Acts of war demand focused response

Terrorism: Attack shattered national life but should strengthen our values and determination.

September 13, 2001

THE TERRORISTS who killed Americans still uncounted, obliterated a great landmark, cleared the skies, closed the markets and damaged the national defense command center did more harm to the continental United States in a day than did all the enemies in World War II.

Life is not the same and will not be for time to come.

As President Bush said, these were acts of war. And they must be responded to as such. You don't attack America like this and get away with it, was the way Secretary of State Colin Powell put it. And we must ensure that no one has the opportunity to attack again.

More than symbols of American power were attacked. Americans - doubtless in the thousands - were maimed and killed. What happened in New York and Washington were acts of treachery and cowardice, in which the innocent were targeted.

Americans have already united with trust in their leaders. The funds that President Bush seeks to deal with the damage and the response, Congress will provide. The actions that the president will take, the people will support.

With the patience, focus and steadfastness the president summoned, the American people's determination must be that the terrorists meet defeat. For most of the people, this means strengthening the values that make us Americans and restoring the national life that the terror interrupted.

Relentless intelligence must identify the terrorists and those who harbor and aid them. Americans will support military action to end their atrocities.

A war on terrorism of the needed scale will entail steely resolve and a willingness to take risks and casualties.

Hitting wrong targets, just for the satisfaction of hitting something, would play into the terrorists' hands. So would acts of hatred aimed at ethnic or religious groups in this country that did not perpetrate the terror and that suffer from it as much as anyone else.

Terrorism is most successful when it provokes responses that recruit more terrorists. That is its classic rationale, often justified in the eyes of perpetrators by its success. To out-hit terrorists is insufficient. It is essential to out-think them.

This will not all get done in a day, week or month. War against terrorism means actively rooting it out, preventing it, heading it off - not merely responding to it.

In the meantime, the longer that schools, transportation and economic life remain paralyzed, the more damage the terrorists did. The sooner productive activities are restored, the more transient was the damage.

Above all, it is important to get the economy of the world running to its full potential, and not let terror in the most prosperous country take it down.

Waging war against terrorism means staying economically strong and united as a nation. That is what is required first.

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