Industry's job in time of horror: We must carry on

Peter Brown is associate publisher of Automotive News

When the horrifying news began to sink in, late in the afternoon at the Frankfurt auto show, European friends gave us Americans their heartfelt condolences. And some said, "This is war."

It would almost be simpler if it were war. War has a clearly defined, geographical enemy. The barbaric slaughter in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania emanated from a force that is without borders.

But it is like war in this sense: The two sides have objectives. The terrorists want to disrupt or end Western civilization. And we want to live our lives in freedom and prosperity and to share that freedom and prosperity with more of the world.

Now we must keep our objectives in mind, unclouded by revenge. We must remain on the side of civilization. It's not war. We don't need more firepower; we need more police, more spies, more information. We must track down and punish the guilty and not create what our own homegrown terrorist, Timothy McVeigh, coldly called "collateral damage."

The horror came as the world was getting better. Despite the anti-globalization movement, the world has been growing inexorably more prosperous and free. Countries that were poor forever are growing richer. And the auto industry has been a big contributor to that.

Almost every country wants a local auto industry, which creates jobs and wealth. With wealth come improvements in public health, life span, leisure and freedom. Surely, terrible poverty and oppression remain. But countries with an auto industry tend to grow more liberal and free.

So what can we do - now that our security has been savagely breached, now that travel causes fear and our economy falters? We can carry on. In the short run, we will all review our travel plans and hold our loved ones and colleagues close. But we can carry on.

For those of us who were in Europe when the planes crashed, America's importance to the world was made very clear. The civilized world mourns for us and looks to us for leadership.

If anything good came from Timothy McVeigh's terrorism in Oklahoma City, it is that it drew a line at the unacceptable. Most militia members who shared McVeigh's paranoid politics recoiled in horror at the evil of terrorism, and many left the movement.

As we mourn the dead of New York, Washington and Pennsylvania, we also can pray that a line has been drawn. And we can rededicate ourselves to sharing freedom and prosperity with the world. It's not war. But we must remember our objectives.

Peter Brown is the executive editor and associate publisher of Automotive News. You can e-mail him at .

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