terror and halting aggression. The first target is Afghanistan, as it should be. The United States and Britain are destroying the Taliban regime because it has given sanctuary to Osama bin Laden and is a compliant host to camps which train terrorists to commit the massacres of the kind we saw on Sept. 11.
The Taliban is, in effect, a factory producing terrorists; it is much more effective to go after the factory than each individual terrorist. Eradicating the infrastructure that enables terrorism is the only way the civilized world can live in peace.
The second lesson from history is that when you allow terror and aggression to occur unopposed, you invite more of it. Osama bin Laden has been killing Americans for years; in the past, instead of taking effective action in response to bin Laden’s aggression, we allowed him to continue his attacks. It was a terrible mistake, and he was emboldened by our lack of response. We tolerated a level of terrorist activity that we never should have tolerated. If that was not understood before, surely it is now.
The administration is fortunately heeding this lesson in its pursuit of the Taliban, but the lesson will not be fully understood unless the war is broadened, in due course, to include all states that sponsor terrorism. We know that for Iraq, Iran and Syria, terrorism is an instrument of state policy, and without their support, sanctuary, and training ground, even al Qaeda could only manage the occasional car bomb. The administration must follow Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz and Richard Perle’s lead and declare these regimes enemies of the United States.
There are rumblings from the State Department, that bottomless lagoon of obtuseness, suggesting Syria might be part of an anti-terror coalition — in the present situation, a scandalous notion. For a regime like Syria to enter the non-smoking lounge, as it were, it must first extinguish its cigarette. That means renouncing terrorism in word and apprehending terrorists in deed, now.
Only when we have finished the job of ending rogue regimes, bin Laden and like-minded barbarians, will there be “no more victims” and the “peace” that so many on this campus seek.
Thankfully, we have a president who sees the danger of “peace now,” grasps that negotiating with terrorists and their sponsors is a recipe for more victims, and understands that extirpating terrorists is a sanctification of life.
Davi Bernstein is a junior in Ezra Stiles College.