The mood during a Canisius College faculty forum "to promote tolerance and understanding" after last week's terrorist attacks grew somber Thursday when discussion turned to the forthcoming U.S. military response.
The panelists, all of whom have spent time in the Middle East, warned that bombs and rockets are unlikely to solve -- and may even exacerbate -- the political and economic problems that fuel anti-American behavior.
"On a personal level, I'm scared. I'm real scared," Marcheta Birch, an associate professor of political science, told an audience of students, fellow faculty members and administrators in the Montante Cultural Center.
Birch said the harsh rhetoric that has followed the destruction of the World Trade Center and the huge loss of life is understandable.
"I keep reminding myself of the fear and anger everybody has in a situation like this. President Bush is no less fearful and angry," she said. But the government should take pause before "acting out on that fear and anger," she added.
Birch urged Canisius students to join a peace movement that is springing up on campuses across the nation, to remind our leaders they are acting on behalf of a nation of people, not on behalf of themselves or a foreign policy agenda.
Rooting out terrorism can be complicated, said Jack D'Amico, chairman of the English department. He taught at American University in Beirut until 1976, when war made Lebanon unsafe for U.S. citizens.
"If you start to root them out, you have to be very careful how you do that," he cautioned. D'Amico pointed to the Palestinian Hezbollah movement, long viewed as a prime sponsor of anti-Israeli terrorism and anti-American fervor.
"They've changed. They are now members of Lebanese government, and they provide services to the people," he said. At the same time, the rhetoric of Hezbollah leaders "sometimes can be very difficult to deal with," and the movement is still militarily engaged against Israel in South Lebanon, he said.
"So now it gets complicated; it gets murky. We might root them out, but how many innocents might we have to pull out with them? These questions are very difficult. We either have to face them or leave them for others to deal with."
"War is not a football game. It's not good guys or bad guys," said Khalid Bibi, associate professor of exercise science and director of the Canisius Health and Human Performance Center. "Even if you root out the terrorists, that doesn't mean we are going to be victors."
Whether America is legally justified in waging war on Osama bin Laden, whom officials have called the prime suspect in the attacks on New York City and Washington, D.C., is another sticky issue, the panel agreed.
Bush "has been very careful" to obtain legal authority from NATO and the United Nations to use "any means necessary" to respond to the assault, Birch noted.
But they are organizations whose business "is not about going after an individual, organization or group of people, and therein lies the dilemma," she said.
"What legal authority there is lies in extradition law," she said, adding that the United States has every right to extradite the perpetrators of terrorist acts committed on American soil.