letters | at the heart of terrorism

Delving into a problem doesn’t mean we justify it

While Jeff Jacoby is right in his view of knee-jerk responses to terrorism that reflexively blame America, he is undoubtedly wrong in endorsing knee-jerk responses that reflexively denounce the perpetrators on moral grounds and do nothing more (“Terrorism is never justified,” Op-ed, May 15). Of course it’s evil to set off a bomb in a crowd, but does that mean we shouldn’t ask “why the evildoers hate us, or how they became so angry”?

Trying to understand a problem is not the same thing as justification. Oncologists don’t endorse cancer, nor do criminologists endorse crime. They merely feel, as a practical matter, that we need to know precisely what we are dealing with in order to fashion an effective response.

We need to know a lot more than we do now about how and why these acts occur, and careful study is the only path open to us in providing that knowledge.

Kathleen Martin