Science as Political Orthodoxy

There is an intellectual orthodoxy being imposed by the left, abetted by much of the news media. Certain viewpoints are forbidden—not simply regarded as wrong, but not permitted to be considered. We can observe this attitude at our colleges, where speakers who challenge leftist premises have been forcibly silenced. But it is most entrenched in …

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Movie Review: APOLLO 11

You wouldn’t think that a movie about the Apollo 11 mission that consists simply of footage shot at the time of the event could present a compelling, inspiring story. Yet this film does just that. This is a documentary that shows, rather than tells. And what it shows is the enormity of the achievement— not …

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Has the Right Been Eviscerated by Trump?

Once upon a time the left and the right were political opposites. The left condemned capitalism and sought to expand government’s role in our lives; the right defended capitalism and endorsed limited government. Over the years, although the right became less and less committed to individual freedom and capitalism, it nonetheless presented a discernible alternative to the collectivism of the left.

Cato Institute, Anarchism and Principles

I’ve long argued that the modern libertarian movement was born out of a visceral hostility to the state rather than an intellectual opposition to statism. Over the years, part of that movement has “mellowed,” so that its anarchist leanings are no longer openly manifested. . . .

Multiculturalism as Tribalism

Multiculturalism is the demand that no ”culture” be elevated above any other. It is the demand that all beliefs held by various groups be regarded as equally valid and equally good.

The Assault on Objectivity

Our postmodernist intellectuals claim that no objective reality exists; there is only the subjective world we create, shaped by the social class to which we belong. While this may seem like an ivory-tower issue

“America First”? Rethinking the
Meaning of Self-Interest

On his latest foreign trip, President Trump again invoked the idea of “America first.” As someone who is repelled by Trump and his presidency, I am a little reluctant to justify something he nominally upholds. But actually his support for this policy is all the more reason it needs to be clarified and defended—defended not …

“America First”? Rethinking the
Meaning of Self-Interest
Read More »

The Ideology of Violence

The incidence of ideologically motivated violence is growing. From campus talks to political rallies, the conveyors of certain viewpoints are being met with physical force. Why? Because of the tacit approval by many of our intellectual leaders. People are being taught that such a response is not only morally acceptable, but morally desirable. That is, …

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Attack of the Nanny-State

One of the insidious consequences of a paternalistic state is that it renders the concept of fraud virtually meaningless. Our political leaders endorse the idea that government ought to decide what is best for us. It is widely accepted that government’s job is to protect the individual, not from being harmed by others, but from …

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Saudi’s “Legalized Jihad” Is Still Jihad

President Trump has embraced Saudi Arabia, praising it as an ally in the battle against Islamic jihadists. As Secretary of State Rex Tillerson explains this new relationship: “The president clearly was extending a hand and understanding that only together can we address the threat of terrorism.” This is a decision, however, that will only advance …

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Trump’s Bombing of Syria:
Self-Interest or Self-Sacrifice?

Here are some belated observations on President Trump’s recent decision to launch cruise missiles against Syria in retaliation for its use of a deadly gas against its own citizens: Americans generally applaud the decision. And it’s an understandable, and laudable, response. It’s a reaction to years of a foreign policy that dealt with our enemies …

Trump’s Bombing of Syria:
Self-Interest or Self-Sacrifice?
Read More »

Fact-Checking the Fact-Checkers

Journalism’s fact-checking process is supposed to identify errors, or outright lies, by presenting clear, undeniable facts that contradict someone’s statement. Instead, however, the process has become a means of blurring the line between fact and opinion — between easily demonstrable truths and more abstract, more challengeable viewpoints. For a striking example, consider this recent N.Y. Times story …

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The Zika Virus and Politicized Science

Science today is regularly distorted to serve other ends. The religious right, for instance, claims that “creationism” should be taught in public schools as a scientific alternative to the theory of evolution. The environmentalist left, for instance, claims that science reveals genetically modified foods to be harmful to one’s health. Both groups subordinate the facts …

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The Shackles of Paternalism

Today, the “nanny-state” is omnipresent. Its latest pernicious intrusion pertains to pain-relief medication. Doctors are being told to restrict their prescriptions of opioids, the drugs (such as Percocet and Vicodin) used to reduce extreme pain. Why? Because the government is concerned about patients who overuse the drugs, leading to addiction and sometimes death. The idea …

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What If We Had No FDA?

