George P. Shultz

Sherr Lecture: Terrorism and the Modern World

delivered 25 October 1984, Park Avenue Synagogue, New York, NY

Off-Site Audio of Address


[AUTHENTICITY CERTIFIED: Text version below transcribed directly from audio]

Thank you very much. I truly appreciate the warmth of your welcome, especially as it comes after a -- a wonderful dinner, beautiful cooking, and the warmth and hospitality that you have -- Where are you? -- showed us. We really do appreciate it. And we had the -- you mentioned that President Eisenhower stood here -- and of course I'm thrilled to stand here in any case -- but to -- to speak at a pulpit from whitexaplanch he spoke -- My first full-time job in Washington was during the Eisenhower Administration. I served as -- in his council of economic advisors. So you can see how old I am.

[brief interruption and cross talk re speaker microphone positioning]

It's also a privilege for me to deliver this annual lecture, Sherr Lecture, and particularly comes at the start of your year of adult Jewish studies. And I've just seen this booklet and it does look interesting; and as an old-time professor, of course, I have to recommend education to everybody.

You've assigned me a topic that I think is of tremendous importance, so I'm glad to have a chance to reflect on it with you. We -- The invitation to give the lecture has caused us to think carefully about what to say on this subject, and if it's a little lengthy I apologize; but, nevertheless, it's an important topic so I hope you'll bear with me as I go through my thoughts.

Someday terrorism will no longer be a timely subject for a speech, but that day has not arrived. Less than two weeks ago, one of the oldest and greatest nations of the Western world almost lost its Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, to the modern barbarism that we call terrorism. A month ago the American Embassy Annex in East Beirut was nearly destroyed by a terrorist truck bomb, the third major attack on Americans in Lebanon within the past two years. To list all the other acts of brutality that terrorists have visited upon civilized society in recent years would be impossible here because the list is too long. It is too long to name and too long to tolerate.

But I'm here to talk about terrorism as a phenomenon in our modern world, about what terrorism is and what it is not. We have learned a great deal about terrorism in recent years. We've learned much about the terrorists themselves, their supporters, their diverse methods, their underlying motives, and their eventual goals. What once may have seemed the random, senseless, violent acts of a few crazed individuals has come into clearer focus. A pattern of terrorist violence has emerged. It is an alarming pattern, but it is something that we can identify and therefore a threat that we can devise concrete measures to combat. The knowledge we have accumulated about terrorism over the -- over the years can provide the basis for a coherent strategy to deal with the phenomenon, if we have the will to turn our understanding into action.

We have learned that terror -- terrorism is, above all, a form of political violence. It is neither random nor without purpose. Today, we are confronted with a wide assortment of terrorist groups which, alone or in concert, orchestrate acts of violence to achieve distinctly political ends. Their stated objectives may range from separatist causes to revenge for ethnic grievances to social and political revolution. Their methods may be just as diverse: from planting homemade explosives in public places to suicide car bombings to kidnappings and political assassinations.

But the overarching goal of all terrorists is the same: They are trying to impose their will by force -- a special kind of force designed to create an atmosphere of fear. The horrors they inflict are not simply a new manifestation of traditional social conflict; they are depraved opponents of civilization itself, aided by the technology of modern weaponry. The terrorists want people to feel helpless and defenseless; they want people to lose faith in their government's capacity to protect them and thereby undermine the legitimacy of the government itself, or its policies, or both.

The terrorists profit from the anarchy caused by their violence. They succeed when governments change their policies out of intimidation. But the terrorist can even be satisfied if a government responds to terror by clamping down on individual rights and freedoms. Governments that overreact, even in self-defense, may only undermine their own legitimacy, as they unwittingly serve the terrorists' goals. The terrorist succeeds if a government responds to violence with repressive, polarizing behavior that alienates the government from the people.

We must understand, however, that terrorism, wherever it takes place, is directed in an important sense against us, the democracies -- against our most basic values and often our fundamental strategic interests. Because terrorism relies on brutal violence as its only tool, it will always be the enemy of democracy. For democracy rejects the indiscriminate or improper use of force and relies instead on the peaceful settlement of disputes through legitimate political processes.

