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Soft (And Dumb) On Terrorism?

As we Americans mourn our dead in service of our country in Kenya and Tanzania, these are among points to ponder:

There are also Kenyans and Tanzanians to be mourned. Almost 200 of them are known to have been murdered in the cowardly attacks, another 5,000 injured. Many of the Kenyan and Tanzanian dead were employed by or visitors to the U.S. embassies bombed.

In the wake of this, the world is watching: Watching, among other things, to see whether in fact what President Clinton and Secretary of State Albright have been saying is true. Especially, "Our nation's memory is long and our reach is far."

In this case, they had better be our memory long and our reach far. The reason is that the United States is getting a reputation around the world, and most especially in the Middle East and Northern Africa, for being soft on terrorism, soft and dumb, or at least not very smart.

And too often, our memory has not been long and our reach has been short. This was true during the presidencies of Ronald Reagan and George Bush, and it has been true during the presidency of Bill Clinton.

Increasingly, we have been long on talk, short on action. The last car-bombing of world note against the U.S. was in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, in June l996. A U.S. Air Force barracks was bombed, with heavy loss of life.

No one paid. Why is unclear. But as time has gone by, indications have risen that the Saudis did not do all they could to help Americans find and bring to justice those responsible.

They got away clean, the killers. Americans investigating never got full cooperation from the Saudis. Why remains unclear to this day. If, as many suspect, Iran's America-hating Mullahs had anything - anything - to do with that and the Saudis know it, then we should know it.

Mark well the word "suspect." In the wake of these latest bombings in Africa, it is important not to jump to conclusions.

But one conclusion shouts at us: We gorge ourselves on Monica Lewinsky stories.

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