U.S. response to terrorism: all options on the table

While the U.S. continues to bolt and reinforce the recently slammed-shut barn door of airline security and government surveillance, it must come to grips with the most pragmatic of realities regarding terrorism.

Are, as has been intimated by government officials, “all options” for dealing with terrorism on the table? And if so, we all know what that means. It means the use of tactical nuclear weapons. Hopefully that won’t be the case, for that unbottled genie is everybody’s nightmare. Prometheus unbound rescues no one.

The president, however, is certainly taking the right approach by trying to “rally the (civilized) world.” To date, we’ve received a lot of sympathy cards and rhetorical support from everybody but Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden. The time to put up is now.

Here, however, is a crucial element in any plan to lead a crusade-for-humanity against the forces of evil and their sponsors. We must have a universal definition of “terrorist.”

Try this one: “Anyone who targets innocents or treats them as mere collateral damage to advance a cause.”

Necessarily absent are attempts to value-judge “causes.” That goes for Chechnyan terror in the subways of Moscow or its counterparts in Belfast, Jerusalem, Beijing, Manila, Jakarta, Cairo, Bogota, Havana, New York or Washington. The greater good of civilization takes pragmatic priority over what is a truly “just” cause, even though we all know one when we see it.

But a car bomb that takes out civilians as a means to bringing down the Castro government is no less treacherous and condemnable than a suicide bomber in an Israeli disco. The only ideology that counts is agreement on the elimination of the scourge that is global terrorism.

Next time, we have to figure, it won’t be an airplane but a cruise liner, city bus or maybe anthrax in the water supply.

Then there is this — and it’s no less touchy than the matter of nuke use. Whatever we do in the way of a coordinated military, diplomatic and economic response to terrorists and those who harbor them is not a response to the root cause of evil acts of treachery and murder. Muslim fanatics, steeped in envy and enmity, hate what they see in us — as in unfettered secularism, hegemony, wealth, power and a crass and crude culture. We’ll do anything, they would submit, for money and oil.

But not enough to warrant the execution of our innocents.

That would take our inextricable role in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that is the epicenter of those terrorist shock waves that have now reached continental America. At some point, and for obvious reasons it can’t be now, we need to ask if we have signed a suicide pact with Israel.

Asking that now, of course, is to invite denunciation as a capitulating, fair-weather friend who yields to intimidation.

The broaching of this subject, however, also needs to be on the table of options. This isn’t cut-and-run time. The state of Israel, a staunch ally, is not up for brokering.

What it arguably is, however, is time to evaluate our hermetically-sealed bond with Israel, including its powerful U.S. lobby, and the policies most inimical to Palestinians. Have we, or have we not, reached the point of bloody tit-for-tat in Israel, the West Bank and Gaza that renders “who started it” the mootest of points in an ever-escalating spiral of violence and virulence? From the Irgun and the Stern Group to suicide bombers, there’s enough blame to go around through more than a half century.

The British, like the French in Indo-China, managed to extricate themselves from Palestine two generations ago. The U.S. ought to at least consider deviating from the status quo — with or without the help of the United Nations, with or without the consent of Israel.

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