The moral bases of democracy -- the principles of individual rights, freedom of thought and expression, freedom of religion -- are powerful barriers against those who seek to impose their will, their ideologies, or their religious beliefs by force. Whether i[n] Israel or Lebanon or Turkey or Italy or West Germany or Northern Ireland, a terrorist has no patience for the orderly processes of democratic society, and therefore he seeks to destroy it. Indeed, terrorism seeks to destroy what all of us here are seeking to build.

The United States and the other democracies are morally committed to certain ideals and to a humane vision of the future. Nor is our vision limited to within our borders. In our foreign policies, as well, we try to foster the kind of world that promotes peaceful settlement of disputes, one that welcomes beneficial change. We do not practice terrorism and we seek to build a world which holds no place for terrorist violence, a world in which human rights are respected by all governments, a world based on the rule of law.

And there is yet another reason why we are attacked. If freedom and democracy are the targets of terrorism, it is clear that totalitarianism is its ally. The number of terrorist incidents in totalitarian states is minimal, and those against their personnel abroad are markedly fewer than against the West. And this is not only because police states offer less room for terrorists to carry out acts of violence. States that support and sponsor
terrorist actions have managed in recent years to co-opt and manipulate the terrorist phenomenon in pursuit of their own strategic goals.

It is not a coincidence that most acts of terrorism occur in areas of importance to the West. More than 80% of the world's terrorist attacks in 1983 occurred in Western Europe, Latin America, and the Middle East. Terrorism in this context is not just criminal activity but an unbridled form of warfare.

Today, international links among terrorist groups are more clearly understood. And Soviet and Soviet-bloc support is also more clearly understood. We face a diverse family of dangers. Iran and the Soviet Union are hardly allies, but they both share a fundamental hostility to the West. When Libya and the PLO [Palestine Liberation Organization] provide arms and training to the communists in Central America, they are aiding Soviet-supported Cuban efforts to undermine our security in that vital region.

When the Red Brigades in Italy and the Red Army Faction in Germany assault free countries in the name of communist ideology, they hope to shake the West's self-confidence, unity, and will to resist intimidation. The terrorists who assault Israel -- and indeed the Marxist Provisional IRA [Irish Republican Army] in Northern Ireland -- are ideological enemies of the United States. We cannot and we will not succumb to the likes of Khomeini and Gaddafi.

We also now see a close connection between terrorism and international narcotics trafficking. Cuba and Nicaragua in particular have used narcotics smugglers to funnel guns and money to terrorists and insurgents in Colombia. Other communist countries, like Bulgaria, have also been part of the growing link between drugs and terrorism.

We should understand the Soviet role in international terrorism without exaggeration or distortion. One does not have to believe that the Soviets are puppeteers and the terrorists -- terrorists marionettes; violent or fanatic individuals and groups can exist in almost any society.

But in many countries, terrorism would long since have withered away had it not been for significant support from outside. When Israel went into Lebanon in 1982, Israeli forces uncovered irrefutable evidence that the Soviet Union had been arming and training the PLO and other groups. Today, there is no reason to think that Soviet support for terrorist groups around the world has diminished. Here as elsewhere, there is a wide gap between Soviets' words and Soviet deeds, a gap that is very clear, for instance, when you put Soviet support for terrorist groups up against the empty rhetoric of the resolution against so-called "state terrorism" which the U.S.S.R has submitted to this year's UN General Assembly. The Soviets condemn terrorism, but in practice they connive with terrorist groups when they think it serves their own purposes, and their goal is always the same: to weaken liberal democracy and undermine world stability.

The stakes in our war against terrorism therefore are high. We have already seen the horrible cost in innocent lives that terrorist violence has incurred. But perhaps even more horrible is the damage that terrorism threatens to wreak on our modern civilization.

For centuries, mankind has strived to build a world in which the highest human aspirations can be fulfilled. We have pulled ourselves out of a state of barbarism and removed the affronts to human freedom and dignity that are inherent to that condition. We have sought to free ourselves from that primitive existence described by Hobbes where life is lived in "continual fear and danger of violent death...nasty, brutish, and short."1 We have sought to create, instead, a world where universal respect for human rights and democratic values makes a better life possible. We in the democracies can attest to all that man is capable of achieving if he renounces violence and brute -- brute force, if he is free to think, write, vote, and worship as he pleases. Yet all of these hard-won -- won gains are threatened by terrorism.

