Jewish World Review Nov. 7, 2001 / 21 Mar-Cheshvan, 5762

Jack Kemp

Jack Kemp
JWR's Pundits
World Editorial
Cartoon Showcase

Mallard Fillmore

Michael Barone
Mona Charen
Linda Chavez
Ann Coulter
Greg Crosby
Larry Elder
Don Feder
Suzanne Fields
Paul Greenberg
Bob Greene
Betsy Hart
Nat Hentoff
David Horowitz
Marianne Jennings
Michael Kelly
Mort Kondracke
Ch. Krauthammer
Lawrence Kudlow
Dr. Laura
John Leo
David Limbaugh
Michelle Malkin
Chris Matthews
Michael Medved
Kathleen Parker
Wes Pruden
Sam Schulman
Amity Shlaes
Tony Snow
Thomas Sowell
Cal Thomas
Jonathan S. Tobin
Ben Wattenberg
George Will
Bruce Williams
Walter Williams
Mort Zuckerman

Consumer Reports

Consider Mideast reality in the war on terrorism --
IN a recent Weekly Standard essay, "The Age of Conflict," David Brooks writes that the terrorist attacks on America constituted a "hinge" event in history that will reshape our culture, our politics and our understanding of ourselves. He is at his best in the following passage:

"Life in times of war and recession reminds us of certain hard truths that were easy to ignore during the decade of peace and prosperity. Evil exists. Difficulties, even tragedies, are inevitable. Human beings are flawed creatures capable of monstrosity. Not all cultures are compatible. To preserve order, good people must exercise power over destructive people."

Brooks borrows from the wisdom of Reinhold Niebuhr in trying to resolve the internal conflict between what Brooks labels the "bourgeois" virtues of compassion, tolerance and industriousness and the "classical" virtues of courage, steadfastness and a ruthless desire for victory. He appeals to what he calls Niebuhr's "humble hawkishness," which the great theologian displayed during the Cold War when he said, "We take, and must continue to take, 'morally hazardous' action to preserve our civilization." Niebuhr goes on, "We must exercise our power," which Books distorts by appending, "to forcefully defend freedom and destroy its enemies while seeking forgiveness for horrible things we might do in pursuit of that cause."

Niebuhr proposes a "morally hazardous" course of action; he does not suggest a "reckless" course. We must exercise power judiciously in pursuit of well-conceived objectives, which precludes lashing out just to settle old scores. We know with certainty that when we unleash our power, some innocent people will be harmed or killed inadvertently.

We cannot let that fact dissuade us from using our power, but we should recall the observations of the 19th century English philosopher Edward Sidwick: "A good general is a moral man who keeps his soldiers in check so they don't run amok among civilians ... and sends them to fight only after having thought through a battle plan, and his plan is aimed at winning as quickly and as cheaply as possible."

Niebuhr's dictum doesn't give us license to act out of animosity or revenge, seeking absolution in advance. If we do, we run the risk of slipping into the abyss of rationalizations the terrorists use to excuse the killing of innocents.

Brooks represents a view that mistakes moral clarity between right and wrong, good and evil, for empirical clarity about what's what in the real world. The two aren't the same, and one doesn't necessarily lead to the other.

Having the moral clarity to recognize that we can no longer tolerate states sponsoring and harboring terrorists does not automatically translate into a clear course of action about what to do where Iraq, Iran, Syria, the Sudan or Saudi Arabia are concerned. We must think strategically about the consequences of spreading the bombing or expanding the ground war throughout the region. There is no way to know the reaction of the Muslim world if we invaded Iraq. The entire Muslim world could explode over an attack on Iraq for anything less than unambiguous complicity in the terrorist attacks.

We cannot win the war on terrorism or secure the peace without the support of the Muslim world. Turning the war against terrorism into a crusade against Islam and bombing the region back into the seventh century would only play into hands of Osama bin Laden. Taliban-style Islamism ultimately will not survive in an enlightened modern society. Therefore, our overall strategy must be to wage a determined but well-targeted war that not only is successful in the immediate term but also allows us to bring liberal democracy to the Muslim world when the fighting ceases.