Because the Food and Drug Administration forbids even terminally ill people from taking unauthorized drugs that could save their lives, twenty-four states have now passed laws to deal with the problem. They have enacted “right-to-try” legislation, which allows patients with fatal illnesses to take experimental drugs that have not received FDA approval. Commendable as these …

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The Collectivist Mentality

China’s mandatory limit on the number of children a couple may have, which the communist government recently announced is being changed from one to two, attracts little support in the West. Apart from the most ardent environmentalists, people generally recognize the evil of such a policy. But do they understand what, at root, makes it …

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Unsoaking the Rich

The most distressing aspect of soak-the-rich schemes is not that the left keeps pushing them—but that the right regularly fails to offers a convincing refutation. When Democrats declare that the rich are not paying their “fair share” of taxes, the Republicans’ typical response is: “Oh yes, they are; look at how much more they pay, …

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A Rational Case for Gun Ownership

The fundamental error of gun-control advocates is philosophical: they do not really believe that we have free will. If the goal is to reduce gun murders, the obvious means is to establish stronger punishment for criminals. Since the overwhelming majority of shooting deaths are by people with prior felony arrests, and since only about 1 …

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Trump and the Meaning of Egoism

Here’s an observation that may surprise people: Donald Trump is not an egoist. And I say that not as praise, but as criticism. An egoist is someone whose self-interest is his highest value. But our genuine self-interest is not achieved by doing whatever we happen to feel like doing. Life is conditional. Since some actions …

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“Women’s Viagra”–
Why Should Government Decide?

  In reaction to the FDA’s recent decision to approve flibanserin—the so-called “women’s Viagra”—two camps have emerged. One argues that the drug’s benefits clearly warranted approval by the agency; the other argues that the benefits are dubious and did not warrant approval. But no voices are addressing the more fundamental question: why should the government …

“Women’s Viagra”–
Why Should Government Decide?
Read More »

Reconceiving the Idea of Selfishness

In the realm of ethics, no characteristic is more widely condemned than selfishness. Practically no one challenges the premise, which we’re all taught from childhood, that acting for one’s own benefit is morally tainted, while sacrificing for the benefit of others is the essence of moral virtue. It is considered self-evident that selfishness is evil. …

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Dealing with Iran: Self-Interest vs. Self-Sacrifice

Forget about the intricate details of our nuclear agreement with Iran–the number of centrifuges permitted, the degree of uranium enrichment allowed, the amount of advance notification required before inspectors can visit a nuclear facility. There is really only one question that matters: If Iran poses a physical threat to America—if we have reason to fear …

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Altruism and the Cave-in to Iran

[This article was expanded into “Dealing with Iran: Self-Interest vs. Self-Sacrifice.”] Forget about the intricate details of our nuclear agreement with Iran—the number of centrifuges permitted, the degree of uranium enrichment allowed, the amount of advance notification required before inspectors can visit a nuclear facility. There is really only one question that matters: If an …

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How Not To Fight Environmentalism

Environmentalists succeed largely because they are able to pretend that their goal is to protect nature for man, while the truth is that they want to protect nature from man. They regularly oppose projects that demonstrably benefit human beings, on the grounds that nature—fish, turtles, owls, trees, wetlands—will be damaged. While at first environmentalists made …

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My Book Tour, Follow-up

I’ve just finished the first week of my book tour. It included: a briefing with about 20 Congressional staff members in Wash. DC; a luncheon with half-a-dozen business people in Chicago; a public talk in Chicago; and a final public talk in NYC. All in all, I was satisfied with the results. And I was …

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My Book Tour

Over the next two weeks, I will be giving talks in connection with my book IN DEFENSE OF SELFISHNESS. Here’s the schedule: –Chicago — June 9. Refreshments begin at 6:30 PM. Talk begins at 7:00 PM at the Sheraton Chicago Hotel & Towers, 301 East North Water Street, Chicago, IL 60611. –New York City — …