Terrorism is a step backward. It is a step toward anarchy and decay. In the broadest sense, terrorism represents a return to barbarism in the modern age. If the modern world cannot face up to the challenge, then terrorism, and the lawlessness and inhumanity that come with it, will gradually undermine all that the modern world has achieved and make further progress impossible.

The magnitude of the threat posed by terrorism is so great that we cannot afford to confront it with half-hearted and poorly organized measures. Terrorism is a contagious disease that will inevitably spread if it goes untreated. We need a strategy to cope with terrorism in all of its varied manifestations. We need to summon the necessary resources and determination to fight it and, with international cooperation, eventually stamp it out. And we have to recognize that the burden falls on us, the democracies. No one else will cure the disease for us.

Yet, clearly we face obstacles, some of which arise precisely because we are democracies. The nature of the terrorist assault is in many ways alien to us. Democracies like to act on the basis of known facts and shared knowledge. Terrorism is clandestine and mysterious by nature. Terrorists rely on secrecy, and therefore it is hard to know for certain who has committed an atrocity.

Democracies also rely on reason and persuasive logic to make decisions. It is hard for us to understand the fanaticism and apparent irrationality of many terrorists, especially those who kill and commit suicide in the belief that they will be rewarded in the afterlife. The psychopathic ruthlessness and brutality of terrorism is an aberration in our culture and alien to our heritage.

And it is an unfortunate irony that the very qualities that make democracies so hateful to the terrorists -- our respect for the rights and freedom of the individual -- also make us particularly vulnerable. Precisely because we maintain the most open societies, terrorists
have unparalleled opportunity to strike at us. Terrorists seek to make democracies embattled and afraid, to break down democratic accountability, due process, and order. They hope we will turn toward repression or succumb to chaos.

These are the challenges we must live with. We will certainly not alter the democratic values that we so cherish in order to fight terrorism. We will have to find ways to fight back without undermining everything we stand for.

But there is another obstacle that we have created for ourselves and that we should overcome -- that we must overcome if we are to fight terrorism effectively. The obstacle I am referring to is confusion.

We cannot begin to address this monumental challenge to decent, civilized society until we clear our heads of the confusion about terrorism, in many ways the moral confusion, that still seems to plague us. Confusion can lead to paralysis, and it is a luxury that we simply cannot afford.

The confusion about terrorism has taken many forms. In recent years, we have heard some ridiculous distortions, even about what the word "terrorism" means. The idea, for instance, that denying food stamps to some is a form of terrorism cannot be entertained by serious people. And those who would argue, as recently some in Great Britain have, that physical violence by strikers can be equated with "the violence of unemployment" are, in the words of The Economist, "a menace to democracy everywhere."2 In a real democracy, violence is unequivocally bad. Such distortions are dangerous because words are important. When we distort our language, we may distort our thinking, and we hamper our efforts to find solutions to the grave problems we face.

There has been, however, a more serious kind of confusion surrounding the issue of terrorism: the confusion between the terrorist act itself and the political goals that the terrorists claim to seek.

The grievances that terrorists supposedly seek to redress through acts of violence may or may not be legitimate. The terrorist acts themselves, however, can never be legitimate. And legitimate causes can never justify or excuse terrorism. Terrorist means discredit their ends.

We have all heard the insidious claim that "one man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter." When I spoke on the subject of terrorism this past June, I quoted the powerful rebuttal to this kind of moral relativism made by the late Senator Henry Jackson. His statement bears repeating today: "The idea that one person's terrorist is another's freedom fighter,'' he said,

cannot be sanctioned. Freedom fighters or revolutionaries don't blow up buses containing non-combatants -- terrorist murderers do.

Freedom fighters don't set out to capture and slaughter school children -- terrorist murderers do.

Freedom fighters don't assassinate innocent businessmen, or hijack and hold hostage innocent men, women, and children -- terrorist murderers do.

It is a disgrace that democracies would allow the treasured word "freedom" to be associated with acts of terrorist[s].3

So spoke Scoop Jackson.

We cannot afford to let an "Orwellian corruption of language" obscure our understanding of terrorism. We know the difference between terrorists and freedom fighters, and as we look around the world, we have no trouble telling one from the other.

