Thursday, April 1, 2004

The atrocities in Fallujah are raising a wide range of passions in the hearts of Americans — from the instinct to retreat, to the urge for us to apply crushing, military collective retribution against the locals. All such passions are understandable; none of them are useful. Our objective in Iraq, including Fallujah, is to bring order out of the chaos.

As agents for that chaos, the enemy mobs’ best weapon is emotion: Their Dionysian frenzy and orgiastic violence is intended to induce our fear, anger, fury and — perhaps — retreat. As agents of order and justice, our response must be Apollonian: measured, ordered, balanced and harmonious. The mailed fist, judiciously applied in cold blood, will surely be part of that measured response. An additional division of troops might well be needed in the Sunni Triangle to dominate the streets in behalf of law and order. We must forcefully and remorselessly assert our authority. But we would be foolish to try to match their emotional outbursts with our own uncontrolled passions.

In Mogadishu, Somalia, we made the mistake of running from such street horrors. We must not, now, make the opposite mistake of excessive retaliatory violence. The correct response is to remain firmly in place — unmoved and unmovable by the mob. It is by our undoubted strength, by the perceived inevitability of our mission, that we shall prevail. Throughout history, civilization is sustained by the victory of Apollo over Dionysus. We must break the cycle of emotion and irrationality — not join it.

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