Defensive strategy on terrorism won't work

September 22, 2004

Dear Editor:

If you follow the Democrats' criticism since 9/11, you may have noticed two constant properties of that criticism: The visceral hatred for all things conservative and the absence of any specific proposals for how the war should be fought. All we've gotten so far is "well, I wouldn't have done that!" The closest John Kerry has been to a specific proposal is when he asserted his approach to be more "sensitive" and "nuanced" than George Bush's low-brow global war on terror.

What does John Kerry mean by a sensitive and nuanced war on terror? It is the policy we followed for the 50 years preceding 9/11. He thinks we are not at war and terrorism is a legal/diplomatic problem. The implication is we should pursue individual terrorists through diplomacy and in the courts, and if they hide in countries that use terrorism as an extension of their foreign policy, oh well, we just can't get them extradited.


We tried to use diplomacy to resolve the problem for 50 years, being very careful to maintain our credentials as "an honest broker of the peace" between the Arabs and the Israelis. Throughout the last 50 years, the frequency and the severity of terrorist attacks increased and the efforts to negotiate a peace between the Arabs and Israel largely failed. The sensitive and nuanced "war on terror" precludes doing anything about the root cause of world terrorism, which is the corrupt and autocratic regimes that pass for governments among Arab states.

The sensitive and nuanced war on terror is a defensive strategy, a strategy where we surrender the initiative to the terrorists and defend everywhere in depth. Defending everywhere is impossible. Allowing the terrorists to choose the time and place can lead to only one result. Nobody ever won a war by staying on the defensive. As the French should have learned from World War II, fixed defenses are no defenses at all.

We also know the defensive strategy will not work because the Democrats will not let it work out. They are making a concerted effort to dismantle the Patriot Act at the same time they claim we are still vulnerable and our borders are "scandalously porous." The only way a purely defensive strategy can hope to succeed is if we are willing to construct a "fortress America" and we will lose more of our civil rights through a pure defensive strategy than we will by continuing the offensive strategy that takes the fight to the terrorists, rather than fighting the war here on our home ground.

The truly remarkable fact is that we have not been attacked since 9/11. How can that not suggest the offensive strategy is working?

Robert E. Martin


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