How tragic it would be if democratic societies so lost confidence in their own moral legitimacy that they lost sight of the obvious: that violence directed against democracy, or the hopes for democracy, lacks fundamental justification. Democracy offers the opportunity for peaceful change, legitimate political competition, and redress of grievances. We must oppose terrorists no matter what banner they may fly. For terrorism in any cause is the enemy of freedom.

And we must not fall into the deadly trap of giving justification to the unacceptable acts of terrorists by acknowledging the worthy-sounding motives they may claim. Organizations such as the Provisional IRA, for instance, play on popular grievances and political and religious emotions to disguise their deadly purpose. They find ways to work through local political and religious leaders to enlist support for their brutal actions. As a result, we even find Americans contributing, we hope unwittingly, to an organization which has killed -- in cold blood and without the slightest remorse -- hundreds of innocent men, women, and children in Great Britain and Ireland; an organization which has assassinated senior officials and tried to assassinate the British Prime Minister and her entire cabinet; a professed Marxist organization which also gets support from Libya's Gaddafi and has close links with other international terrorists. The Government of the United States stands firmly with the Government of the United Kingdom and the Government of Ireland in opposing any action that lends aid or support to the Provisional IRA.

Moral confusion about terrorism can take many forms. When two Americans and 12 Lebanese were killed at our Embassy Annex in East Beirut last month, for instance, we were told by some that this mass murder was an expression, albeit an extreme expression, of Arab hostility to American policy in the Middle East. We were told that this bombing happened because of a vote we cast in the United Nations, or because of our policies in Lebanon, or because of the overall state of our relations with the Arab nations, or because of our support for Israel.

We were advised by some that if we want to stop terrorism -- if we want to put an end to these vicious murders --  then what we need to do is change our policies. In effect, we have been told that terrorism is in some measure our own fault, and we deserved to be bombed. I can tell you here and now that the United States will not be driven off or stayed from our course or change our policy by terrorist brutality.

We cannot permit ourselves any uncertainty as to the real meaning of terrorist violence in the Middle East or anywhere else. Those who truly seek peace in the Middle East know that war and violence are no answer. Those who oppose radicalism and support negotiations are themselves the target of terrorism, whether they are Arabs or Israelis. One of the great tragedies of the Middle East, in fact, is that the many moderates on the Arab side, who are ready to live in peace with Israel, are threatened by the radicals and their terrorist henchmen and are thus stymied in their own efforts for peace.

The terrorists' principal goal in the Middle East destroy any progress toward a negotiated peace. And the more our policies succeed, the closer we come toward achieving our goals in the Middle East, the harder terrorists will try to stop us. The simple fact is, the terrorists are more upset about progress in the Middle East than they are about any alleged failures to achieve progress. Let us not forget that President Sadat was murdered because he made peace, and that threats continue to be issued daily in that region because of the fear -- yes, fear -- that others might favor a negotiated path toward peace.

Whom would we serve by changing our policies in the Middle East in the face of the terrorist threat? Not Israel, not the moderate Arabs, not the Palestinian people, and certainly not the cause of peace. Indeed, the worst thing we could do is change our principled policies under the threat of violence. What we must do is support our friends and remain firm in our goals.

We have to rid ourselves of this moral confusion which lays the blame for terrorist actions on us or on our policies. We are attacked not because of what we are doing wrong but because of what we are doing right. We are right to support the security of Israel, and there is no terrorist act or threat that will change that firm determination. We are attacked not because of some mistake we are making but because of who we are
and what we believe in. We must not abandon our principles, or our role in the world, or our responsibilities as the champion of freedom and peace.

While terrorism threatens many countries, the United States has a special responsibility. It is time for this country to make a broad national commitment to treat the challenge of terrorism with the sense of urgency and priority it deserves.

The essence of our response is simple to state: Violence and aggression must be met by firm resistance. This principle holds true whether we are responding to full-scale military attacks or to the kinds of low-level conflicts that are more common in the modern world.

We are on the way to being well prepared to deter an all-out war or a Soviet attack on our principal allies; that is why these are the least likely contingencies. It is not self-evident that we are as well prepared and organized to deter and counter the gray area of intermediate challenges that we are more likely to face -- the low-intensity conflict of which terrorism is a part.

