In response to Don Curry’s commentary from September 8, I do agree that Bush’s idealistic plan to thwart and eventually end terrorism on a global level is far from being achieved. Military action and the threat of further preemptive strikes have failed to make the world a safer place, as has been harshly demonstrated by last week’s hostage crisis in Russia.

However, the fact that very few countries have committed to backing the United States in its recent “war on terror” does not mean that they are uneager to secure themselves from terrorism. On the other hand, they are probably just as anxious to make the world a safer place, but are less sure of the means with which to achieve this.

Michael Wines, from the New York Times, asks the question, “How many innocent lives equal the life of one terrorist?” In other words, to what extent should governments use violence and prohibit negotiations in order to combat terrorism? The US’s plan of preemptive strikes and military action has not proven effective, and in the case of Russia, Putin’s seemingly tough stance has resulted in 2,000 more terrorist-related deaths during his presidency.

Logically, how can military action and the threat of preemptive attacks be used to persuade people who, such as in the Russian case, are willing to strap bombs on their own bodies in order to further their cause? Perhaps it is time to rethink the tough-stance and military-action strategy that has caused hesitation in so many other Western powers, and give diplomacy and negotiation a chance in some cases. Giandomenico Picco, a hostage negotiator for the United Nations, explains that sometimes terrorists who take hostages have immediate, specific goals. However, other terrorists have more long-term, strategic goals such as the spread of fear in an enemy nation.

In the first case described above, innocent lives can be saved if negotiations are made. The second situation is much trickier, but violence has only been proven to stem more violence. This is not to say that we should surrender to the terrorists, but perhaps it would be worthwhile to look into their cause. After all, while the Chechen terrorists are unwilling to negotiate, many Chechen civilians have been anxious to bargain with the Kremlin. It is time to take this into consideration before more innocent lives are needlessly destroyed in the nebulous war on terror.

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