To the editors:
Libertarian Harry Browne (City File, September 21) wants to know “When will we learn that we can’t allow our politicians to bully the world without someone bullying back eventually?” and cites as examples our actions in Sudan, Iraq, and Serbia, among others. All of this appears under the heading “Questions It’s Still Legal to Ask,” as if failing to make simple distinctions is somehow a matter of courage rather than of laziness; in fact, it’s probably safe to say that Browne is in no danger of being silenced unless we decide to make sophistry and moral obtuseness
By describing them both as “bullying,” Browne actually attempts to shoehorn into the same moral category the September 11 terrorist attacks and, to take one of his examples, our attempt to stop the large-scale massacres of innocent Muslims in the former Yugoslavia. In none of the U.S. actions Browne cites were innocent civilians deliberately targeted, and in most cases we were attempting, however imperfectly, to prevent a far greater human disaster, as in Sudan. The U.S. has certainly made its share of mistakes internationally, and there is a case to be made that we have overreached ourselves. But while those on the far left and the far right are at times eager to believe that Americans are always wrong and never wronged, most Americans (and most people worldwide) appreciate the role we played in defeating the two most dangerous evils of the 20th century, fascism and communism, and recognize that the global scourge of terrorism is no more likely to be rationalized away than those movements were by absurd attempts at moral equivalency.