Something else died on Tuesday, in addition to thousands of innocent people. It was the doctrine of moral equivalency - the idea that people everywhere are just like us, or can be made so by meeting their demands.
Secretary of State Colin Powell said Wednesday that the United States will now go after terrorism wherever it is found in the world. That's a nice change from the State Department's criticism of Israel for doing precisely what we now plan to do. Powell has said that Israel went "too far" when it retaliated against terrorists who killed Israeli civilians. Powell seems to indicate that America's approach to terror will be limitless. If that's good policy for America, why isn't it good policy for Israel?
Perhaps the idea of a "cycle of violence" in the Middle East has also died. That phrase has always implied that there are no perpetrators and no victims. Funny how American leaders stop talking about such things when Americans bleed and die.
The enemies of religious pluralism, tolerance and other American values see it as their divine mandate to eradicate people who do not believe as they do. These are not people who can be mollified, coddled or persuaded to think and act differently. For them, it is not an aberration to kill what they regard as the enemies of Islam. It is their commission and their duty.
Before plotting future approaches to terrorism, it would be well to consider our past approaches, which have clearly failed in light of this American holocaust.
We have eviscerated our intelligence-gathering capabilities, mainly due to politicians and their media colleagues who have alleged that the United States no longer has enemies and to think so is to engage in a Cold War mentality. A laughable moment occurred during CNN's coverage on Tuesday when anchor Judy Woodruff was interviewing novelist Tom Clancy. Clancy said one of the reasons our defenses broke down was the media's anti-spying bias. Woodruff responded that the media doesn't take positions on such things.
Our approach to terrorism has failed because we have looked at it through the wrong prism. Former National Security Adviser Samuel Berger spoke of a "100-year conflict" between Israelis and Palestinians not a 4,000-year one. He said he believed there was "not a single issue...that cannot be resolved." Well, how about the very existence of Israel and the West, or the doctrines of Judaism and Christianity? (Check out the kangaroo court trying those Christian missionaries in Afghanistan and the death sentence that's the lot of anyone in Afghanistan who speaks of another God besides Allah, to say nothing of the Afghans' cave man view of women. Does anyone seriously believe such radicals can be converted into democrats by Western "earnestness"?)
Former Middle East negotiator, Ambassador Dennis Ross, spoke of the need for "earnestness" and a "profoundly serious approach" to peacemaking. Did he think Israeli and Western leaders had been playing games since 1948 when Israel was re-established in its land?
This is the kind of fuzzy thinking that makes America (and Israel) vulnerable to enemies who will not be satisfied until we look like the ashes that came floating down from the World Trade Center.
Evil exists. It must be opposed. It is self defense to kill people intent on killing you. If this is war, as President Bush and others have said, let's start acting like it and tell America's enemies that if they are so intent on seeing their God, we'll help them get there. As for us, we intend to die of natural causes.
Those humanistic, "can't we all get along," "profiling potential terrorists is racism," "we're all God's children," Kumbaya, "all we are saying is give peace a chance" moral equivalency equivocators will soon be back. They'll try to wear down our resolve. They should be ignored. They have lost all credibility, just as the "peace in our time" crowd did at the start of World War II.
We know the enemy. We know where they live. Let's go get them before they get any more of us, and let the moralizers sort it all out later.
Cal Thomas is a columnist for Tribune Media Services.