How precious, choice.
Choice is at the core of freedom. Being able to choose one path or another, political or otherwise, as long as it doesn't infringe on someone else, is the very definition of liberty. Webster's dictionary calls it "exemption from compulsion."
And how little parts of the world value it.
Two quotes from world leaders stood out to me Thursday after the assassination of Pakistani opposition leader Benazir Bhutto.
The first came from a Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi: 'One cannot see signs of peace in this tormented region.'
How true. It seems the parts of the world where fanatical Muslims have or seek control will always be in torment. Freedom from unnecessary death and destruction is as foreign to that part of the world as snow is to the Sahara.
The free world's biggest mistake in the global war on terrorism is the failure to recognize the fundamental difference in our way of life and theirs. At his very core, the militant, fanatical Muslim submits to what he believes is the will of God. The rest of the world wants him to submit to the will of the people. It's an argument that is nearly impossible to win.
The terrorist wants religion and government to be as one. He wants one world that submits to Allah, and, by a not-so-ironic coincidence, to him. And his enemy is everyone else - governments, religions and even other Muslims. The militant, fanatical Muslim has no use for peaceful co-existence, and Muslims who try this approach to life are just as likely to face the suicide bomber's shrapnel as an Israeli in a market or an American soldier in Baghdad.
For the Islamic terrorist the bottom line is it's him against the world. And he believes he will be rewarded for fighting for his cause. He doesn't see the suicide attack as cowardly, as we do. He sees it as noble.
How do you fight that? When the enemy is that committed it's no longer about who has more money or more guns or more bombs. It's about who believes in their cause more. It's about who will heed the words from the second stand-out quote from Thursday, from British Prime Minister Gordon Brown.
Brown said Bhutto 'risked everything in her attempt to win democracy in Pakistan and she has been assassinated by cowards who are afraid of democracy.
'The terrorists must not be allowed to kill democracy in Pakistan, and this atrocity strengthens our resolve that the terrorists will not win there, here, or anywhere in the world."
It's about making the choice. It's about standing up in the face of violence and saying, "we choose to be free, and you can't blow all of us up." It's about going to the polls, it's about speaking your mind, about not being compelled to make the wrong choice because you're afraid of death.
Because the fanatical Muslim is not afraid of those things. He is not afraid of bombs and bullets. He is not afraid of death because he doesn't understand how precious life can be when one is able to exercise choice and live a free life protected by the shield of liberty.
In fact, the only thing the fanatical Muslim fears is choice. He fears it because he knows that given the simple choice between being oppressed and being liberated, the people will always choose liberty.
And with liberty comes the realization that the fanatical Muslim's ultimate goal is not just the world's submission to the will of Allah but submission to the will of the fanatical Muslim.
In other words, his goal is the same one that all tyrants have: power. And his means to that end is terror and fear.
Forging ahead despite being afraid is the only true way to take the weapon of fear out of the terrorist's hands.
We can only hope the assassination of Bhutto will make the people of Pakistan less afraid instead of more. We can only hope it will compel them and others in the region who value choice to choose liberty.
Instead of compelling them to make the wrong choice by giving up.
E-mail Nate McCullough at email@example.com. His column appears on Fridays.