We have worked hard to deter large-scale aggression by strengthening our strategic and conventional defenses, by restoring the pride and confidence of the men and women in our military, and by displaying the kind of national resolve to confront aggression that can deter potential adversaries. We have been more successful [than] in the past in dealing with many forms of low-level aggression. We have checked communist aggression and subversion in Central America and the Caribbean, and opened the way for peaceful, democratic processes in that region. And we successfully liberated Grenada from Marxist control and returned that tiny i[s]land to freedom and self-determination.

But terrorism, which is also low -- a form of low-level aggression, has so far posed an even more difficult challenge, for the technology of security has been outstripped by the technology of murder. And, of course, the United States is not the only nation that faces difficulties in responding to terrorism. To update President Reagan's report in the debate last Sunday, since September 1st, 41 acts of terrorism have been perpetrated by no less than 14 terrorist groups against the people and property of 21 countries. Even Israel has not rid itself of the terrorist threat, despite its brave and prodigious efforts.

But no nation has had more experience with terrorism than Israel, and no nation has made a greater contribution to our understanding of the problem and the best ways to confront it. By supporting organizations like the Jonathan Institute, named after the brave Israeli soldier who led and died at Entebbe, the Israeli people have helped raise international awareness of the global scope of the terrorist threat.

And Israel's contribution goes beyond the -- the theoretical. Israel has won major battles in the war against terrorism in actions across its borders, in other continents, and in the land of Israel itself. To its great credit, the Israeli Government has moved within Israel to apprehend and bring to trial its own citizens accused of terrorism.

Much of Israel's success in fighting terrorism has been due to broad public support for Israel's antiterrorist policies. Israel's people have shown the will, and they have provided their government the resources, to fight terrorism. They entertain no illusions about the meaning or the danger of terrorism. Perhaps because they confront the threat everyday, they recognize that they are at war with terrorism. The rest of us would do well to follow Israel's example.

But part of our problem here in the United States has been our seeming inability to understand terrorism clearly. Each successive terrorist incident has brought too much self-condemnation and dismay, accompanied by calls for a change in our policies or our principles, or calls for withdrawal and retreat. We should be alarmed. We should be outraged. We should investigate and strive to improve.

But widespread publish -- public anguish and self-condemnation only convince the terrorists that they are on the right track. It only encourages them to commit more acts of barbarism in the hope that American resolve will weaken. This is a particular danger in the period before our election. If our reaction to terrorist acts is to turn on ourselves instead of against the perpetrators, we give them redoubled incentive to do it again and to try to influence our political processes.

We have to be stronger, steadier, determined, and united in the face of the terrorist threat. We must not reward the terrorists by changing our policies or questioning our own principles or wallowing in self-flagellation or self-doubt. Instead, we should understand that terrorism is aggression, and like all aggression must be forcefully resisted.

We must reach a consensus in this country that our responses should go beyond passive defense to consider means of active prevention, preemption, and retaliation. Our goal must be to prevent and deter future terrorist acts, and experience has taught us over the years 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.

We should take steps toward carrying out such measures. There should be no moral confusion on this issue. Our aim is not to seek revenge but to put an end to violent attacks against innocent people, to make the world a safer place to live -- for all of us. Clearly, the democracies have a moral right, indeed a duty, to defend themselves.

A successful strategy for combating terrorism will require us to face up to some hard questions and to come up with some clear-cut answers. The questions involve our intelligence capability, the doctrine under which we would employ force, and most important of all our public's attitude toward this challenge. Our nation cannot summon the will to act without firm public understanding and support.

First, our intelligence capabilities, particularly our human intelligence, are being strengthened. Determination and capacity to act are of little value unless we can come close to answering these -- the questions: Who? Where? And when? We have to do a better job of finding out who the terrorists are, where they are, and the nature, composition, and patterns of behavior of terrorist organizations. Our intelligence services are organizing themselves to do the job, and they must be given the mandate and the flexibility to develop techniques of detection and contribute to deterrence and response.

Second, there is no question about our ability to use force where and when it is needed to counter terrorism. Our nation has forces prepared for action -- from small teams able to operate virtually undetected, to the full weight of our conventional military might. But serious issues are involved -- questions that need to be debated, understood, and agreed if we are to be able to utilize our forces wisely and effectively.