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Memorial Day–But Don’t Call It a Sacrifice

As an Objectivist, I oppose the idea that self-sacrifice is the right way for people to deal with one another. I don’t believe you have a moral duty to subordinate yourself to others. Another person’s need should not create a moral claim against you merely because you are able to satisfy that need. Human relations …

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Defying the Islamic Totalitarians—
Follow-up

The argument with Bosch Fawstin (and others) over the use of such terminology as “Islamic totalitarianism” is one I’m actually pleased to engage in. This is an unusual instance of a strong dispute that stems from a fundamental agreement on the underlying issue. Let me try one more time to name what I think is …

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Follow-up
Read More »

Defying the Islamic Totalitarians

Last week’s “Draw Mohammed” contest in Garland, Texas, which two Islamic gunmen tried to attack, is eliciting much criticism. Pamela Geller, the event’s organizer, is being accused of provoking the violence. Critics are saying that the event was staged as a gratuitous insult. But it was not gratuitous, nor was its purpose to convey an insult. …

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The Focus of
In Defense of Selfishness

Here is an interesting email I received from a prospective reader of IN DEFENSE OF SELFISHNESS: “I am considering buying the book, but I am on the fence. Looking at the table of contents, it appears it may be more focused on defeating a negative than upholding a positive. For example, the section headings seem …

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In Defense of Selfishness
Read More »

Libertarianism vs. Liberty

Republican presidential candidate Rand Paul has been drawing criticism from his libertarian followers. A recent op-ed in the New York Times, for instance, chastises him for being insufficiently libertarian. His critics are particularly upset over his “hawkish” foreign policy, accusing him of abandoning the ideal of individual liberty. The reverse, however, is true: it is the …

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Free Webinar

If you pre-order my new book, In Defense of Selfishness: Why the Code of Self-Sacrifice Is Unjust and Destructive, before May 8, 2015, you will be able to attend an exclusive webinar at which you can ask me questions about the material in the book. The webinar, arranged by the Ayn Rand Institute, will be held sometime in …

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Man vs. Fish

Environmentalists are typically viewed as seeking to protect human life from such health hazards as dirty air and polluted water. But that’s a superficial assessment. The essence of environmentalism is the belief that nature must be protected, not for man, but from man.  One of the more recent illustrations of this philosophy is provided by the current …

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Libertarianism and Objectivism

Is the term “libertarian” an accurate description of the Objectivist politics? If we were coining an entirely new concept, “libertarian” would be ideal. However, since that word has long been in circulation, two factors determine what its actual referent is. The first is the spread of an ideology now held by a significant number of …

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Altruism and Patriotism

You can love something even as you try to change it. You cannot, however, love something that you are trying to change into its opposite. The same applies to the question of whether President Obama genuinely loves America. Patriotism is a rational attitude toward one’s country—when it deserves to be loved. But to someone living …

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In Defense of Selfishness—Update

In Defense of Selfishness: Why the Code of Self-Sacrifice Is Unjust and Destructive is now 99 days from publication—June 2, 2015. I’m working on the final page proofs, which should be finished by the end of February. The jacket copy is complete. The index is done and it looks great—which is a non-biased comment on …

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Religion, Freedom
and the “Moderate Muslim”

Is there a causal connection between religion and the use of force? Yes. In that connection, is there a significant difference between Christianity and Islam? Yes—but it lies in the distinction, not between the Bible and the Koran, but between today’s Christians and Muslims. In the Medieval era, when the authority of the Catholic Church …

Religion, Freedom
and the “Moderate Muslim”
Read More »

Libertarian Mindlessness

In the 19th century the term “liberal” was transformed into the opposite of its original meaning, from pro-liberty to pro-statism. A similar corruption occurred in the late 20th century with respect to the term “libertarian.” What once stood for a defense of individual rights came, unfortunately, to stand for its antithesis—a mindless hostility to government …

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Slanted Journalism

President Obama insistently believes that the danger posed by jihadism is actually the product of some isolated, misguided “extremists,” who simply use Islam to rationalize their actions. He is unwilling to identify their savage crimes as acts of Islamic terrorism. The major news media also regularly downplay the threat, by slanting the presentation of facts. The …

