08/12/06 — What’s at stake: We are vulnerable if we ignore terrorists’ intent

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What’s at stake: We are vulnerable if we ignore terrorists’ intent

There has been a lot of talk lately about what the next step should be in the war on terror.

The debate about Iraq and how long U.S. forces should remain in the country to help keep the peace has become an emotionally charged political football that shows no sign of ending anytime before the 2008 presidential election.

There have been many claims that the U.S. has overstayed its welcome in the Middle East and that past political decisions have created the unrest we battle today.

So, increasingly, there are more and more calls for the U.S. to get out of the business of forging a Middle East peace agreement.

And that is all well and good — and a very easy pronouncement to make.

After all, life was a bit easier here when Americans paid no attention to what was going on half a world away. Back then, we thought that oceans and continents protected us. We were saddened by the images we saw from the war zones, but that terror, that concern, really did not hit home.

That is, until we watched the horrors in New York and Washington on Sept. 11, 2001.

Now, many of us understand that those oceans and continents really don’t protect us anymore, and that the world is much like a series of dominos — with one action causing a reaction that continues down the line.

So, we have to figure out now how we are going to fit in and what role we are going to assume as the next world takes shape.

The U.S. cannot be the linchpin that keeps the Middle East at peace. Those who say we need to make decisions carefully about how we use our resources there are right. We need a definitive plan for Iraq, Afghanistan and how we will react the next time one of those seemingly far away places has an episode that changes the world.

We owe that to the men and women who will put on their uniforms to defend that policy.

But this week, we got a reminder that those horrible days in 2001 could come again. We heard about a plot to blow up airplanes and to kill thousands of innocent men, women and children.

And we should have realized again that this is not an enemy who will respond to “please,” “thank you” or anything else that resembles polite discourse and negotiations.

Terrorists are out to kill as many of us as they can, no matter what they have to do to accomplish that task. They will not stop until we stop them.

As we talk about the future and what role we want our country to take in the war on terror, we should remember how we felt Sept. 11, 2001. We can’t go back to Sept. 10 and pretend nothing happened — and we cannot sit back and just wait to see what the next tragedy will be.

Decisiveness and resolve are what we need now.

Remember that as you listen to the next round of debates on Iraq.

Published in Editorials on August 12, 2006 11:54 PM