In Memoriam, September 11

It was almost precisely eight years ago that the people of the United States began to become aware of the attacks that were taking place on September 11, 2001. The tragedy continued to unfold for days and, in a very real sense, is continuing to unfold.

I really don’t have a great deal to say about it. There will be endless bickering about who is politicizing this and who is exploiting that and whether the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have actually increased our safety. I opposed both, largely because what I envisioned when I thought about what was likely to happen is what actually took place. Aghanistan has been a little better than I thought; Iraq a little worse.

I do not for one moment believe that we have taken the steps domestically that we should have to increase security here. Indemnifying the airlines against the manifest consequences of their own folly was an early sign of what was to come.

We can only prevent another 9/11 by identifying the critical success factors behind the original attacks and interrupting one or more of them. In my view that’s a discussion which should go on in public because its ramifications are so far-reaching and it’s a discussion which has never taken place, at least not in public.

We may decide as a society that we’re unwilling to change the things that made the attacks possible and, consequently, we’re willing to live with the risk that there will be comparable attacks in the future. I think that’s a decision that should be arrived at as a society, in the open, and not a choice made for us by shadowy figures behind closed doors.

One can always dream.

10 comments… add one
  • We may decide as a society that we’re unwilling to change the things that made the attacks possible and, consequently, we’re willing to live with the risk that there will be comparable attacks in the future. I think that’s a decision that should be arrived at as a society, in the open, and not a choice made for us by shadowy figures behind closed doors.

    Well said, and totally agree Dave.

  • Drew

    Its my understanding that the biggest security improvement that has been made since 9/11 is information sharing between govt branches.

    Separately,

    I unfortunately have a biased and emotional view of 9/11. We lived in suburban NY at the time. Coming out of a morning meeting I looked over the sound from Rye and saw a burning Tower I. Tower II was hit just minutes later. Not in our direct neighborhood, but in the adjacent town that was home to many firefighters and commuters, people did not come home that night. A weekend golfing buddy had a condo just 3 blocks away. Dust in the place etc. And on that very day, my wife and our then very young daughter turned around before crossing a bridge on the way into Manhattan for a photo shoot.

    So it gets very personal.

    I guess intellectually I have to agree that society as a whole must decide on our security posture. But now that I’m back in the Midwest I can tell you that people do not understand just how this cut the very soul of the people in the general NY metro area. Its hard to imagine that the residents of NY, Chicago, Miami or LA can view these security issues in the same way a person in, say, Grand Rapids, MI might.

  • Jimbino

    Our security, than as now, depends in part on our willingness to suspend our policies that bring death, destruction and disappearances to other folks around the world.

    Any of the tens of thousands of “desaparecidos” in Argentina, Brasil, Bolivia, Paraguay, Chile, and Uruguay would have been able to explain that, had they not been brought down by our Operation Condor.

    Then there’s Asia, ….

  • Brett

    We may decide as a society that we’re unwilling to change the things that made the attacks possible and, consequently, we’re willing to live with the risk that there will be comparable attacks in the future. I think that’s a decision that should be arrived at as a society, in the open, and not a choice made for us by shadowy figures behind closed doors.

    I tihnk we might already be making that type of choice, Dave. If you think about it, if Al-Qaeda really were extremely ruthless about causing fear and panic in the US, they could easily do something like sneak in a couple of snipers and have them do what the Maryland Sniper did a couple years back – just shoot up some people, and get everyone in an area afraid to leave their homes.

    That aside, it’s a good point. There’s trade-offs to every degree of security. I think a major part of making the decision is having a good idea of what the enemy is actually capable and willing to do – as I mentioned above, I could imagine a scenario of Al-Qaeda or some other such group trying the above. Yet they don’t.

  • Brett

    Crap- I forgot to put your quote in “blockquote”. The first paragraph is Dave’s.

  • Will Wilkinson

    The enormity of the 9/11 mass murders will always stay with those of us old enough to remember. Terrorist acts are perhaps by definition political, in some broad sense of ‘political’. So the terrible events of 9/11 have always been politicized. But 9/11 has been politicized in another way. The United States’ government reacted to to 9/11 and that reaction has been, to my mind, an enormous disaster. Yet those responsible for this disaster have been successful in hiding behind the shock of the crumbling towers, as if support for their dangerous and deadly policies is inexorably implied by feeling deeply the full weight of 9/11’s tragedy. Those most insistent that we “never forget” 9/11 are those who need our continuing collective complicity in the erosion of our civil liberties, in the weakening of the rule of law, in the unjustified invasion of unrelated foreign countries and the murder of their people, in the policy of state-sanctioned torture. The difficulty many Americans have in separating remembrance of an act of terror from an endorsement of the war on terror may turn out be George W. Bush’s great legacy.

    The United States was a better place on September 10th, 2001. We should not forget what happened the next day. Nor should we forget the wrongs the United States has subsequently done. That September 10th is long gone. But there will always be another one. Whether we will live in a 9/10 or a 9/11 world is a choice we have, and it is a choice we continue to make.

    I think this can fit with what you’ve written Drew. Sharing intelligence and information between agencies and trying to root out bureaucratic complacency may be enough to prevent another incident of 9/11’s magnitude.

    Stopping something like Brett’s scenario would require a much greater loss of civil liberties. Routine check points and vehicle searches anyone?

  • I worry less about Al Qaeda than about some new, smarter organization less devoted to the spectacular and more focused on actually disrupting our lives.

    A handful of snipers, a half dozen of suicide bombers in shopping malls, a group busily FedExing Lockerbie-style bombs, a couple of mobile mortar crews or a van with a driver and a couple of RPG shooters, could disrupt life and the economy far more effectively than 9-11.

  • steve

    A well funded terrorist group devoted to cyber attacks is what I would focus on if I were I running AQ. That, plus going after the water supplies.

    Steve

  • one can dream

    I dream of killing Islamist extremists and stacking them like cord wood.

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