The number of retrospectives of the events of September 11, 2001 are too many to count. The repercussions of the terrorist attacks on New York, Washington, D.C., and in the air space over Pennsylvania effected every American in one way or another, and there are just as many stories to go along with those people.
For us today, I think a more relevant discussion is where we were on September 10, 2001, and where we are in the present, September 11, 2011. What have we done right? What have we done wrong? What does the future hold?
Like Time Magazine says, the discussion must go beyond 9/11.
On the foreign policy front, everything changed on that day. Before the attacks, do people remember what was discussed about foreign policy for much of George W. Bush’s first year as President? Not much. We had the takedown of a military intelligence jet in China. We had issues with North Korea and Iraq, which always seemed to crop up. But no major issues loomed.
Of course, the repercussions of that day extend to every corner of the globe.
Most prominent of course is the wars started in the Middle East.
Afghanistan was by every definition a war of necessity. A decade of nation building there, with our limited successes and failures, by no means changes that. Afghanistan ultimately is a country that we cannot rescue. Going forward, it is a geographic region that must be over seen, but not controlled. Pulling out of Afghanistan for the most part makes sense.
Iraq will always be the historical question that plagues the Bush legacy. Was it a war of necessity? How badly were we misinformed about weapons of mass destruction? Years later, and after liberals accusations for years, no evidence has ever come forward that the intelligence failures were intentional, and I don’t think most Americans believe it to be.
The larger question for Iraq was whether the costs were worth the result. First and foremost, never let anyone tell you that the removal of Saddam Hussein was not a good thing, for the Middle East as well as the larger world community. United Nations and American reports show that we can document hundreds of thousands of civilians massacred in Iraq and placed in mass graves. Saddam was on of the great murderers of the twentieth century. He should no be missed by anyone.
Whether the cost in blood and treasure was worth his removal, I don’t think anyone will be able to say. There is much too much political influence into that debate to really ever get a fair analysis of the costs and benefits of the decision. I think the public believes that the war was not worth the costs. That, in and of itself, is an important lesson for future politicians. It is ironic that President Obama largely makes the same argument for the legitimacy of his actions in Libya as the Bush Administration uses for Iraq: that the removal of a hated tyrannical leader was worth the costs and repercussions.
Long term who knows. In Iraq, we are only beginning to see the long term repercussions, as a fledgling democracy emerges. In Libya,a very different war initiated for very different reasons. we have no idea the manner in which the new leaders of that country will take their country. Many of their military leaders are linked to terrorist organizations including Al Qaeda…which does not bore well for the future. We have seen the ‘Arab Spring’ uprisings, which few can doubt were also repercussions of 9/11, in one manner or another. However, the eventual composition of governments in countries such as Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, and maybe Syria are unknown, and could vary from completely democratic and cooperative to islamic fundamentalist. Time will tell.
On the home front, we created the Department of Homeland Security. Whether this was a correct decision in and of itself can be debated. It is now the largest department other than the Department of Defense, with a myriad of bureaucracy that only Washington, D.C. could create. We passed the Patriot Act, which did a lot of good and has been essential to our safety over the past 10 years. At the same time, questions about personal freedoms are valid, and go on.
However, despite the larger historical arguments, whether about foreign wars or changes in our homeland security, one thing is clear: we are safer. We are not completely safe; and it is a fool’s errand to ever believe we will be fully safe. We were not completely safe on September 10, 2001 any more than we are today. That was a national delusion that was shattered 10 years ago.
We are not a perfect country, and have never been a perfect country. Perfection is for philosophers alone. We have had leaders lead us through the issues that have arisen ever since the first plane flew into the North tower of the World Trade Center. They have done their best, and only politics obscures this fact. I thank God that George W. Bush was President that day; many liberals disagree. But that is a political argument, not a practical one. He led us spiritually, emotionally, and ultimately militarily, and few could have done better. I am thankful Rudy Giuliani was Mayor of New York, and led that city through the most challenging days of its existence. I thank Michael Bloomberg, who has navigated the waters for the last 10 years, allowing the World Trade Center and its Memorial to come about. And I give thanks to our current President Barack Obama, who despite irrational rhetoric from the left, has largely followed the tenets that his predecessor set, and ultimately made the decisions that led to the assassination and ultimate justice for the man responsible for this crime against humanity.
So on this day, 3,652 days after the towers collapsed, and the fires were burning in the Pentagon, and smoke rose in the fields of Pennsylvania, let the nation remember. Let us remember that we live in a world of evil, and threats will always exist, and we must always be ready. We must never forget. Whether Democrat or Republican, conservative or liberal, political or not, we must remember the reality of the world we live in. Never again should we be so naive as to believe that we are exempt from the hatred that exists.
And so for this day, it is a time to remember. It is also a time to look forward. Lower Manhattan slowly rebuilds. There are now more people living in close vicinity to the WTC site than lived there on 9/11…a remarkable fact. We are a resilient country. We now face many challenges, but none as stark as those of that day 10 years ago. We are close to an economic recession, with millions of Americans out of work. We suffer from huge debt that will effect our children. An our power both militarily and politically wanes overseas. But that by no means diminishes who we are, and what we can do. 9/11 was a tragedy, with 2,983 souls dying that day. But from that tragedy, we will become a better, more honest, more secure country. I honestly believe that, and so should you.
God Bless the United States of America.