If terrorists die, others will follow

JOAN RYAN Sunday, September 23, 2001 After 27 years in the military, Capt. Lin Hutton is as blunt and straightforward as a smack to the head. "To kill the terrorists is to just continue the violence," she said. Hutton is talking by phone from her rented duplex in Sewanee, Tenn. She left her job at the Pentagon in August to enter an Episcopal seminary at the University of the South. Her retirement from the Navy is official Oct. 1. I called her because she offers an unusual perspective: A military officer's analytical sensibility infused with a theologian's spirituality. "I will put my life between my country and the enemy, but we need to know: Who is it we're fighting? How do we define military objectives and targets? What are the enemy's objectives? Why are they fighting us?" It is this last question that Hutton sees as central. "We have to understand why there's so much hate. If we never understand the reasons they hate us, the terrorism will continue. That's why it's so important we capture these people. Because we can go kill all the terrorist cells we can find, but if one person gets away, that's the seed for another cell." Hutton is not exactly a touchy-feely liberal. Her father was a captain in the Navy, and she grew up to be one, too. She flew EP3s (reconnaissance/electronic warfare aircraft) in the Mediterranean. She commanded an aircraft-carrier aviation squadron, then became commanding officer of a Naval Air Station, the first woman to hold either post. The past three years, she worked at the Pentagon and, had she not retired, likely would have been the first female warfare admiral. So no one was more surprised than she at her reaction to the terrorist attacks. "I felt incredible horror and dismay and deep sadness," Hutton said. "But I didn't feel anger. I would have thought I'd want to do something back, and I'm amazed I didn't." What alarmed her was the anger she saw on the floors of Congress. Without debate, Congress passed a near-unanimous resolution waiving the presidential constraints of the War Powers Act. The resolution gives the president power to "use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations or persons" who were behind the attacks. "I understand they're hurting and angry," she said of members of Congress, "but they're our leaders. We need more from them. They don't have the luxury of being upset. They should not have had a vote right away. They needed some time to think and have serious discussions. "So I have great respect for that lone dissenting vote (by Rep. Barbara Lee of Oakland)." Hutton fully supported the Gulf War because the objectives were clear. But she worries, as many do, that the U.S. now will launch itself into a retaliatory attack without defined goals or sufficient regard for innocent civilians. How would we measure success in this kind of war? How will we know when we are finished? She said she believes Secretary of State Colin Powell, a former general with experience in the Middle East, will be the voice of calm and patience. "Military people are very aware of the cost of war," Hutton said. "There's a certain pacifism among the military. You want to capture them. Isolate them. Use every method possible before turning to warfare. War has to be the tool of last resort, because once you go to war, and it fails, you have nothing left in your toolbox." She can't see at the moment how war will wipe out terrorism. The terrorism is the behavior; the hate is the cause of the behavior. Maybe the hate is an outgrowth of evil. Most likely it's something more complicated and human. We need to know. Only then do we have a chance at stopping terrorism. If the U.S. goes to war, Hutton, like most Americans, will support the efforts of government leaders. "All I ask of them is to think through this very carefully," she said, "because they're not the ones who are going to die."