For the Democracies, A Moral Right, Indeed Duty, to Defend Themselves

A "Moral Right, Indeed Duty, to Defend Themselves"

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The Washington conference that led to the book Terrorism: How the West Can Win attracted an international galaxy of Cabinet ministers, legislators, military officers and scholars. Some highlights of what they said:

"A purely passive defense does not provide enough of a deterrent to terrorism and the states that sponsor it. It is time to think long, hard and seriously about more active means of defense--defense through preventive or pre-emptive actions against terrorist groups before they strike.

"We will need to strengthen our capabilities in the areas of intelligence and quick reaction. Intelligence will be particularly important, since our societies demand that we know with reasonable clarity just what we are doing and against whom we are acting. Experience has taught us that one of the best deterrents to terrorism is the certainty that swift and sure measures will be taken against those who engage in it. "Clearly there are complicated moral issues here. But there should be no doubt of the democracies' moral right, indeed duty, to defend themselves."

--Secretary of State George Shultz

"The most powerful totalitarian state of our time is also the principal supporter and sponsor of international terrorism. In the late 1960s, Soviet theorists began to emphasize the 'armed road' as the way to achieve power in the western hemisphere. They have set about supporting terrorist groups in this hemisphere. These technicians in violence and propaganda are called national liberation movements.

"The United Nations' acceptance of so-called national liberation movements as legitimate is a good indicator of the moral confusion that has come to surround this view of violence as the preferred method of political action. Since the 1970s, the U.N. General Assembly has passed numerous resolutions asserting its support for the right of 'national liberation movements' to 'struggle by all means . . . to achieve power.' It has consistently condemned countries for attempting to defend themselves against terrorist violence. The distinction between legitimate and illegitimate use of force has not so much been blurred as stood on its head."

--Former U.N. Ambassador Jeane


"Terrorism denies the distinction between state and society, public and private, government and individual, the distinction that lies at the heart of humane belief. For the terrorist, as for the totalitarian state, there are no innocent bystanders, no private citizens. Terrorism denies that there is any private sphere, that individuals have any rights or any autonomy separate from or beyond politics. There are thus no standards according to which the individual citizen, or the threatened society, can attempt to come to terms with the totalitarian terrorist. There is no way to satisfy his demands."

--Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan

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