It was extremely encouraging to see the United States and Sony eventually stand up to the cyberbullying of the North Koreans by allowing the movie “The Interview” to be released in theaters around the country despite threats of retaliation.
Freedom of speech and freedom of expression are hallmarks of American life, and we must jealously guard these values from both internal and external threats. In fact, all of the freedoms guaranteed to American citizens by our Constitution must be steadfastly preserved, or they will be eroded. Vigilance and courage are necessary not just occasionally, but every day if we are to remain a free society.
I am proud of the president of the United States for taking a tough stand on this issue, although I am not sure that his promise of proportional retaliation is the correct answer. The response should go far beyond proportionality, and an example should be made of the perpetrators by using a host of available options to inflict the kind of punishment that will not be easily forgotten. If we use proportionality as our standard, future adversaries will need only to consider certain consequences for encroaching on our rights. If, on the other hand, they realize that the only accurate prediction they can make is that they will suffer enormous consequences, I believe their adventurism would be tempered.
I do not advocate becoming a bully on the global stage, but I do believe that strength is a quality that is respected by all cultures, regardless of their ideological bent. I remember how much trouble students in my high school in Detroit caused the weak teachers who had no idea of how to control them. There was one teacher who was only 5 feet tall, but she tolerated no foolishness, and even the burly football players feared her. You could hear a pin drop in her room, though the same students produced total chaos in other classrooms. She was extremely nice to me and the other cooperative students and would go out of her way to make sure we received a good education. I think the lesson here is obvious, so enough said.
There was a time when American citizens were relatively safe, no matter where they traveled in the world. Everyone knew that there would be significant consequences for harming Americans. Today, not only is the fear gone, but there is little respect for our leaders because our nation appears to be a paper tiger. This is a situation that can be quickly rectified with courageous and principled leadership. Many will remember the Iran hostage crisis in the late 1970s and early 1980s. During that time, we had a president who was not feared or respected. On the day Ronald Reagan was inaugurated as president, the hostages were released.
It is imperative that as a nation, we say what we mean and we mean what we say. This contributes to the safety and stability of the world and, in the long run, will cost us much less money and fewer lives. Our friends around the world should have no better friend and our enemies should have no fiercer foe. We certainly do not need to make everyone conform to our values, but we must protect and defend those values, including freedom of expression, and we should never yield to evil nor should we ignore it at our own peril.
• Ben S. Carson is author of the book “One Vote: Make Your Voice Heard” (Tyndale).