Five years have passed since the attack that destroyed the World Trade Center and on the Pentagon. In some ways remarkably little has changed. In some ways everything has changed.
I continue to have little in the way of wisdom to offer. I would like to ask you to reflect today on what you would have done following the attack if you had been president. Not what you would have done if your were king or if you were God but what you would have done with all the practical and political considerations that someone who is elected to the presidency has.
I think that a military response was absolutely required both for domestic and world political reasons. Frankly, I can’t imagine any president being re-elected (and one absolutely essential requirement for being elected to the presidency IMO is that you want to be re-elected) after such an attack who did not come back with a military response. In that view President Gore would have responded in much the same way as President Bush has. IIRC President Clinton has said that e believes he would have done much the same as Bush did.
I think a punishing attack against Afghanistan was the bare minimum response and I would have supported such an attack. I was opposed to the invasion of Afghanistan and have always been skeptical about our ability to achieve any of the objectives we’ve apparently pursued there including apprehending Osama bin Laden or creating a decent state there.
Would that have been enough? Or was a punishing attack against some Arab state required, too? I opposed the invasion of Iraq not because I’m either a pacifist or a lover of horrific fascist regimes. I thought that any of the objectives I heard as reasons for invading Iraq could have been achieved without invading in force. There were conditions under which I would have supported invading Iraq but I’ve never heard any of them advanced by the Administration?
I think that I would have taken the activities of the agents of Middle Eastern governments in the United States much more seriously than apparently has been done and I would have encouraged European countries to do the same.
I think that I would also have been more inclined to urge sacrifice on the people of this country than has, in fact, been done. People need to participate to maintain a level of political support.
But what would you have done? Knowing what you knew then, not knowing what you do now.
BTW Mark Schulman at American Future has been working overtime on 9/11 reflections. I strongly suggest that you scroll down to the start of them and read all of the work he’s done.