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EDITORIAL

Syria and Iran breed terror, as does America

Buried in the murder of a federal judge's husband and mother is an international lesson.

Judge Joan Lefkow arrived at her Chicago home Monday to find the bodies of her husband, Michael Lefkow, 64, and her mother, Donna Humphrey, 89, in the basement. They had been shot to death.

There is little doubt that the murders were the culmination of a white supremacist organization's effort to punish Judge Lefkow for her handling of a trademark dispute involving the name of one such organization. The judge herself had been targeted unsuccessfully.

From an international perspective, the significance of the execution-style murders is clear. The United States cannot control terrorists within its borders.

That might at first seem unremarkable. Many people reside within our borders, and our small percentage of militants still equates to a large number with evil intent.

The problem arises in our black-and-white analysis of terrorists operating out of other countries.

We targeted Afghanistan because it was unable to control al-Qaida. Iraq was next, in part because it was seen as the breeding ground of terrorists. Now we are saying the same about Syria and Iran, an accusation that leads our allies to fear they are next on our hit list.

And one of our closest allies, Israel, long ago perfected the art of blaming Palestine for the evil of some of its citizens.

The lesson is important, but not without its complexities. Especially in this new and hopeful political environment, Israel should not automatically blame the Palestinian Authority for anti-Zionist attacks. It quite rightly, however, wants to make sure the Palestinian government is doing all that it can to suppress its evildoers.

The same is true with America. We need to ensure that Syria and Iran are taking all possible steps to apprehend terrorists within their borders, but we err when we automatically assume we need to punish those governments for the sins of their residents.

We cannot defeat terrorism within our borders. Nor can any nation. The best we can do is use our laws aggressively to discourage terrorists from acting on their hatred.

It is a lesson we need to heed before we set our sights on yet another country struggling to control the acts of its citizens.

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