Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

7 Cheshvan 5762 - October 24, 2001 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly









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Opinion & Comment
How to Defeat Terror

In the six weeks that have passed since the spectacular terrorist attack on America, fear has gripped the citizens of the world's only superpower. People go about their business but they are cutting down on their discretionary activities. They do a videoconference instead of flying over. They take it easy around the home rather than flying off for a weekend. They boast of leasing offices on floors that are below the level at which an airplane can crash into the building. They worry about going out of their homes to public places which may be targets of a terrorist attack; they worry about the mail that arrives in their home lest it be contaminated by disease.

This state of fear and uncertainty is the goal of systematic terror. It tries to upset its adversary, keeping him constantly off guard and under pressure. The terrorist creates tension in the mind of his enemy that may cause him to fail to follow through his achievements, like the U.S. did eleven years ago when it left Saddam Hussein in power because it was worried about the consequences of getting rid of him. Or worse, it can completely drive away U.S. forces like when the U.S. abandoned its just peacekeeping efforts in Somalia eight years ago after 18 U.S. soldiers were killed.

As thoroughly and as powerfully as American forces pursue terrorist mastermind Osama Bin Laden in Afghanistan, even if they catch him there are bound to be further terrorist blows to America itself. How will America stand up to that?

An important factor in combating the effects of terror on people's psyche is the way it is countered: the way the struggle is described by American leaders and the policies that are pursued. America must have a readily understandable goal and its actions must not contradict its words. To do otherwise is to increase confusion and uncertainty in the mind of America, which will in the long run help the terrorists, not defeat them.

Unfortunately, this has not yet been in evidence. American leaders refuse, it seems, to fully explain their position and content themselves with abstract platitudes about fighting evil and protecting the American way of life.

America should not be ashamed to say openly that it is worried about its oil supply in addition to fighting evil. More importantly, it must be thorough and consistent in word and deed.

For more than a year the Palestinian Authority has followed a course of action in which terror plays a central role. Arafat was supposed to have renounced terror eight years ago on the White House lawn and in receiving the Nobel Peace Prize. The Al Aqsa intifadah, in which all institutions of the Palestinian Authority participate, is nothing less than a declared terror campaign directed against the people and institutions of the democratic State of Israel. Yet the Palestinian Authority is courted as a "partner" in the war against terror.

Living and fighting under this contradiction in word and deed may allow the United States to win the short-term battle against Osama Bin Laden in Afghanistan, but it will weaken America in the long term war against the systematic terror of Islamic extremists.

Terror must be outlawed and consistently opposed as the criminal behavior that it is. America will not defeat terror by going shopping and spending money on material comforts, but only by staking out and promoting a clear and consistent moral position.

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