The Anniversary

There are times like today when I very nearly despair over my country. Maybe my species.

Right-leaning bloggers are devoting thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands of words to remembering, repeating, and restating the events of September 11, 2001 with, essentially, a single message: never forget. Michelle Malkin, the leading Right Blogosphere blogger, devotes most of her front page to a recap of the events, taking a moment of silence for each of the three downed flights. Powerline quotes the sister of one of the airline captains:

The attacks were not a random act of violence or insanity. They were a deliberate and brutal act of war committed by religious fanatics engaged in Islamic jihad against the United States, all non-Muslim people and any Muslim who wishes to live in a secular society. Worse, the people who perpetrated the attacks have explicitly told us that they are not done.

Laughing Wolf, writing at Blackfive, emphasizes the need for tenacity as well as remembrance:

Yet, we are on a path that will lead to a better day, if we have the courage, the fortitude, the commitment, and the sacrifice to do what is right and needed. I have been fortunate this last year to see the living embodiment of that will, and to see the actions — and the results — from it. Some of those living bodies did not make it home, just as those in the Twin Towers, the Pentagon, and the planes did not make it home on this day.

The situation is quite different in the Left Blogosphere. For the sole front page post at Daily Kos on 9/11, the events serve solely as a prop to beat over the head of George Bush:

So, after seven years at the top of the “most wanted terrorist list,” it seems that Osama Bin Laden has gone the way of WMD. You know what I mean…if we find him, great. If not, well, he wasn’t really all that important anyway. Which works out well for George Bush.

Josh Marshall doesn’t have the time to post on the subject but he does link to a couple of TPM posts, one that uses 9/11 as a club to beat over the head of domestic politicians, the other which quotes Richard Cohen’s NYT column without much value added. Matt Yglesias takes the opportunity of the day to beat up on The New Republic. Digby doesn’t want to leave John McCain behind in the flogging.

Keith Olbermann has the unmitigated gall to complain that “Republicans have hijacked 9/11”. They haven’t hijacked it. Democrats have ceded it to them.

Clue to Democrats: there are things other than domestic politics and at the national level the most important things that domestic politics needs to deal with are the big questions of foreign policy and America’s place in the world. These are the questions that Philip Bobbitt and John Danforth address to the candidates in their NYT op-ed today.

Clue to Republicans: remembrance and tenacity aren’t nearly enough and of themselves are futile. Iraq will never be a model for anything good for the foreseeable future. We no longer have a grand strategy in the war on terror and nobody but nobody is talking about a new one.

Clue to those who cheered the thugs who hijacked the planes on 9/11: can you be so stupid as to think that stealing a couple of planes and knocking down a couple of buildings would really bring America to its knees? Maybe it would have done so in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Or Pakistan. Or even France. I don’t believe that for a moment about any of those countries. I have more confidence in human beings than that.

Clue to those who think that America is collapsing, failing, or what have you: you need to get out more. Yes, we’re running over a bump with our economy. Yes, we’re embroiled in wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and stuck in so-called peacekeeping missions in a bunch of other places. We’ll get through it. Our problems are small by comparison with the gargantuan problems faced by our only conceivable competitors.

We will deal with our problems as we always have done, slowly, painfully, and stupidly. As Winston Churchill put it the Americans always do the right thing when every other option has been exhausted.

11 comments… add one
  • I have to say that complaining that Republicans have hijacked 9-11 is possibly the most inapt choice of words I’ve heard yet.

    I think that you may be wrong about Iraq, Dave. As the situation is calming down there, assuming that we do not end up with the Shi’a slaughtering the Sunni en masse as soon as we aren’t there in enough force to prevent them, Iraq might well be looked upon much as Malaysia is: the right way to win a counter-insurgency. The argument in the far future would more likely be over whether the 2004-2006 activities were necessary to victory or an impediment to it. (And I’ll put down my chips right here: some of each.)

    More to the point, though, you are correct in the meta sense, and we have not figured out a replacement strategy. The Westphalian world is ending, and we will be embroiled in many more, but relatively smaller, conflicts in the future than we have in the past. There are a number of strategies that could be tried, and frankly I still think that President Bush’s original grand strategic vision is the best available: while keeping a lid on other simmering conflicts, remove the most outlandish regime extant and fight that out until the country that results is at least on the level of Turkey or Egypt in modernism, moderation, and support for US goals; then move on to the next most outlandish regime extant. In this case, I am using outlandish to describe the confluence of terrorism, weapons of mass destruction, and willingness to violate the sovereignty of other countries or support non-state groups that do.

    We could go for an empire strategy, though likely we’d do so by making conquered territories into states rather than colonies per se. We could go for the whack-a-mole strategy of just bombing the crap out of any country that challenges us a little too closely. We could go for the talk-talk strategy of continuous diplomacy and little or no concrete action if there is any real risk involved. We could go for isolationism (widely forgotten as the direction Bush was heading before 9-11). All debatable, but none of which is as good, I think, as the clear, hold and build version of grand strategy that Bush elucidated in late 2002.

  • Unless the Iraqis resolve the thorny issues like the parliamentary elections, corruption, governmental nonfeasance, and the status of Kirkuk in a fashion that’s more statesmanlike than we’ve seen to date, the smart money right now is on increasing chaos or strongman rule (except this time with a Shi’a strongman). In either case Iraq won’t be a model for democracy in the Middle East and, as I say, the grand strategy is inoperative.

  • I’m too much of a realist to expect that power-seekers in any nation (which is fundamentally what politicians are, after all) are morally upright, ethically straight or necessarily wise. Those few that anyone finds that have those qualities should be cherished and lauded.

    It is possible that Iraq will slip into strongman rule, rather than being an example of democracy. In that case, we would be best served for try to force strong private property rights and strong rule of law. The combination of those two generally leads to democratic governance in 50 years or less. But that said, I don’t think that’s a given: Iraq already has a reasonably healthy political system given its recent history, and it has about as much chance to get better as to get worse, so long as we remain. The true test, though, will be the next election. If the next executive election happens cleanly, more or less on time, and results in a peaceful handover of power, we can say we’ve won.

  • The true test will be whether Maliki continues to go after the Awakening forces.

  • Hi Dave,
    Sorry to hear about some clueless moron hacking your site.

    As you know, I don’t hold with the maudlin commemoration of 9/11. As far as I’m concerned, victory is the best memorial to 9/11 we can have – let our enemies treat it as a day of mourning and dread for daring to attack us.

    It’s not so much that the Left has ceded 9/11 to the Right as much as a lot of them have lost any notion of what it means to defend the country…because, deep down, they’re so used to finding America at fault that that the idea that our nation might be worth picking up the rifle for is entirely alien to their thoughts.

    During his Greek extravaganza, Barack Hussien Obama cited John Kennedy and FDR as examples of why ‘no one can tell me Democrats don’t know how to defend our country.’

    Neither Kennedy,who frequently cited G-d as an inspiration for our Republic and our freedoms or Roosevelt,who took decisive measures to secure the nation after Pearl Harbor that most Democrats would denounce as fascist would have any place in today’s Democrat party.

    That bothers me,because a two party system acts as a check and balance and makes forbetter government. But since the Angry Left took over the
    Democrats, we no longer have that, and that’s sad…both for a number of decent Democrats who voices aren’t heard any longer and for the country as a whole.

    But don’t worry…..I have the feeling that a change for the better is coming.
    People who have bet on America’s defeat and denigration have a lousy track record of collecting on that bet.


  • Ymarsakar Link

    Iraq will never be a model for anything good for the foreseeable future.

    You will be proven wrong on this score. As well as David Brin.

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