U.S. must promise retribution for those who attack Americans overseas

Students have unparalleled opportunities to see the world, but those opportunities might be limited in the future as America’s influence in the world continues to decline. Some corners of the world will always be more dangerous than others, but few destinations are safe when the U.S. is incapable or unwilling to defend Americans abroad.

To ensure the safety of Americans traveling overseas, America must maintain strong diplomatic and military stature. Our capacity must also be matched by a willingness to extend retributive justice anywhere across the world. Whether Americans are caught in the crossfire of regional conflicts or are specifically targeted for terror attacks, those who bring harm to Americans abroad should be treated as if they are harming Americans here at home. The world takes notice of the United States’ 
 commitment, or lack thereof, to protect 
Americans abroad.

The recent executions of two American journalists, Steven Sotloff and James Foley, are particularly worrisome in this regard. The terrorists campaigning to establish an Islamic State across Syria and Iraq intentionally targeted Americans in an attempt to deter future American involvement in the region. That is, ISIS terrorists consider American citizens to be fair game in their conquest for regional dominance, and they had no concern that their actions 
might ensure further American involvement in the region.

Consider also the murder of the passengers and crew of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 by Russian separatists in July. Quinn Schansman, a 19-year-old with dual citizenship in the U.S. and Netherlands, was the only American of the 294 passengers. But for all the separatists knew, every passenger on the Boeing 777 could have been American. This possibility did not deter the commanders who brazenly ordered their men to shoot the plane down. At worst, they would endure another round of economic sanctions and a slap on the wrist.

In each instance, a regional band of belligerent murderers had little fear their actions would incur America’s wrath. Nefarious forces around the world are emboldened by this new norm of American indifference.

And while these incidents occurred on the front lines of a war zone, international terrorists have consistently demonstrated their intent to bring the war zone to subways, airports and shopping malls around the world. In fact, international cities are favorite targets for fanatics looking to capture the world’s attention. When terrorists are eager to pick a fight with the world’s superpower, no American student, businessman or casual 
tourist is safe.

In such a climate, it is crucial that the United States sends a clear message to anyone who contemplates harming American citizens abroad. Our enemies should have no doubt that their days will be numbered once they decide to target Americans. Even those who indiscriminately kill civilians of all nationalities should lose sleep at night for fear that a stray bullet or bomb might strike an American citizen. To attack one American is to pick a fight with every American. Only after the United States secures this promise of swift justice can Americans be truly safe to explore the world 
without fear.

Cruise Hall is a senior majoring in mechanical engineering. His column runs biweekly.

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