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Christmas, Objectivism and Selfishness—
Objecting to a “Season of Giving”

The “season of giving” comes with its own set of commandments. Give back, we’re told. Remember the needy. Don’t give because it makes you feel good; give because it’s the right thing to do. But these platitudes don’t represent my perspective on the Christmas season. As an Objectivist, I’ve adopted an ethics not of altruism but of …

Christmas, Objectivism and Selfishness—
Objecting to a “Season of Giving”
Read More »

Assisted Suicide–Follow-up

I received the following questions in response to my article “A Real Right to Life,” in which defended assisted suicide. (Since I was asked privately, I am omitting the person’s name.) I am a high school student researching about assisted suicide and I came across your article “A Real Right to Life.” Can you answer …

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A Real Right to Life

Several days ago 29-year-old Brittany Maynard exercised the final act of sovereignty over her life: she chose to end it. She had been diagnosed with inoperable brain cancer and, earlier this spring, had been given six months to live by her California physician. She considered spending her last days in a hospice, but, she explained: …

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ISIS and “Non-Interventionism”

I’ve written on the libertarians’ use of “non-interventionism” as a deceptive term to disguise their tacit kinship with anarchists. An article last month by a senior fellow at the Cato Institute provides a good illustration. In “Will America Ever Learn From Its Middle East Mistakes,” Ted Galen Carpenter argues against taking any military action against …

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Available for Pre-publication Ordering

IN DEFENSE OF SELFISHNESS: Why the Code of Self-Sacrifice Is Unjust and Destructive can now be pre-ordered through Amazon. The actual publication date is June 2, 2015. I’m tremendously impressed with the cover that Palgrave Macmillan designed. I’m also impressed with the commitment the publisher has made to promote the book. This will be the lead …

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Altruism, the Gaza War and the Law of Causality

  When someone is killed because, say, a hurricane made his roof cave in, journalists understand the need to explain that occurrence. They don’t simply report that Mr. Jones died when a heavy beam fell on his skull. Rather, they report that a hurricane blew in the roof, thereby making the beam fall. Perhaps they …

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My Book Has a Publisher!

I am extraordinarily happy to announce that I’ve gotten a publisher, Palgrave Macmillan, for my book. This is a major publisher—the same one, by the way, that published Free Market Revolution: How Ayn Rand’s Ideas Can End Big Government by Yaron Brook and Don Watkins. After considerable wrangling, we agreed on the following title: IN DEFENSE OF …

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My Interview on the Doctrine of Altruism

Well before In Defense of Selfishness was published—when  its working title was The Tyranny of Need—I was  interviewed by Don Watkins of the Ayn Rand Institute. Here is an edited excerpt (and you can click below it for the audio version of the full interview): Q. If you asked most people what morality is, I think they …

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A Follow-up on Snowden

In light of some comments I received about my previous post, “Snowden and the NSA,” here is an elaboration on my evaluation of Snowden: If Edward Snowden truly valued individual freedom, here is how he would have proceeded. He would recognize that America, when compared with the rest of the world, is a haven of …

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Snowden and the NSA

What the National Security Agency (NSA) has done in spying on Americans is reprehensible—and what Edward Snowden has done is worse. The government is entitled to act against someone only when there is a valid reason to believe that he poses a physical threat to others. Once such evidence exists, of course, the government must …

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In Defense of Selfishness—a Summary

(This is a brief summary of my new book, followed by the Table of Contents.) What if the central idea we’re all taught about morality is wrong? Virtually everyone regards self-sacrifice as a moral virtue. From childhood on, we are told that serving the needs of others, rather than our own, is the essence of …

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If the Government Feeds You, It Will Tell You What You May and May Not Eat

There are many areas in which our paternalistic government has decided it must protect you against yourself. Among the latest is “predatory lending.” That accusatory adjective does not refer to fraudulent loans. The borrowers are not being lied to and they are not being coerced; they knowingly accept the lender’s terms. Rather, as a N.Y. Times …

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The Opponents of ObamaCare Are Completely Missing The Point

The opponents of ObamaCare are missing the boat. They are arguing that the new law is a redistribution program. They are accusing the Democrats of “generational theft.” They contend that ObamaCare penalizes the young, who are generally healthier, by making them pay more for health insurance so that older people pay less. All these claims …

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Why Is The Tea Party “Extremist”?

