With talk of crusades, remember 'just war' theory

I am impressed that your article referred to "just war" theory ("How do we respond?" Sept. 13). That religious and philosophical source of moral wisdom is more important than ever, now that President Bush is using the language of a "crusade."

The problem with a crusade mentality is that it is not sufficiently discriminating. Crusaders divide people into the righteous and the evil - those on God's side and those against God. Reality is more complicated. Just-war thinkers recognize that all sides to a dispute embody degrees of justice and injustice. Without discipline and discernment, righteous anger becomes self-righteous, and can itself wreak terrible evil.

War is justifiable only when it meets the criterion of proportionality and has a reasonable chance of success. Just-war criteria speak of morally necessary constraints to the conduct of war, and the principle of discrimination looms large. The philosophy offers a set of moral constraints that tell us what we can do to preserve our humanity -and avoid acting like monsters ourselves.

Jack A. Keller Louisville, Ky.

A time to nourish, not annihilate

Thank you for the editorial "Embracing Afghan refugees" (Sept. 19). Supporting refugees makes good foreign-policy sense and would be an expression of one of our sacred American values, humanitarianism. We cannot allow anger to coerce us into violence. Annie Sherrill Monkton, Md.

If the West attacks Afghanistan, it should be equipped with more than bombs and bullets. The Afghan famine is the West's great opportunity to defeat terrorism, and we would be fools to ignore it. No ideology can argue that a man who feeds you out of the goodness of his heart is evil. We have a chance to destroy Osama bin Laden's source of power - his ideology of hatred - simply by feeding millions, and proving him wrong. History will judge us fools if we ignore this opportunity to prove that the West is not evil.

The most critical battle is not against the Taliban, or even Osama bin Laden. The most critical battle is for the heart and mind of every would-be terrorist. To defeat their ideology of hatred, we need bread - not bullets.

Bruce Walker Toronto

Searching for international compassion

I see a growing number of American flags adorning shirt lapels, windows, and apartment buildings. I share the desire to demonstrate grief and solidarity, but I am uneasy and saddened by this use of a national symbol, an inadequate response to what are international issues. What happened last week was an attack on humanity. If this horrendous act is portrayed simply as a strike against the US, we obscure its larger dimensions. We need a symbol of the global humanity that has been so terribly violated - a symbol displayed all over the world, to demonstrate our unity in opposing heinous violence, whether motivated by racial hatred or religious fervor.

Ed Gragert New York

On a Chinese airplane within 48 hours of the towers' collapse, I sat beside two foreign travelers with short, curling black hair. They spoke broken English and were anxious. "We are French," one of them replied to a passenger's question. I was sad on hearing that, because small Arabic words on one of their briefcases indicated otherwise. I talked with them and they turned out to be from Jordan. They believed the acts against America were outrageous; but they said they were nervous about prejudice against them, even in China.

Enough. I know their true identity. They are peace-lovers, just like me.

Jim Xia Shanghai

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