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Calculated Risk by U.S.

April 30, 1986

This is in response to Ellen Goodman's column (Editorial Pages, April 22), "Not All the War Jitters Subside as Administration Swaggers On."

Americans are under attack abroad, and soon will be at home, by sustained, calculated acts of terrorism. Many have already been killed or injured. Many more will be in the future. Some sovereign states and governments are giving aid, comfort and arms to these terrorists. These are the bald facts that need to sink into the brilliant and sensitive head of Ellen Goodman.

In a show of strength, and also of restraint in what we might have done, we struck pinpointedly at the headquarters of state-sponsored terrorism in Libya. The attack was long in coming, and highly deserved. We have the right to protect ourselves, and we showed the world that we will exercise that right.

Yes, there will be ugly consequences. Some of what will appear to be consequences were already in preparation before the attack occurred. Whenever such a blow is struck, one may expect further blows from an opponent. If we refuse to defend ourselves indefinitely, and to demonstrate our willingness to do so, we invite and condone the assaults of our enemies.

We can endure for awhile the harassment of small enemies, hoping their hatred will abate, and their hostilities will cease. But when the harassment goes on and becomes more and more organized, and cowardly regimes sponsor it without resorting to direct attack upon us, there comes a time for a clean, clear, quick strike at the heart of the trouble.

The time when an ethic of total nonviolence rules the world has not yet come, and the sadness of this realization affects us all. In the real world, the best we can do is minimize our violence and make it as effective as possible.

Goodman describes our action in Libya as if it were the hydraulic pressure of aggression, irrational and volatile, that must occasionally be drained off. Perhaps she has recently reviewed the work of Konrad Lorenz on the subject. And while there is something of this reaction among us, the attack itself was just the opposite.

It was rational, contained, effective, and may lead to the ousting of a madman. It will not end terrorism, but it represents a great reversal for state-supported terrorism. Some of the ensuing new acts of terrorism will be sloppy and predictable, and will lead to the apprehension of many terrorists.

The risk incurred is well-calculated, and does not come from shortsightedness. A surgeon does not enter the operating room with swagger, but with humility, courage, prayerfulness, confidence, and a thorough knowledge of the procedure to be undertaken. Our government showed these qualities to the world, and did so knowing that much of the world would not appreciate the risk it took.

ROBERT E. DOUD

Glendale

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