As we mark the 15th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon, terrorism remains a major focus of the United States and the world.

Extremist Muslim factions are as deadly as ever, spreading their murderous reach through new, dispersed, means. How best to confront these forces remains a divisive debate. But, as we’ve seen after other attacks, the United States is not a country built on fear or condemnation of others. We are also not a country that isolates itself from the world’s problems.

The U.S. and its democracy are defined by resilience. It was resiliency that carried us through the dark days after Sept. 11. There were missteps — the invasion of Iraq, the Patriot Act — but America today is as optimistic, welcoming and engaged in the world as it was before 9/11. That is what makes America great.

The U.S. has not, and will not, turn its back on the causes and ravages of terrorism, as it also engages with world leaders on other pressing issues such as climate change, economic development and international stability.

The reign of terror of the Islamic State, or ISIS, remains most deadly in the Middle East. U.S.-led airstrikes and a limited number of ground troops have stopped some ISIS advances and driven it from control of several cities in northern Syria, but the radical militants continue to spread misery.

Entire cities in Syria have been flattened amid sectarian violence there, forcing millions of refugees, half of them children, to flee to camps in Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon and Iraq. Nearly 7 million Syrians remain displaced within their own country. Thousands have continued northward and westward to Europe.

U.S. politicians, particularly Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, are telling us to fear radical Islamic terrorism, suggesting we view all Muslims, including Somali immigrants to Maine, as potential terrorists and calling for harsh restrictions on their immigration to the United States. Such calls neglect two basic realities. Refugees, of varying religions, are fleeing the Middle East to escape the violence perpetrated by the Islamic State and other radical Muslim groups. Forcing refugees to remain in Syria and Iraq to be further victimized is inhumane and empowers these terrorists.

Second, millions of Muslims live peaceful lives around the world. They serve in the U.S. military. Like Maine doctor Jabbar Fazeli, they alert authorities to report friends and relatives who they believe are being radicalized and persuaded to join in terrorist activities. They are our co-workers, neighbors and friends.

Today, lawmakers face the same questions that vexed them in the wake of 9/11. What is the role of the U.S. in the world? Is it to spread democracy, as was the mantra of the Bush administration? Is it to halt the growing reach of ISIS? To protect innocent civilians from murderous thugs, terrorists and regimes?

Are any of these goals achievable? At what cost, in terms of money and human lives? Are Americans willing to bear these costs? For how long?

ISIS and similarly minded groups must continue to be confronted. This can be done in ways that honor the U.S. traditions of personal freedom and engagement in the world. The U.S. can continue to combat terrorism while also helping and welcoming its victims.

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The BDN Editorial Board

The Bangor Daily News editorial board members are Publisher Richard J. Warren, Editorial Page Editor Susan Young, Assistant Editorial Page Editor Matt Junker and BDN President Todd Benoit. Young has worked...