These are dangerous times that demand the best of every American. Today, the world is ripped apart by the bloody civil war in Syria, the continued violence in Iraq, Afghanistan and nations in North Africa and the Middle East.

We refer to the men and women who fought and sacrificed during the Second World War as the Greatest Generation because, when faced with an existential threat, they rose to the challenge and triumphed. That lesson can be applied now, as millions of desperate men, women and children, fearing for their lives, are fleeing the bombs, bullets and murderers who have overrun their homelands. Jordan, a Muslim nation, has taken in millions and cannot possibly provide for them all. Millions of refugees have risked their lives in tiny boats to reach Greece and then onto Northern Europe where they hope to start new lives and live in peace. A very small number are trying to make new homes in the United States.

The mass murders of innocents committed by ISIS adherents on Nov. 13 in Paris have shown man's capacity for evil knows no bounds. The barbaric actions of the so-called Islamic State in the lands it occupies and those it terrorizes, have a place among the darkest chapters in human history. Torture, beheadings, mutilations, rape, immolation and the mass murder of innocents, the civilized world seems to finally understand it is at war with a well-funded, heavily armed military force that seeks total domination of the people and lands it has taken by force.

As a people we are provoked and want revenge, but we are also behaving in ways that show we are fearful. A little fear is a good thing. It warns of a threat, focuses the mind and readies the body for action. Too much fear is dangerous. It can paralyze the body, confuse the mind and lead to self-defeating actions.


In a bullfight, the powerful beast is provoked until it rushes madly at the matador who calmly slays it.

The United States and its allies will certainly unite to fight ISIS, but the goal must not be revenge. The goal is long-term stability in Syria and Iraq and that requires the willing participation of the people who live in the lands now occupied by ISIS and the neighboring countries most affected by the violence on their borders.

As Americans we need to distrust politicians who peddle simple solutions to complex questions. In Syria, both Russia and Iran are supporting President Assad. Sunni Arab Gulf States like Saudi Arabia oppose Assad and are funding the Syrian Free Army. ISIS opposes Bashar al-Assad but is fighting the Syrian Free Army. Russia says it opposes ISIS, but is bombing the Syrian Free Army. The United States supports the Syrian Free Army, but only if it fights ISIS. The Kurds have broken free of Syria and are having some success fighting ISIS but are being attacked by Turkey, which is a member of NATO. There are no simple solutions. We're going to be dealing with this mess for years to come.

Finally, there is a great debate across the nation and at home in New Hampshire and Maine about whether to accept refugees from Syria. While we fully understand and appreciate a desire to pause and make sure our vetting system is sufficient to weed out would-be terrorists, we must bear in mind that every moment we and other nations turn our backs to these huddled masses fleeing from ISIS and other violent powers, men, women and children are dying. As a nation we are not proud of the moments in our history when we turned our back on those fleeing tyranny, knowing their fate would be death.

If we must pause to feel safe then it must be a brief pause. We must work tirelessly to ensure Americans feel proper safeguards are in place and then resume our embrace of innocent men, women and children yearning to breathe free, because innocent lives hang in the balance.

Portsmouth Herald (N.H.), Nov. 22, 2015