The Tech - Online EditionMIT's oldest and largest
newspaper & the first
newspaper published
on the web
Boston Weather: 43.0°F | A Few Clouds

COLUMN

An Eye for an Eye

Matt Craighead

Recent events have unfolded like a terrifying scene out of a Tom Clancy novel. America has been attacked, and thousands of American citizens have been killed. As a consequence, the American ideals of freedom and capitalism are under attack as well. We cannot sit and do nothing. Instead, we must seek out those responsible and punish them with the full onslaught of all our might.

Consider the targets: the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. The World Trade Center was not merely an office building; it was the preeminent symbol of American capitalism. It symbolized the stunning wealth accumulated in America over the last two centuries as a result of the Industrial Revolution. The Pentagon, likewise, is not just a military office building. Nor is it merely one of the largest manmade structures on the planet. It represents our country’s unmatched military power, and our strength and resolve in defending our interests both at home and abroad.

These attacks were no two-bit operation. Terrorism and intelligence experts have speculated about who might have the necessary resources, and the list is short. The name at the top, of course, is Osama bin Laden, whose group has been responsible for many of the attacks against America over the last decade. (Bin Laden claims that he is not responsible, but he supports the attacks.)

But terrorism is rarely just the work of private individuals. Terrorists often also have the backing of governments which provide them with the military resources they need, as well as the most essential ingredient of all, money. The greatest sponsor of terrorists was once the Soviet Union, but with its collapse, new regimes have stepped in. The countries who sponsor terrorism consist mostly of familiar names: Iran, Iraq, Syria, Sudan, Afghanistan, etc. What they have in common is that they hate America and everything America stands for, and their support of terrorism is a direct consequence of this.

Investigating which groups and what countries are involved or complicit is a distinct issue from the question of retaliation, and I will leave this to others. We should certainly put some effort into investigation, but this is really the least of our problems. The fact of the matter is that this is a declaration of war against America. We have appeased these terrorist nations for far too long, and it’s time to change that. Yes, we should attack whoever is responsible for this specific attack, but that’s not enough. We need to declare war on and destroy any and all nations that are responsible for terrorism against America, and end this threat for once and for all.

Some pacifists among us might suggest that we should not undertake any military action. “We cannot change what is already done,” the pacifist argument goes, “and by retaliating, we merely lower ourselves to the level of our attackers.” But the pacifist argument falls short on both moral and practical grounds.

The common sense practical argument for retaliation is simple. If we do not retaliate, we send a message to potential future terrorists that they will not face any consequences for their actions, encouraging future attacks. Therefore, it is very clearly in our interests to punish those responsible.

The moral argument directly challenges the claims of pacifism. As for the first part of the claim -- that the damage has already been done -- I fully agree, but that is not the issue. Pacifism attempts to lend a moral equivalence to the initiation of force and the use of force to respond to another’s initiation of force. But these are entirely different in nature. It is the difference between unprovoked attack and self-defense. Pacifist claims of moral equivalence are an insult to those of us who value our own lives.

Remember also that the moral answer to terrorism is to recognize that our proper standard of value is our own lives. A person who values his own life above all will never become a suicide bomber or an airplane hijacker. Only someone who accepts the vicious doctrine of altruism, the idea that we must place the interests of others above those of our own, will do such a thing. If these hijackers had placed their lives as their highest value, they would never have sacrificed their lives for their twisted cause in the way they did on Tuesday.

Likewise, we must recognize that those same standards apply to our country and to our shared interests, such as our national security. We should not listen to the critics who tell us that we ought not engage in unilateral action. We must decide on a rational course of action, and we should consider our allies’ thoughts on military proposals. But once we act, if others criticize us, we must hold our resolve. We must never allow the complaints of other nations to endanger our country’s interests.

The choice is clear. We must ask ourselves -- do we value our own lives? Do we value America, the freest country in the world? Do we value the fundamentally American and moral economic system of capitalism, symbolized in the World Trade Center, that has led to the unprecedented creation of wealth worldwide? Do we value the American military, the strongest military in the world, a military that has crushed the oppression of so many dictators and so many threats to our nation over so many years?

If our answer is “yes” -- and I hope that we all would answer thusly -- our reaction follows as a direct consequence. Whoever did this to America, and whoever is responsible for or complicit in the attacks, must be killed. Whatever government is behind the attacks, we must bomb into submission with the full might of our military, and replace with a government dedicated to freedom, democracy, and capitalism. Whatever governments have done this to us in the past -- we must do the same.

The cost will be great. American lives will be lost. I fear that this war will escalate beyond our intentions. Indeed, war is never glorious. But, in the words of Julius Caesar, the die is cast. The lines are drawn. The war has begun. All that is left is for you to pick your side. You are either with America or against us. I urge you to side with America and support this war.