When the Tea Party calls for real cuts in our welfare state, it is typically denigrated by the left as a practitioner of “extremism.” It would be a mistake though, to regard this response as mere name-calling. It is far more significant—and dangerous. This smear is an instance of a widespread technique regularly employed to undermine …

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The Threat of the Paternalistic State

[This was published in the Tampa Tribune and the Los Angeles Daily News, July 23, 2002] A precondition of freedom is the recognition of the individual’s capacity to make decisions for himself. If man were viewed as congenitally incapable of making rational choices, there would be no basis for the very concept of rights. Yet that …

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Israel Has a Moral Right to Its Life

By Peter Schwartz and Yaron Brook (Indianapolis Star, July 24, 2002) As yet another appalling suicide-bombing takes place in Israel, killing 19 people and wounding dozens more on a bus packed with schoolchildren in Jerusalem—as Hamas claims credit for the massacre—America’s policymakers still insist on seeking an “even-handed,” diplomatic solution. In the past 18 months, …

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They Hate Us, Too

[This was published in the Canberra Times, March 19, 2003] The Sept. 11 attacks on America led many to ask, about the terrorists, “Why do they hate us?” Today, a similar question applies to those who virulently condemn a U.S. war against Iraq—along with a similar answer. It is not actually anti-war views that they …

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Reason vs. Faith

[This was published in the Chicago Tribune, November 2, 1998] In today’s industrial civilization, people recognize the difference between the secular and the religious. Even those who believe in the Bible, for example, would generally not proclaim Scripture to be science–any more than those who faithfully read their horoscopes would declare astrology to be part of …

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Man vs. Nature

[This was published in the Sacramento Bee, April 23, 1999] For the first time in American history, the government is ordering the destruction of a dam—for environmental reasons. This July, Edwards Dam, a small hydroelectric facility on the Kennebec River in Augusta, Maine, will be torn down by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. Its crime? …

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The Racism of “Diversity”

[This was published in the Providence Journal, Feb. 11, 2003; the Hartford Courant, March 26, 2003; the Detroit Free Press, March 28, 2003; and the Orange County Register, December 19, 2003.] Texas A&M president Robert Gates should be praised for announcing that race will no longer be a factor when applications are considered, and that …

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Foreign Policy and Self-Interest

By Peter Schwartz [This was published in the Contra Costa Times, July 19, 2003; the Canberra Times, July 24, 2003; and the Charlotte Observer, July 25, 2003] Those who claim that the United States has a moral obligation to send troops on a “humanitarian” mission to Liberia have it exactly backward: our government has a …

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Faith and Force

By Peter Schwartz (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, January 6, 2005) America’s war on terrorism is being undercut—by the administration’s efforts to inject religion into politics. Our enemy in that war is the ideology of Islamic totalitarianism—an ideology which holds that one’s life is to be lived entirely in service to Allah, that the dictates of the mullahs …

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Moral Values Without Religion

By Peter Schwartz (Post-Tribune, IN, June 2, 2005) Does morality depend upon religion? Most people believe it does, which is a major reason behind the appeal of the religious right. People believe that without faith in a supernatural authority, we can have no moral values—no moral absolutes, no black-and-white distinctions, no firm demarcation between good …

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Mob Rule Comes to Washington

By Peter Schwartz (Providence Journal, April 13, 2009) In dealing with AIG [American International Group], why are people pussyfooting around? They believe that the bonus money was stolen from the public and must be retrieved by any means possible. So why not bypass the niceties and just send in some well-armed “enforcers” to confiscate the …

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American Appeasement in Iraq

By Peter Schwartz (Bucks County Courier Times, October 27, 2003; Providence Journal, April 11, 2004) As U.S. soldiers respond to attacks in Fallujah and elsewhere in Iraq, many commentators warn that a forceful, self-assertive campaign to wipe out the militant resistance would be disastrous. Disaster may indeed be looming—but only because of a lack of …

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