If terrorists strike here at home, it is a matter for police action and domestic law enforcement. In most cases overseas, acts of terrorism against our people and installations can be dealt with best by the host government and its forces. It is worth remembering that just as it is the responsibility of the United States Government to provide security for foreign embassies in Washington, so the internationally agreed doctrine is that the security of our embassies abroad in the first instance is the duty of the host government, and we work with those governments cooperatively and with considerable success. The ultimate responsibility of course is ours, and we will carry it out with total determination and all the resources available to us. Congress, in a bipartisan effort, is giving us the legislative tools and the resources to strengthen the protection of our facilities and our people overseas -- and they must continue to do so. But while we strengthen our defenses, defense alone is not enough.

The heart of the challenge lies in those cases where international rules and traditional practices do not apply. Terrorists will strike from areas where no governmental authority exists; or they will base themselves behind what they expect will be the sanctuary of an international border. And they will design their attacks to take place in precisely those gray areas where the full facts cannot be known, where the challenge will not bring with it an obvious or clear-cut choice of response.

In such cases, we must use our intelligence resources carefully and completely. We will have to examine the full range of measures available to us to take. The outcome may be that we will face a choice between doing nothing or employing military force. We now recognize that terrorism is being used by our adversaries as a modern tool of warfare. It is no aberration. We can expect more terrorism directed at our strategic interests around the world in the years ahead. To combat it, we must be willing to use military force.

What will be required, however, is public understanding before the fact of the risks involved in combating terrorism with overt power.

The public must understand before the fact that there is potential for loss of life of some of our fighting men and the loss of life of some innocent people.

The public must understand before the fact that some will seek to cast any preemptive or retaliatory action by us in the worst light and will attempt to make our military and our policymakers, rather than the terrorists, appear to be the culprits.

The public must understand before the fact that occasions will come when their government must act before each and every fact is known -- and the decisions cannot be tied to the opinion polls.4

Public support for U.S. military actions to stop terrorists before they commit some hideous act or in retaliation for an attack on our people is crucial if we are to deal with this challenge.

Our military has the capability and the techniques to use power to fight the war against terrorism. This capability will be used judiciously. To be successful over the long term, it will require solid support from the American people.

I can assure you that in this Administration our actions will be governed by the rule of law; and the rule of law is congenial to action against terrorists. We will need the flexibility to respond to terrorist attacks in a variety of ways, at times and places of our own choosing. Clearly, we will not respond in the same manner to every terrorist act. Indeed, we will want to avoid engaging in a policy of automatic retaliation which might create a cycle of escalating violence beyond our control.

If we are going to respond or preempt effectively, our policies will have to have an element of unpredictability and surprise. And the prerequisite for such a policy must be a broad public consensus on the moral and strategic necessity of action. We will need the capability to act on a moment's notice. There will not be time for a renewed national debate after every terrorist attack. We may never have the kind of evidence that can stand up in an American court of law. But we cannot allow ourselves to become the Hamlet of nations,5 worrying endlessly over whether and how to respond. A great nation with global responsibilities cannot afford to be hamstrung by confusion and indecisiveness. Fighting terrorism will not be a clean or pleasant contest, but we have no choice but to play it.

We will also need a broader international effort. If terror -- terrorism is truly a threat to Western moral values, our morality must not paralyze us; it must give us the courage to face up to the threat. And if the enemies of these values are united, so, too, must the democratic countries be united in -- in defending them. The leaders of the industrial democracies, meeting at the London summit in June, agreed on a joint declaration that they must redouble their cooperation against terrorism.6 There has been a follow-up to that initial meeting, and the United States is committed to advance the process in every possible way. Since we, the democracies, are the most vulnerable, and our strategic interests are the most at stake, we must act together in the face of danger -- common dangers. For our part, we will work where -- whenever possible in close cooperation with our friends in the democracies.

Sanctions, when exercised in concert with other nations, can help to isolate, weaken, or punish states that sponsor terrorism against us. Too often, countries are inhibited by fear of losing commercial opportunities or fear of provoking a bully. Economic sanctions and other forms of countervailing pressure impose costs and risks on the nations that apply them; but some sacrifices will be necessary if we are not to suffer even greater costs down the road. Some countries are clearly more vulnerable to extortion than others. Surely this is an argument for banding together in mutual support, not an argument for appeasement.

