"I am a loving guy, but I am also someone who has a job to do, and I intend to do it."
With those stirring words, President George Bush ended his informal press conference Thursday morning. The words, spoken through a touchingly strained effort to fight back tears, tell us about more than the president's irrepressible resolve to bring the wrongdoers to justice. They lay out, succinctly, the age-old paradox of the necessity of violence to ensure peace.
While the attacks against our civilian and defense targets were terrorist acts, we must not let the use of the word "terrorist" obscure our understanding of the magnitude of the enemy. These murderers were not part of some isolated fringe group that can be eradicated simply by destroying a hundred elite terrorists and their leaders. Whole nation states have been fomenting animosity and brutality against the West.
Of course, the entire Arab world isn't at war with the United States, but a significant culture exists in many nations and rogue groups that nurtures the abject hatred of the United States and Israel. Terrorism, as horrible as it is, is the symptom. The cause is this culture of hatred that was on graphic display when people danced gleefully in the streets of the West Bank upon hearing of the atrocities.
The hatred is much more widespread than a few pockets of terrorism. It is fueled by a profound resentment and envy of our freedom, our prosperity and our institutions. It is an abiding and pervasive hatred, a deeply visceral and deeply spiritual hatred – one that will not be eliminated by overtures of peace and goodwill.
As former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu noted, "This isn't just about hating Israel. We are just the little Satan. It's about hatred for the United States, the great Satan."
Some are saying that this week's events prove that we are in a new world now and no longer invulnerable to acts of terror. But this is not a new world, and we have never been insulated from terrorism, just blessed that we hadn't yet experienced it as dramatically. Mr. Netanyahu stressed that the terrorists' motives haven't changed. Their capabilities are what are constantly changing. "Today they steal our airplanes – tomorrow it will be our nuclear weapons."
Some are urging that the United States approach this crisis with caution and restraint. Certain high-minded experts admonish us not to "stoop to their level."
But the undying pacifists have argued against the use of force for years. They have always insisted that peace can only be achieved by talking softly and carrying no stick. Just as they were wrong about Hitler and the Soviet Communists, they are wrong about the terrorists, and the nations that support them and provide them safe harbor.
Pacifism in the face of war is not only irresponsible – it is immoral. Refusing to meet force with force in the name of peace will beget not peace, but further death and destruction – the very violence the pacifists seek to avoid. We are not going to solve this problem with overtures of peace and understanding. We are not going to purge our fears by heightened security measures at airports, as important as those will be. The enemy will respond to nothing less than sure, swift and overwhelming force. To use it will not be "stooping to their level." Don't insult us with specious appeals to moral equivalence. The righteous use of force against the aggressors will bear no moral resemblance to the unprovoked acts of violence that began this war.
President Bush understands that his primary duty is to safeguard our national security. Accordingly, he emphasized that the present focus of his administration would be to eradicate terrorism, this ongoing threat to our freedom and our people. He has shown that he has the will and the resolve to lead a nation of Americans who possess an equal will and resolve to meet these unspeakable acts of carnage with equal force.
He has also made clear that the United States will respond not just against the terrorists themselves, but the nations and infrastructure that sponsor and abet them. Thankfully, there appears to be little doubt that Americans will unite behind the president as he discharges his constitutional duties as commander-in-chief.
And he will discharge those duties. Not just for the sake of the thousands of victims and their families, but for the protection of future generations and the preservation of our freedom and way of life.