What is there to be said about the attacks of September 11, 2001 that hasn’t yet been said? Well, to start with, pretty much everything.
Five years after the attacks, I expressed concern that the fundamental lessons from that tragedy seemed to be fundamentally misunderstood by our country’s decision makers. September 11th demonstrated for the first time that a small handful of fifty people holding a strong enough grudge could disrupt life in the world’s most powerful superpower. As such, I felt that 19th and 20th century notions of power needed to be critically re-examined. This got me realizing that while a nation’s military could be conquered, this conquest might not necessarily extend to the hearts of the citizens of that nation. This was becoming obvious already in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Indeed, the IED’s that our troops have been exposed to in both countries seem to serve as strong evidence that any grudge held against our country would likely only increase after military intervention.
While I’ve never been naïve enough to believe that terrorism could be wiped out with a touchy feely “I’m OK, You’re OK” session, it seemed reasonable to me that understanding the motivations of those who hold such grudges against us and extricating ourselves from situations that would only make the situation worse would be critical. Or, as I bluntly stated it my 2006 blog post, “Stop pouring gasoline on the fire.”
Six years later, and a Republican President has been replaced with a Democratic one. We’ve wound down our war in Iraq, and we seem to be trying to do so in Afghanistan. Have we stopped pouring gasoline on the fire and have a more mature view of the world and how the world views us?
I was tempted to embed into this blog a scene from the movie “Zoolander” in which four guys get into a gasoline fight and blow themselves up, but I figure my mentioning it would be sufficient. It seems clear to me that rather than reduce the risk of future terrorism we continue to pour gasoline on the fire–recklessly so.
In the absence of a coherent strategy addressing the roots of terrorism, the anti-terrorism strategy pursued by both major political parties seems to resemble a game of “Whac-A-Mole.” But rather than be confined to the realm of the arcade game, this “Whac-A-Mole” game extends all around the world.
Exhibit A is the drone strikes our country has seen fit to make in countries with whom we are not at war with–particularly an unstable third world country in the Middle East whose population approaches 200 million and that possesses nuclear weapons. The U.S. Government has admitted few civilian casualties. But new evidence shows that military-age men in the area are systematically assumed to be militants unless proven otherwise and, as such that 70% of those killed in drone strikes are actually civilians.
Exhibit B is the insanely wide surveillance state we are creating. Things we thought would only occur in places like North Korea or China are now commonplace here. Our online activity is tracked, our phone calls are secretly wiretapped by the federal government, and our cellphones track where we go. Thus, the “Whac-A-Mole” game is extended into the privacy of our own home.
And on December 31, 2011, President Obama signed the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) of 2012, which gives the President of the United States the power to detain anyone in the world anywhere and for any length of time. Rather than fulfill his promise to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay, President Obama has expanded Guantanamo all over the world.
And lest liberals think that this is just a Republican thing, it’s worth noting the wide margin of acceptance of the bill in the U.S. Senate–86 for and 13 against. And of those thirteen who voted against it, six were Democrats, six were Republicans and one is listed as an Independent.
This is really profound when you think about it. In an election season in which the differences between the parties is so highlighted, when the titanic battle of Red vs. Blue now refers to Republicans vs. Democrats and not the Cold War, it is noteworthy that party affiliation was irrelevant in such a crucial and disturbing vote. The heroes and villains in this vote came from both parties. The only state where both Senators voted against the NDAA was Idaho, and both Senators there are Republicans. Idaho! Land of the Free!???
It really makes me wonder whether this hyper-partisan era of politics is really just an effort to run concerned citizens through dead-end rat mazes and get us all worked up about what is essentially a shadow-boxing match.
Seems to me that we have already lost the War on Terrorism. It seems to matter little which political party holds the reins. And the hole we are digging for ourselves gets deeper and deeper…