The recent attacks on American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania were a bloody reminder of the threat posed by terrorists. Almost all commentators and politicians hailed America's swift response as a positive step. In fact, however, Clinton's assault on Osama bin Laden will only encourage the terrorists.
In recent years, America's reaction to terrorist acts has been a mixture of cowardly compromise and empty legalistic threats. In the two months prior to the embassy attacks alone, the Clinton Administration made three outstanding concessions. It capitulated to Libya, promising to drop all UN sanctions if it releases the prime suspects in the Lockerbie bombing for trial in the Netherlands under Scottish law. It closed the investigation into TWA 800, leaving forever unresolved the cause of the disaster. It emasculated the investigation of the Khobar Towers bombing in Saudi Arabia, because evidence emerged linking the bombing to Iran, whose regime Clinton is now courting.
By promising only trials and international courts, Clinton has made a mockery of the atrocities. Terrorists have no respect for the rule of law; that is why they are called "terrorists." Administration officials repeatedly assert that we are engaged in a "war against terrorism." True--and wars are not fought or won in a courtroom.
The attacks on Osama bin Laden's facilities in Afghanistan and Sudan were lauded by many as a welcome change from years of this legalistic claptrap. However, the attacks were deliberately toothless. Clinton aimed at a few peripheral installations, while proudly proclaiming his commitment that no "innocent" working a night shift in the Sudan would die. There are no innocents in a war--and certainly none in a chemical weapons facility. The clear implication is that saving terrorist agents is more important to the President than protecting Americans who will be killed by their weapons. In essence, Clinton has declared "open season" on Americans.
Most important, Clinton's attacks diverted attention from the real agents of terrorism. In blaming and targeting a single individual--in insisting that an isolated maniac was responsible and lying to deny that man's proven connections with Middle East governments -- Clinton exonerated all terrorist-sponsoring regimes, including Iran, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria, Sudan, and others. It is not merely that Clinton wanted to avoid offending the Afghani Taliban and the Sudanese government. He wanted to avoid offending any governments involved in terrorism, despite their proven function as protector and sanctioner of the killers. The result: he showed each and every one of these governments that they are safe to sponsor as many bin Ladens as they want.
Terrorism is a form of war. Evil men such as bin Laden cannot wage it alone. Although bin Laden certainly deserves to die, his capacity to kill and maim is made possible only by the governments that shelter his kind. Only governments have the power to protect terrorists, sponsor or wink at their training camps, and provide or applaud their weapons, transport and all the other support necessary to enter and exit their target countries. Targeting the individual killer leaves the real mass murderer--the terrorist-loving government--unpunished, secure in the knowledge that their victim is too cowardly to retaliate in kind.
The inevitable result of this policy is exactly what bin Laden has promised: a continuing war against Americans. The bombing of an American restaurant in South Africa a few days later was only the beginning. From Teheran to Tripoli, the governmental sponsors of terrorism will continue to protect the bin Ladens of this world until and unless they are shown that they themselves will suffer massively for doing so.
The only way to end terrorism is through a policy of real military strikes against the aggressors. If, as the Clinton Administration tells us repeatedly, we are engaged in a war, then let us see a war, fought not with words, but with the full, untrammeled power of our military, including, as and when necessary, the use of our most potent and destructive weapons against the seat of the governments involved.
The only alternative is the continued slaughter of Americans by terrorist bombs ignited by the cowardice of American policy-makers.
Leonard Peikoff, who founded the Ayn Rand Institute, is the foremost authority on Objectivism, the philosophy of Ayn Rand. The Institute promotes the philosophy of Ayn Rand, author of Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead.
ARI requests that any articles by Leonard Peikoff be dated, and if you are linking to any of his pieces on terrorism that a link be made to his most current piece on this issue -- "End States Who Sponsor Terrorism," 10/02/01.
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