Military Action: How Should the US Proceed?

Quotes from Columnists and Commentators

1. Robert Novak (9/17/01) "Frustrated War Fever"

Asked by a friend late last week to describe the probable U.S. military response in the war against terrorism, a prominent Republican senator with close ties to the Defense Department replied: "We're going to bomb Afghanistan into a parking lot." That sounds like word straight from the Pentagon, but this response may be neither effective nor desirable.

Carpet bombing of Afghanistan might temporarily assuage the justified public demand for quick punishment of the Sept. 11 assassins. Much more doubtful is whether such a strike would root out the terrorists, while it costs this country global support and sympathy now professed all over the world.

2. John Leo (9/17/01) "Open Society is Casualty of Cultural War"

We are not going to war against Islam. The vast majority of Muslims want no part of terror, and many Muslim states are as nervous about terrorism as we are. The problem is a rigid religious subculture that cannot cope with openness, change, rules, democracy, secularism and tolerance, wishing to destroy those who can.

3. Chuck Colson (9/12/01) Breakpoint Commentary

As Augustine's Just War theory teaches, any military action must have a reasonable chance of success. In our context, that means being fairly certain as to the identity of the perpetrators. We can't simply strike out for the sake of "doing something" or in a blind rage.

We need to also make sure that our targets are military ones. Civilians, even those who applaud the terrorists' actions, should never be targeted. Finally, our response should be proportionate. After an event such as yesterday's, we are understandably tempted to lash out with every weapon in our arsenal. But we must be careful not to let our response to the harm we have suffered lead us to commit an even greater harm--something that our technological superiority makes possible.

4. Charles Krauthammer (9/12/01) "This is Not Crime, This is War"

This is not crime. This is war. . . . You bring criminals to justice; you rain destruction on combatants. This is a fundamental distinction that can no longer be avoided.

We do not know for sure who gave the final order but we know what movement it comes from. The enemy has identified itself in public and openly. Our delicate sensibilities have prevented us from pronouncing its name.

Its name is radical Islam. Not Islam as practiced peacefully by millions of the faithful around the world. But a specific fringe political movement, dedicated to imposing its fanatical ideology its own societies and destroying the society of its enemies, the greatest of which is the United States.

5. Mark Helprin (Wall Street Journal, 9/12/01) "We Beat Hitler, We Can Vanquish This Foe Too"

As the initial shock wears off it will be obvious that this was a demonstration shot intended to extract political concessions and surrender, a call to fix our attention on the prospect of a nuclear detonation or a chemical or biological attack, both of which would exceed what happened yesterday by several orders of magnitude.

For the challenge is asymmetrical. Terrorist camps must be raided and destroyed, and their reconstitution continually repressed. Intelligence gathering of all types must be greatly augmented, for by its nature it can never be sufficient to the task, so we must build it and spend upon it until it hurts. The nuclear weapons programs, depots, and infrastructure of what Madeleine Albright so delicately used to call "states of concern" must, in a most un-Albrightian phrase, be destroyed.