Monday, January 29, 2007

Going Overboard

Was 9/11 really that bad?

If you follow conservative talk radio... And is there any other kind? You don't need me to give you much background on the article referenced above. Johns Hopkins university history professor questions whether we may possibly be making 9/11 out to be just a little worse than it actually was. Long story short, the premise of the article is that not every attack is an existential threat to the existence of the United States/Western Civilization/the human race.

Naturally, Rush Limbaugh ran with this today, arguing that it was just another example of the Liberal eagerness to lose this war.

To be perfectly honest, I've lost interest in Rush. In my opinion, he is not a serious representative of the conservative movement. I know... Color me One Note Andy. Like him, I'm setting myself up as the arbiter of who is and is not conservative. Except that I'm not. Rush is certainly conservative, he's just not a serious voice in the movement anymore. The reason why he isn't is that he is reflexive in his response to any issue. "We" are always right, "they" are always wrong. It's all part of a conspiracy, a plot, a plan to ruin us. Now, I agree that the Democrats are not strong enough on defense, not strong enough on fighting this necessary war to its necessary finish. That being said, Rush is far too quick to find disloyalty and weakness in places where, honestly, it just doesn't exist.

Anyway, back to the article... Dr. Bell's premise is that 9/11 and our struggle against terror does not represent the existential threat to our existence that World War II did. He is right. The threat posed by the terrorists is not so much a present one. It's a potential threat. It is the fear, a valid fear I would contend, that eventually the hatred of our enemies will be married to weapons (chemical, biological or nuclear) that will inflict a wound on the United States that will force us to become the type of country we have never had to be before. When the smoke clears after terrorists have managed to set off a dirty bomb in Manhattan or spread smallpox across the country, America will not be the nation we have known. The reason to treat this as a war (the Bush doctrine) as opposed to a criminal enterprise (the Clinton doctrine) is that the potential stakes are so very high.

All of that being said, Dr. Bell is clearly correct that at this point we are not engaged with a direct existential threat. Where he is wrong is in his unwillingness or inability to recognize that we fight to prevent an existential threat from arising in the future. This time we are trying to defeat Nazism in 1935 rather than 1945. That foresight is the reason why the casualty counts are low and the sacrifices small.

Still, and I know I'm wandering, Rush's shallow characterizations do not do him credit.

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