Twenty Years Since 9-11


Hard to believe it has been two decades, or will be in one day.  My sons were just going on ten and my daughter was six.  My surviving son celebrated his thirtieth birthday this week and my formerly baby girl is now twenty-six and a librarian.

Distance helps in understanding a large historical event.  Two decades is a lot in the span of a human life time, but it isn’t much in the span of history.  When we were observing the hundredth anniversary of World War I, I thought we were still too close to that event to make sense of it.  9-11 is not in the league of World War I as to huge historical events, but twenty years is a much shorter period than a century.

Having said that I think we can draw some conclusions now:

  1. Unity-the unity we saw after 9-11 was fleeting indeed and the process of fragmentation of the American people, an ongoing process since the sixties of the last century, soon got underway again.  It still is a memory I cherish, especially the cars of ordinary people flying American flags.
  2. Terrorism in the US-Nothing on the scale of 9-11 has happened since 9-11.  I think the credit for this owes more to the difficulty of terrorists carrying off such an event, rather than the often absurd precautions we have taken, although the willingness of passengers on air liners to act swiftly against other passengers posing a threat has been helpful on occasion.
  3. War on Terror-This slogan of the Bush administration, and eagerly trumpeted by the media, was unfortunate.  Terrorism is as old as civilization and comes in endless varieties.  The American people were not interested in fighting terrorism in general, but rather the specific terrorists and supporting groups who had carried out 9-11.  The slogan was a distraction from the main task at hand.
  4. Afghan War-In toppling the Taliban government which had supported and sheltered Al Qaeda, the Afghan incursion in 2001-2002 was a brilliant military success;  as a nation building project from 2002-2021 it was a colossal, and utterly foreseeable, failure.  This will have ramifications echoing down the next two decades.
  5. Iraq War-Afghanistan was the good war and the Iraq War was the bad war in the eyes of critics of the Bush administration.  Ironically the Iraq War was the success.  Saddam Hussein is pushing up weeds, we devastated the terrorist networks that came to fight against us in Iraq, and the Iraqi government appears stable.  Mission accomplished, at least as much as a mission can be accomplished in the Middle East.
  6. Al Qaeda War-Bin Laden has long since become fish chow.  We decimated his organization.  It still exists but is a shadow of its former self.
  7. American troops-Superb overall, as they have always been throughout our often stormy history.  Their top leadership, largely thanks to the malign influence of the Obama administration, saw warriors replaced by political time servers.  The military has always had some politicians in uniform at the top, but the ceaseless drive of Obama to neuter our Generals and Admirals as a source of potential opposition to him has born ill fruit.  America’s finest deserves better.
  8. Counter-insurgency-Became all the rage as we fought our wars in the sandbox.  China, the coming threat, will require a doctrinal pivot, and I see little proof that our military leadership has even begun to think of the next war.
  9. Our 9-11 Dead-We need to continue to pray for them, to remember them and to strive to make our nation and the world better.  They were the first casualties in a war that reminded the idiots among us that history did not end with the cold war.
  10. Me-I am still consumed with the rage I felt 20 years ago.  Attempting to treat 9-11 as a historical event and to analyze it dispassionately remains difficult for me.  Maybe that is as it should be.  People who experience history perhaps are not meant to engage in the type of study future historians will give to the event.  One reason why History is always  a discipline with limitations.  I always recall the saying, “You really had to be there.” when trying to understand any historical event.  That is certainly case for that day of death for 3000 of our murdered fellow Americans.

Published in: on September 10, 2021 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Twenty Years Since 9-11  
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