It was not just Americans who were killed in the suicide bombings in Saudi Arabia on Monday night, and it is not just the United States that must be devoted to exterminating the terrorist plague. As Secretary of State Colin Powell said, it is the "entire civilized world" that is threatened. The civilized world must fight back.
The point is important as officials investigate whether it was al-Qaida or some other terrorist group that blasted the residential compounds housing Americans, Arabs, Filipinos, Italians, British citizens and others.
During the war in Iraq, polls showed many in Canada, Europe and elsewhere thought the United States was pursuing ends benefiting Americans and no one else. As the attack in Riyadh demonstrated, however, terrorists kill randomly. Their catastrophic devices are no respecter of any nationality, religious faith, ethnic group or political convictions; if you are in the wrong place at the wrong time, you die or are seriously injured.
In fact, the civilized order is jeopardized by terrorism, which can lead to constant, nagging fear, to liberty-infringing security measures and to economic disruptions.
The Sept. 11 attack killed people of many nationalities, too, it should be remembered. Workers in the World Trade Center came from virtually everywhere. The need then was for all decently governed nations to stand up as one and to say such acts can no longer be tolerated. If something approximating that had happened — if officials all over had said we will use this attack on buildings with the word "world" in their name as a symbol of how all are affected — the anti-terrorist cause could be further along by now.
Instead, such old American allies as France and Germany would not even join in facing down Saddam Hussein, who was thereby emboldened, making the war in Iraq virtually inevitable. Even now, some may plead for appeasement, as if anything short of worldwide abandonment of modernity would make the terrorists happy. A major issue for al-Qaida, which might be responsible for the attack, was the stationing of U.S. troops in Saudi Arabia. They are being withdrawn, an act made feasible by the victory in Iraq, but their withdrawal did not stop the mayhem. The quickest, most effective way to do that is for the civilized world to unite in the cause.