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OTHER COMMENTARY / EXCERPTS : Appeasement Will Not Quell Terrorists

January 09, 1986|CAL THOMAS

The West Europeans have obviously learned nothing from Neville Chamberlain's fiasco at Munich. One does not retard the spread of an evil disease like terrorism by feeding it or by refusing to oppose it. Statements by some European leaders to the effect that no retaliation can be taken against terrorists for fear of spawning even more terrorism is like saying that one cannot combat crime by arresting criminals for fear that more crime will result. The only way to fight terrorism is to fight terrorism!

By now, even Italian Prime Minister Bettino Craxi must be having night sweats over his pact with "the devil," Yasser Arafat, who had promised no terrorist activity on Italian soil as long as PLO members had the right of free passage in and through Italy. Craxi has learned the hard way that there are many demons in hell, and striking a bargain with one of them provides no guarantees that you won't get burned by another one.

Terrorists are international criminals. They do not represent nations. They are not soldiers. They do not attack soldiers or military targets. Their targets are the innocent, and their goal is to create turmoil out of which they hope to achieve objectives that they have no hope of achieving by other means. Therefore, the approach to terrorism cannot succeed solely through civilized channels.

Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres recently said that when Israeli jets struck at PLO camps in Tunisia, Israel was not attacking the nation of Tunisia, which he described as a "moderate" Arab country, but terrorist camps within the country. It is a good distinction, and perhaps a useful one for the Reagan Administration as it seeks to formulate a workable policy for combating terrorism.

Unfortunately, the only consistency shown by the Administration in dealing with terrorism has been the consistency of denunciation. But verbal salvos have proved an ineffective deterrent against terrorists, who prefer letting guns and grenades do their talking.

The time for the President to follow through on his words is now.

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