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Our Culture Inchoate: On Terrorism #12

Updated: Oct 19, 2019

Our NJ congresswoman on terrorism and why we exercise moral restraint.


It is said that one of the critical differences separating humans from beasts is opposition. The thumb can cross the hand enabling us to do what most animals cannot, like reach and grasp, make tools, or grip a baseball bat.

There are numerous other grey matter capacity issues, but one, above all, gives us dominion: moral restraint. It is also the source of America’s world-wide authority today.

Restraint implies discipline, born from understanding the consequences of unreasonable deviation from acceptable behavior. Moral restraint is discipline of a higher order. We know that wrong is always wrong and the consequence of losing that moral discipline is the dismantling of our culture. The idea that one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter is wrong, wrong, wrong, and I will never subscribe to that.

Moral restraint is exercised every day in America. Policemen, teachers, social workers, immigration authorities (by default or design), and most regular folks who have to wait in line behind the oblivious are masterful examples of restraint. Some call it civil patience.

America suffers gladly from moral restraint in abundance. It is a suffering because most of the forces of nature do not comprehend our capacity for good, and all the abhorrent designs of terrorism see restraint as a weakness to be exploited.

A decade ago Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay were examples. Americans do not torture. We have never supported it, military officers have never condoned it, and obviously the press would not allow it to go unreported. It is unconscionable that abusive frat house pranks in Abu Ghraib were associated with the noble but thankless detention work in Gitmo, but they are now intertwined as paradigms of a lack of discipline, and somewhat largely forgotten. In perspective, Abu Ghraib, like My Lai a generation before, was the exception that proved the rule. There are huge differences between the two events, not to excuse Abu Ghraib… My Lai resulted in hundreds of murdered civilians. Abu Ghraib was the humiliation of prisoners, but no one was killed.

It is no secret that soldiers earlier in Iraq and now in Afghanistan have a chronic complaint in regard to the execution of their mission. The rules of engagement are so stressful that combat is like a reprieve. Our servicemen are acutely aware that a violation of a standard of conduct could bring dishonor upon themselves, their unit, or the free and innocent people of those nations. Worse, failure to act decisively in the face of potential danger could cost a soldier his own life, or the life of a fellow guardsman, soldier, or marine.

Preparation for this dichotomy of mission is the essence of U.S. military training, what we call discipline. Its foundation in our society is cultural moral restraint.

We insist on the highest standards of behavior, and our servicemen and women follow the rules of engagement because it is not just an order; it’s because it is the right thing to do.

Near the end of World War II the fire bombing of Dresden and the atomic bomb at Hiroshima were judicious political decisions that had awful consequences which shock many to this day. But the evil supported, actively or passively, by a silent population is now gone forever, to the good of all mankind.

Remember the terrorist Moussaoui? He was a surviving member of the planning on 9/11. A crude simpleton, he was spared from the death penalty. That exercise of moral restraint by the jury was correct. The unspoken message is that we don’t need to execute him: we must destroy them, the terrorists who hide behind the killing of the innocent and unarmed.

All the preparation of a U.S. soldier or marine is not to create a killing machine. Our mastery of technology and the firepower that it controls will guarantee a victory in any pure military engagement.

Our servicemen and women are the best trained, best educated, best equipped and best cared for military the world has ever seen. They are the best because they exercise moral restraint in the face of pure evil. Our military discipline springs from an inherent knowledge that all innocent life should be spared.

Our enemy does not see it that way. Islamo-fascism cares nothing for innocent life, treats women as no more than property, hides behind children, and sees the death of their own as martyrdom. Terrorists qualify a complete lack of rationality by blaming God.

Moral restraint prevents one from commenting too harshly on that stupidity and insanity.

America’s opposition to the diseased beast of terrorism goes farther than a reach without a grasp. Our moral restraint is part of our national soul. America must continue to beat with a bat the enemy of our ideals… terrorism in all its forms.

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