Brooks tries to convince us that we have moved into an age of conflict rather than a temporary state of war that could, if we do it right, usher in a new golden age of democracy and freedom. The real distinction, he claims, turns on whether one "give(s) higher priority to destroying all terrorist states or to preserving our alliances." But that's not the real choice.

The international community must come to the awareness that terrorism threatens every country in the world, so every country in the world must act in concert to defeat it. This isn't starry-eyed multilateralism that gives undue priority to alliances; it is a clear-headed recognition of reality.

In the world view Brooks represents, the choices are simple: Draw up a list of terrorist states and destroy them. If a state won't help us destroy any state on the list, put them on the list and go after them. This is imperialism that results in neocolonialism, not the path we want to travel. We want to help bring the Muslim world into the 21st century, not revert America back to the 19th century.

Jack Kemp is co-director of Empower America and Distinguished Fellow of the Competitive Enterprise Institute. Comment by clicking here.


10/30/01: No 'stimulus' required
10/23/01: Good out of evil
10/16/01: Watching Iraq
10/12/01: The putrid stench of evil
10/04/01: Trade, terror and truth
10/01/01: Drive this scourge from the face of the Earth
09/25/01: Bush emerges as leader for his time
09/06/01: Middle East Madness has a chief instigator
08/30/01: It's about economic growth, stupid!
08/22/01: Phlebotomizers at the IMF
08/17/01: The Greenspan Recession
08/08/01: From Kyoto to Bonn, no science equals nonsense
07/25/01: Fiddling while the world economy freezes
07/19/01: Schundler should be New Jersey's next governor
07/12/01: Second wind for the global economy
07/06/01: An interest-rate target with no bull's-eye
06/28/01: Tax harmonization --- American-style
06/21/01: Warming diplomacy --- at what price?
06/13/01: A party that stands for nothing deserves to lose
06/07/01: No peace in the Middle East
05/30/01: Jeffords' palace coup
05/24/01: A supply-side energy plan
05/16/01: Getting Lincoln right
05/10/01: A good reason to borrow
05/01/01: Supreme Court makes racial profiling the law of the land
04/26/01: Campaign finance reform: silencing the lambs
04/17/01: Right wanted might in China case
04/12/01: How minority entrepreneurs can save the tax cut
04/04/01: Whose privacy is it?
03/29/01: A letter from Seoul
03/20/01: Ignore the double talk and double the tax cuts
03/13/01: Don't give up the bully pulpit on Social Security, Mr. President
03/06/01: Another attack on the economy
02/28/01: It's time to end deflation
02/21/01: Building blocks of humanity
02/15/01: Trumping the propaganda
02/06/01: The Gipper at 90
01/30/01: Kicking off a season of economic growth
01/24/01: The Bush tax agenda
01/17/01: Debating the Clinton legacy
01/10/01: No need for another Social Security commission
01/03/01: Truly a Golden Age, if we can keep it
12/27/00: The Grinch who turned off the holiday lights
12/20/00: Forging ahead
12/13/00: A new tax system for the 21st Century
12/07/00: Global government in retreat
11/30/00: An open letter to Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan
11/21/00: Don't forget the guy in charge
11/15/00: Civic virtue, civic vice
11/08/00: Memo to the president-elect
10/31/00: Scare tactics won't work
10/24/00: Prosperity in the balance
10/11/00: Al Gore's economics of fear
10/03/00: Al Gore IS debatable
09/27/00: Government should protect our online privacy
09/13/00: The most important issue
09/05/00: Defeating the Gore blitz
08/29/00: Workers of the world, rejoice
08/22/00: Just the facts, Mr. President
08/08/00: Reclaiming Lincoln's legacy
06/23/00: A renaissance for urban America?
06/16/00: Capital access can bridge 'digital divide'
06/08/00: Some friendly advice for Rick Lazio
05/26/00: Is the economy being saved or destroyed?
05/22/00: Immigration and the promise that is America
05/12/00: Stock market roulette or snobbery?
05/04/00: Is Rule of Law whatever we say it is?
05/01/00: Myths happen

© 2000, Copley News Service