Several days ago, Peter Schramm posted an anonymous response to an article I wrote on the Hellfire attack. I would like to use up a few electrons responding because what my anonymous critic wrote is typical of the way conservatives think about these things and is, I believe, wrong in every particular.
Killing terrorists is not good unless it is good for us. After Afghanistan, it is less important for us to show that we are tough in order to deter the terrorists. We need to consider other things, such as those I mentioned in the article, when deciding how to act and particularly when to use violence.
Any time we use violence, there is a cost. The principle point of the article was that we must weigh those costs against the benefits we hope to gain. My critic mentions Rambo ambushing someone and cutting their throat. Such an approach is altogether compatible with the responders anonymous attack but it is an approach that disdains careful or cautious assessment of costs and benefits for the momentary thrill of a "victory." I believe that attitude will ultimately cost us victory.
It is not true, as anonymous asserts, that the terrorists are hitting us whenever and wherever they can. There is a lot of evidence that they are thinking carefully about how they use violence. We must do the same if we are to beat them. Nor is it true as he asserts that arithmetic is on our side because there are more of us than there are of them. This assertion shows fundamental ignorance of the problem. Arithmetic is not at issue. Intelligence is. It is very hard for us to find the terrorists. It is much easier for them to find us. So, as I said in the article, tit-for-tat violence does not favor us.
The war on terrorism is not a war, at least as that term is normally understood. Neither is it simply a criminal investigation. Except for the destruction of the Taliban and, should it occur, the destruction of Saddam’s regime, it is more like a police action than a military action. This is another way of saying that the application of violence is only part of what we must do and should typically be only a small part.