Magazine article The Spectator

America Must Fight Back

Magazine article The Spectator

America Must Fight Back

Article excerpt

There is no moral difference between the destruction in America and a bomb in a fish-and-chip shop in the Shankill Road. In intention, the two sets of actions are the same: to cause death and terror. Nor will the havoc in New York mean, as some of the coverage seems to suggest, the end of the world as we know it. The markets will reopen. Capitalism will go on. America will remain the planet's pre-eminent power.

It can be predicted with some confidence that on the site of those mangled remains a new trade centre will rise. It may not be quite as big as the two fallen towers. Or, knowing the American way, the new towers may be even bigger. Either way, the wheels of commerce will turn again.

What makes this tragedy different from other terrorist atrocities - and what makes these events among the most shocking that many readers will be able to remember - is the number of fatalities. As we go to press, thousands of people appear to have been murdered, by the same small group of people, in the financial heart of the world's most important and powerful country. If Mark Steyn is right, it looks as though America lost on Tuesday more lives than at Pearl Harbor and in the War of Independence combined. It is therefore right to construe this as an act of war, which deserves a warlike answer.

Over the last 24 hours it has become conventional to plead with President Bush to show 'restraint'. In so far as they go, those pleas are sensible. Barbarism should not be answered with barbarism. A random swatting of civilian targets would be just the response the terrorists are hoping for. It would seem to vindicate their claims, and allow their supporters to see a false equivalence between America and her enemies.

Nor, however, is there any case for appeasement. People will be tempted to ask themselves what depth of feeling, what passionate hatred, can have driven the hijackers to take their own lives in this way. Surely, they will reason, instinctively, America must have done some great evil to be requited in this evil way.

That logic is false. America is not to blame for what has happened. It makes no sense to blame American foreign policy, any more than it makes sense to blame the lax security at Logan airport, or the outlandish failures of intelligence that allowed four passenger jets to be seized simultaneously. Huge efforts will be made, over the next few weeks, to show that this or that example of American global dominance made the disaster inevitable. …

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