If we truly believe in the values of our civilization, we have a duty to defend them. The democracies must have the self-confidence to tackle this menacing problem or else they will not be in much of a position to tackle other kinds of problems. If we are not willing to set limits to what kinds of behavior are tolerable, then our adversaries will conclude that there are no limits. As Thomas Jefferson once said when we were confronted with the problem of piracy, "an insult unpunished is the parent of others."7

In a basic way, the democracies must show whether they believe in themselves. We must confront the terrorist threat with the same resolve and determination that this nation has shown time and again throughout our history. There is no room for guilt or self-doubt about our right to defend a way of life that offers all nations hope for peace, progress, and human dignity. The sage Hillel expressed it well: If I am not for myself, who will be? If I am for myself alone, who am I?8

As we fight this battle against terrorism, we must always keep in mind the values and way of life we are trying to protect. Clearly, we will not allow ourselves to descend to the level of barbarism that terrorism represents. We will not abandon our democratic traditions, our respect for individual rights and freedom, for these are precisely what we are struggling to preserve and promote. Our values and our principles will give us the strength and the confidence to meet the great challenge posed by terrorism. If we show the courage and the will to protect our freedom and our way of life, we will prove ourselves again worthy of these blessings.

Thank you.


[Q&A not transcribed]

1 Extended Quotation: "Whatsoever therefore is consequent to a time of War, where every man is Enemy to every man; the same is consequent to the time, wherein men live without other security, than what their own strength, and their own invention shall furnish them with all. In such condition, there is no place for Industry; because the fruit thereof is uncertain; and consequently no Culture of the Earth; no Navigation, nor use of the commodities that may be imported by Sea; no commodious Building; no Instruments of moving, and removing such things as require much force; no Knowledge of the face of the Earth; no account of Time; no Arts; no Letters; no Society; and which is worst of all, continual fear, and danger of violent death; And the life of man, solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short." [Hobbes, Leviathan, Ch. XIII; (spelling corrected for modern English language use)]  

2 Source confirmation pending

3 Source confirmation pending

4 Anaphora

5 Allusion and Metaphor (dual use rhetorical figure)

6 "Proposals which found support in the discussion included the following:

—closer co-operation and co-ordination between police and security organizations and other relevant authorities, especially in the exchange of information, intelligence and technical knowledge;

—scrutiny by each country of gaps in its national legislation which might be exploited by terrorists;

—use of the powers of the receiving state under the Vienna Convention in such matters as the size of diplomatic missions, and the number of buildings enjoying diplomatic immunity;

—action by each country to review the sale of weapons to states supporting terrorism;

— consultation and as far as possible cooperation over the expulsion or exclusion from their countries of known terrorists, including persons of diplomatic status involved in terrorism."

The Heads of State and Government recognised that this is a problem which affects all civilized states. They resolved to promote action through competent international organizations and among the international community as a whole to prevent and punish terrorist acts."


7 Letter to John Hay, Paris, 23 August 1785. The broader context of the quotation concerns the future maritime activities and interests of America's fledging democracy and the inevitable conflicts with other nations therein, most especially England: "Our people are decided in the opinion that it is necessary for us to take a share in the occupation of the ocean ...and that therefore we should in every instance preserve an equality of right to them in the transportation of commodities, in the right of fishing, & in the other uses of the sea. But what will be the consequence? Frequent wars without a doubt. Their property will be violated on the sea, & in foreign ports, their persons will be insulted, imprisoned &c. for pretended debts, contracts, crimes, contraband, &c., &c. These insults must be resented...or in other words, our commerce on the ocean & in other countries must be paid for by frequent war…Justice indeed on our part will save us from those wars which would have been produced by a contrary disposition. But to prevent those produced by the wrongs of other nations? By putting ourselves in a condition to punish them. Weakness provokes insult & injury, while a condition to punish it often prevents it. This reasoning leads to the necessity of some naval force, that being the only weapon with which we can reach an enemy. I think it to our interest to punish the first insult; because an insult unpunished is the parent of many others." [emphasis added]


8 More precisely: "He [also] used to say: If I am not for myself, who is for me? But if I am for my own self [only], what am I? And if not now, when?" [Pirkei Avot 1:14]

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