A culture that prides itself on diversity of ideas should tolerate even viewpoints that run counter to overwhelming public opinion, and the emergence of a peace movement in the wake of this month's terrorist attacks on New York and Washington is no exception. It would be a mistake, though, to equate peace with passivity in the face of evil.
Terrorism demands a strong response. America's response must look beyond vengeance and toward justice, but it also must erase terrorism's continued and growing threat to public safety. The country's first recourse rightly was an appeal to the rule of law, only to be rebuffed by the Taliban. If dismantling terrorist organizations ultimately requires their destruction, so be it.
There's nothing wrong, per se, with calls for deeper cross-cultural understanding and reviews of American foreign policy, but those things have nothing to do with what happened on Sept. 11. The depth of hatred unmasked on that day goes far beyond cross-cultural understanding. In the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, as well as the aborted attack that ended in a crash in Pennsylvania, we saw the face of pure evil -- an evil that hates us not because of what we have done, but because of who we are. They hate us because we don't believe as they believe.
That's why the only possible response was the unity and sacrifice that emerged in the wake of horror. It's why we sang "God Bless America," with its plea for guidance and protection, far more often than we gave voice to the more martial imagery of the national anthem. It's why good emerged even before the echoes of evil faded, and it's why we can face the threat of additional evil with resolve.
Thoughtful Americans within the fledgling peace movement realize this, and such groups as the Western New York Peace Center have issued calls that rightly support unity with innocent Arab-Americans, and note that backing peace does not mean putting up with acts of terrorism. But violence cannot always be avoided.
It would be naive to think ruling out military strikes would end violence by terrorists. It won't. It would be mistaken to believe the attacks against us were our fault and the result of American arrogance. They are not. It would be wrong to think America is out for revenge instead of justice. We have already pursued the rule of law.
Moreover, American foreign policy alone does not account for the hatred that fueled the attacks on the United States. By all accounts, the greatest source of Osama bin Laden's enmity is not American support of Israel, but the Gulf War and the presence of American forces in the homeland of Islam, Saudi Arabia. Although America had a national security interest in regional oil exports, it's also worth noting that Americans fought to free an Islamic nation overrun by Iraq, and that our last three military actions -- in the Gulf, Bosnia and Kosovo -- were in defense of Muslims.
That seems lost on those in the Middle East who have been taught to hate America by ideological and religious zealots, or by Arab regimes seeking to deflect criticism from themselves by encouraging media attacks on the "Great Satan" and the West. America also is vilified for sanctions against Iraq but unrecognized for its assistance to many nations, including $99 million in food aid for Afghanistan.
Instead of blindly lashing out with attacks on terrorist camps or an air war against terrorist-harboring Afghanistan, America instead has appealed for extradition and is painstakingly building a case against bin Laden to place before the world. The Taliban response to that case, and not American demands, will shape the future.
There is nothing in history to suggest that terrorists consumed by hatred, but capable of coldly calculated attacks, would hesitate to strike again at the first opportunity, whatever course America pursues. Driven by a warped religious zealotry that leaves no room for mercy, let alone cross-cultural understanding, September's terrorists cannot and should not be appeased. They pose a global threat, and their network must be eradicated.
War already has been declared by terrorism that won't be placated or appeased. Peace already has been shattered and it cannot be restored without justice and an end to terrorist attacks -- by force, if that is the only choice thrust upon us.