Sept 11 Firefighters Health

FILE - In this Sept. 11, 2001 file photo, firefighters work beneath the destroyed mullions, the vertical struts which once faced the outer walls of the World Trade Center towers, after a terrorist attack on the twin towers in New York. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)

Most Americans remember Sept. 11, 2001, vividly, but many others who will reach voting age this year were just babies when al-Qaida terrorists hijacked four airliners, crashing two into the World Trade Center’s twin towers in Lower Manhattan and a third into the Pentagon. The fourth crashed in a Pennsylvania field amid a struggle between passengers and the hijackers.

So it makes sense that public schools in hard-hit New York are now required to provide a moment of silent reflection on each Sept. 11. All Americans should do the same. Because everything changed that day. And that day continues to shape our future.

Within a few hours, nearly 3,000 Americans died, and the United States has been at war more or less ever since. About 15,000 soldiers have died, and there is regrettably still no viable end in sight. Though the remnants of al-Qaida in Afghanistan pose far less of a threat today, the organization’s twisted ideology lives on in the form of ISIS, Boko Haram and dozens of other terror groups.

Through it all, the United States has thankfully avoided any further large-scale terror attacks. We may be tired of war in Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere but we cannot simply give up the fight. We can, however, prepare for a more peaceful future.

Before Congress are two bipartisan bills, one sponsored by Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., that would help move U.S. strategy away from direct military actions and toward attacking the terrorism at its ideological sources to prevent future attacks. The basic idea behind the proposed Global Fragility Act — H.R. 2116 and S. 727 — is to help prevent the kind of social breakdowns overseas that give rise to terror organizations.

Practically speaking, it would mean helping rebuild terror-ravaged countries, rather than bombing them, and working to prevent extremism in fragile states. The legislation would authorize the State Department and U.S. Agency for International Development to initiate a broad range of diplomatic and humanitarian efforts in at-risk countries. It would also establish a fund to help “stabilize conflict-affected areas at risk from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria and other terrorist organizations,” according to the House version.

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In the long run, such an approach should be part of the bigger picture for our own security and prosperity.

And by the same token, we can’t afford to let fragile states collapse in our own backyard like Venezuela, Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador.

It should be abundantly clear to the world that the United States will never shy away from military conflict when our American way of life is threatened. But, as Americans, we must also acknowledge that the ultimate victory over terror will come in winning hearts and minds, rather than expending blood and treasure.

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