Thoughts from Dr. Joe: Seeking clarity in complex times

Icollect quotes. I use them often, mostly as an adjunct to my own intellectual dilemmas. I also use them to help navigate many of the thoughts I write.

Recently I have tried to wade through the complexities of the Middle East, relative to the brutal attack on the American embassy in Benghazi, Libya. Seeking the counsel of words that I recorded more than 30 years ago, I found the following quote: “For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong.” I don't know who said it, but it wasn't me. However, these thoughts provoke clarity where there is none.

I don't need Leon Panetta to tell me that the attacks in Benghazi were premeditated. While the video defaming Muhammad may have been used as a distraction, it stretches credulity to think it was a coincidence that the assault took place on the anniversary of 9/11. An American embassy was desecrated, and it was particularly relative to the memory of the thousands of Americans who were murdered by terrorists on Sept. 11, 2001.

How dare they! They attacked a sovereign American post and murdered more American citizens.

I have read everything germane to what happened, and as I wade through an administrative smoke screen I want to know why there was a lack of security around the ambassador and why the administration played into the hands of the terrorists by repeatedly condemning the anti-Muhammad video.

We once held a banner close to our hearts that told the world not to mess with us. When it comes to symbolizing freedom and the struggle against those who want to bring us down, there's not a better statement. With all due respect to the Stars and Stripes, I prefer the yellow golden flag with the coiled rattlesnake and the defiant “Don't Tread on Me” motto. Our point then was unmistakable.

I am told that the world is much more complex. However, I remember a code that served me well while growing up on the mean streets of the Bronx. If you hit me, I‘ll be all over you like a cheap suit. Subsequently, you'll never bother me again. Deterrence is guaranteed by strength.

I am not advocating any knee-jerk reaction to avenge our loss. We all know the history of the Gulf of Tonkin, the end result being a disastrous and costly war.

Three weeks ago a Cairo court sentenced 76 people indicted for September's mob attack on Israel's embassy. However, not a single person is going to jail for that attack. What message does this send? No world leader has lodged a protest over this decision. A week after that verdict we announced a sweeping debt forgiveness deal for Egypt.

The message that we sent to the Middle East couldn't be clearer: Attacking embassies is a risk-free endeavor.

Sam Bacile, the amateur filmmaker who made the anti-Muhammad video, should not be the scapegoat. Under the 1st Amendment, he is entitled to free speech. This is a hard pill to follow in the regimes of the Middle East.

We have to uphold the sanctity of free speech. It is paramount to our way of life. Are we to be held hostage because of our ability to express ourselves freely? In the same light, America stands for religious tolerance. That is an American value. So, is Bacile's defamation of Islam an American value under the 1st Amendment? It's a very complex issue, and that's my point.

We can't keep taking these hits to the head. There has to be a payback. Admiral Yamamoto spoke of wakening a sleeping giant immediately after Pearl Harbor. I'm afraid the lion has lost its roar.

JOE PUGLIA is a practicing counselor, a professor of education at Glendale Community College and a former officer in the Marines. Reach him at Visit his website at

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