The only thing worse than a knee-jerk use of U.S. force is a knee-jerk reaction against the use of force to defend our country.

The conservative Bush administration resisted reckless retaliation for the terrorist attacks. Unfortunately, some ultra-left liberals have not been as sound. Before a single U.S. military action was taken, protesters lurched to protest against it. As a democrat, I can understand a culture of opposition and the moral, political and historical reasons to oppose force. However, as someone who is usually considered a liberal, I believe opposition to a war on terrorism is unfounded. Justice is not revenge.

The “anti-war” protesters raise several questionable points. They insist the United States use “legal means” to fight terrorism, as if we aren’t already. In case the “anti-war” faction forgot, bin Laden has been indicted for the bombing of two American embassies in Africa in 1998. Besides, what use is a strictly legal approach when the Taliban has openly disrespected and refused the rule of law? This is not to say that we should have anything less than the utmost respect for international law. But trying to fight a war against terrorism with toothless

legalism would give new meaning to blind justice.

The ultraliberals who oppose military force say violence doesn’t solve anything. Usually they are right. “National security,” as leftists will correctly point out, is often a fig leaf for terrible injustice. The Vietnam War, sabotage against Cuba, forcing Pinochet on Chile, the massacre in East Timor, aiding the Contras and the Colombian

military, and our support of bin Laden himself, years ago, are all painful, tragic examples of the awful suffering the U.S. has caused in the false name of national security interests.

It was also national security that led us to defeat the Nazis and fascism, and rebuild Europe. U.S. interests prompted President Kennedy to create the Peace Corps. And sometimes we have to ally ourselves with

undemocratic or unethical governments to meet a higher end. For instance, without Joseph Stalin’s support we would not have won World War II.

The bottom line is this: Whether the U.S. attacks with brutal, indiscriminate force, or whether we respond with diplomacy and appeasement, our country is likely to be attacked again. That is what “anti-war” protesters don’t seem to accept. We have no choice but to defend ourselves militarily because the terrorists aren’t simply lashing out in response to past U.S. policy or Western culture. They aren’t resisting globalization or

oppression. Osama bin Laden never worked in a sweatshop. In fact, he and many of the suicide bombers were affluent students. At this moment, they represent a grave national security problem.

Each generation must build from the pieces that it has been left by history. Our generation is no different. We live with a difficult legacy of exploitation and opportunity, imperialism and good will. Dwelling on the past, though, does nothing for our security. When our nation is attacked, we have to look forward to the future with hope and resolve, including resolve to stop the monsters we have unwisely unleashed. In fact, if we are responsible for bin Laden’s actions, this only makes us more accountable for tracking him down and bringing him to justice. At this point, whether history lays blame on us doesn’t even matter. Leftists claim we need to understand why these maniacs attacked our

country, but understanding is not necessary to deal with a threat to national security. I don’t think we need a therapy session with terrorists. We should not stand by and contemplate our guilt or complicity while innocent lives are threatened, because introspection and

self-criticism are secondary to the protection of life.

True, we supported a group of people who became terrorists. However, we shouldn’t have to suffer the unintended consequences of poor decisions made long ago. Because of what I’ve learned about U.S. history, I distrust most American military actions. But times like these call for an end to divisions. Dissent, which is usually a necessity, is now another luxury of college life. All levels of government and the military are finally getting the respect they have always deserved. From the right wing, Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson have blamed America for being attacked on Sept. 11. Here at UCSB, it would be shameful if aggressive intolerance, from the left or right, caused our university to break with American unity.

John Bennet is a senior English and history major and a Campus Democrat.