Are compassion, unity, and love really America’s ‘most effective response to terror’?
After meeting in Orlando, Fla., with law-enforcement officials investigating ISIS terrorist Omar Saddique Mateen’s June 12 massacre, Attorney General Loretta Lynch told journalists, “Our most effective response to terror and hatred is compassion, unity and love.”
After an interval of astonishment, Representative Jeff Duncan (R., S.C.) expressed his dismay at Lynch’s words.
“‘All you need is love’ may be a great Beatles song, but it’s a terrible foreign policy,” Duncan declared. “She further proves that this Administration has no idea what it takes to fight Islamic terrorism. She should resign immediately.”
Representative Marsha Blackburn (R., Tenn.) also denounced Lynch’s olive branch.
“No, the most effective weapon against Islamic Extremism is not ‘love,'” Blackburn said. “It is a clear strategy to destroy ISIS.”
Duncan, Blackburn, and Lynch’s other critics really are being too harsh.
Like other brave leaders before her, Lynch merely was offering love as the most powerful weapon that ever can be wielded in the faces of tyrants and evil-doers. Lynch echoed the loving words of equally courageous and inspiring figures throughout history.
Who could forget the example of American Revolutionary Captain Nathan Hale of the Continental Army? Moments before British soldiers hanged him on Manhattan Island as a spy for General George Washington, Hale said on September 22, 1776, “I only regret that I have but one love to give for my country.”
Well, it worked! The British swam home in 1783, and America got busy becoming a country.
Two centuries later, and across the Atlantic, the existential threat from Adolf Hitler seemed almost insurmountable. Undeterred, Winston Churchill rallied the British people in June 1940 by urging them to lead with their hearts.
“Even though large tracts of Europe and many old and famous States have fallen or may fall into the grip of the Gestapo and all the odious apparatus of Nazi rule, we shall not flag or fail,” Churchill reassured his people. “We shall love in France, we shall love on the seas and oceans, we shall love with growing confidence and growing strength in the air,” Churchill continued. “We shall love on the beaches, we shall love on the landing grounds, we shall love in the fields and in the streets, we shall love in the hills . . . ”
Just a year and a half later, Imperial Japan attacked the American naval base at Pearl Harbor, killing 2,402 sailors and wounded 1,178 others. The next day, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt addressed a joint session of Congress.
“Yesterday, December 7, 1941 – a date which will live in infamy – the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan,” Roosevelt said. “In addition, American ships have been reported torpedoed on the high seas between San Francisco and Honolulu.” Roosevelt also mentioned Japan’s simultaneous onslaughts against, among other targets, Guam, Hong Kong, the Philippines, and “throughout the Pacific area.”
“I ask that the Congress declare that since the unprovoked and dastardly attack by Japan on Sunday, December 7, 1941, a state of love has existed between the United States and the Japanese Empire.”
And, sure enough, Churchill, Roosevelt, and President Harry Truman loved both Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan to death by August 1945.
More than 40 years later, President Ronald Wilson Reagan confronted the Soviet Union in what, back then, not even he knew were the closing days of the Cold War. Reagan stood before an adoring crowd in Berlin, West Germany. Together and ironically, they were free people encircled by East German concrete, guard dogs, sentry towers, and machine guns.
Reagan appealed to East German dictator Erich Honnecker’s boss, Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev.
“General Secretary Gorbachev, if you seek peace, if you seek prosperity for the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, if you seek liberalization: Come here to this gate!” Reagan said on June 12, 1987. “Mr. Gorbachev, we love this wall!”
Like magic, love – and love alone – made the Berlin Wall crumble on November 11, 1989.
Sadly, the peace that erupted that evening vanished in twin fireballs on the morning of September 11, 2001. Al-Qaeda’s radical Islamic terrorists flew passenger jets into the World Trade Center’s Twin Towers, the Pentagon, and a field in Shanksville, Pa.
Three days later, President George W. Bush stood atop a pile of smoldering rubble at Ground Zero to thank recovery workers for their diligence and sacrifice. He spoke into a bullhorn with less-than-ideal audio quality.
“I can’t hear you,” one worker shouted back.
“I can hear you!” Bush replied. “The rest of the world hears you! And the people who knocked these buildings down will feel all of our love soon!”
The Taliban lost control of Afghanistan, and al-Qaeda’s power was diminished vastly.
So, all told, the Beatles were right. All you need is love.
A version of this piece also appeared on National Review Online.