On this anniversary of 9/11, I look back as I have since that fateful day in 2001.
Coming on the heels of the closest and most contentious elections in modern times, 9/11 represents many things to many people. Some say it unified America, some say it divided us. I would say that any unity was temporary, and the divide was already there. I think 9/11 served as a can of gasoline poured on the wildfire to accelerate things to where we are today.
People forget how stunned the world was when the American-led military forces opened the Costco sized can of whup-ass on Saddam in Gulf I. Weapons that were science fiction in the 80’s were publicly outed and the world was shocked at American power. No doubt that China and Russia learned that what their spies were telling them was just a drop in the bucket compared to the entirety of the US military might (especially since Saddam’s hardware was of Russian origin). Gulf I ushered in the era of cruise missiles, precision guided munitions, and virtually invisible stealth aircraft displayed to the world that America could get to you anywhere and anytime it wanted…and America could do it when you couldn’t see her coming. As the old AT&T advertisements used to say, we could “reach out and touch someone” anytime we wanted.
There was a surge of confidence in American right and might after the first Gulf War.
That confidence turned into arrogance – of politicians, of foreign policy “experts”, of think tank members – and essentially, the American people as well. We thought we were too badass to be touched. We assumed that display of power would give any major power pause before they messed with America – and it did – but knowing no major power had a chance, every would-be terrorist began scheming how to deal a blow to the Great Satan on the cheap. They knew a frontal assault by any sympathetic country or group would be quickly erased, so they began looking for an opportunity we would miss. Our defenses were built high, so they went under.
There was intelligence throughout the two Clinton administrations that this was the plan, but for whatever reason our leadership did not take it seriously.
And as a result, a decade after Desert Storm ended, we got hit. Hard, and on our own turf.
Bush the Lesser launched a retaliatory strike in on October 7, 2001, some 27 days after we were hit on 9/11. The Second Gulf War followed, beginning in March of 2003 based on Saddam’s violations of UN sanctions and his alleged ownership of weapons of mass destruction.
Say what you will about Bush II, I can’t legitimately criticize him because I supported both wars – because I thought we would be in and out like we were in the first Gulf War – but that was before they became politicized.
As much as I hate to say it, the lesson learned from 9/11 was that crisis was politically valuable. As it became clear that America was in for a long slog in the Graveyard of Empires (Afghanistan) and getting Saddam was the least of our worries (we know now that nation building isn’t really a thing), the flag-waving Democrats of 2001 became the first vestige of what would become the “resistance” of 2020. Democrats learned, as Rahm Emmanuel put it, that you should never let a crisis go to waste, so they combined the Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld lack of an exit strategy with the realization that being against American hegemony and wars for oil polled better than never ending war.
The most insidious part of that Democrat strategy to attack the military and other institutions, combined with Bush’s failures (and subsequent failures by Obama) served to strip America of its well-earned confidence as the world’s only superpower. We lost our swagger – our leadership – to the point that an American president (Obama) went on an apology tour to let the world know we were sorry for being us.
And so was spawned a decade of illegitimate navel gazing about how bad America is and how it has failed based on the supposition that it had truly failed. This decade included Obama’s professed ideas of “you didn’t build that”, there is no such thing as American exceptionalism, that America was in need of a “fundamental transformation”, coupled with the slowest economic recovery in the history of America – needless to say, the eight years of Obama weren’t real confidence builders. There was too much beta male “lead from behind” leadership (if it can be called leadership at all).
There is an identifiable entity pushing the divide and it is no coincidence that the issues being used are traditional progressive Democrat issues.
If you want to understand division, you can’t do so without understanding the callous political opportunism of the Democrats and the reality that the post-9/11 unity began to fall apart three years after it happened.
And what do we know happened three years after 9/11?
A presidential election in 2004.
Understanding that, we can begin to put things into context. They can’t win unless they can convince us how bad our lives are.
And that is why the left hates President Trump.
Donald Trump represents the loud-mouthed hubris, the exuberance, the arrogance, and the confidence of pre-9/11 America. He is a throwback to the time when America kicked ass and took names, when the world knew that to cross us was to get their names on our excrement list.
When America is confident, we win. Internally and externally, we win. We must return to the attitude of us being no better friend, no worse enemy. We must get our swagger back. That is the best way to honor the memories of the people killed that day and the lives torn apart by wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.