The horrible acts of September 11th, 2001, separated Americans into three groups. One group lives in a Sept. 10th world that has yet to see the horror. Based on their world view, they object to the fighting in Afghanistan, Iraq, and around the world wherever terrorists lurk because they believe terrorists should be prosecuted as criminals by the justice department and police. During the Clinton administration, the terrorists responsible for the first World Trade Center bombing in 1993 were tried in our courts, and the sad truth is that this response only emboldened other terrorists, leading them to further bombings in Saudi Arabia, Kenya, and Tanzania, and the ramming of the USS Cole. People living in a Sept. 10th world believe that talking to people who hate us will solve all of our problems, as if there were some magical phrase that, once uttered, would stop terrorists from wanting to cut off our heads.
Another group continues to live in a Sept. 11th world, with all the fear and mind-numbing shock of that terrible day. They are reduced to crying and hand-wringing over the acts of the terrorists–and worse, they see our military response to terrorists in the same way. They appear to be unable to differentiate between the deranged and indiscriminate violence of al Qaeda and the controlled and directed violence of our military. My wife thinks that many of the 9/11 “Truthers” are stuck on this day, which explains why they want to blame President Bush and the government for the attacks. Rather than focusing on fighting the terrorists who actually hijacked the planes, they direct their fear and hatred towards President Bush because deep down they know that their hatred of the President is safe from dangerous retaliation. To them, President Bush is the safer target.
Then there is a group of Americans who live in a Sept. 12th world. This group recognizes that there are terrorists who hate us, our freedoms, and our industry and prosperity. Yes, the terrorists who hate us and the countries that sponsor them could have their own freedoms, industry, and prosperity, but that would require work on their part. It’s far easier for them to hate us and try to destroy us. People living in a Sept. 12th world realize that terrorists won’t go away even if we wish for it extra, extra hard, nor will they go away if we try to buy them off. So as long as they want to kill us, we will have to keep them from their goal. And for seven years now, that has meant sending our military into harm’s way to do the job it does best: killing people and breaking things. It’s not popular with the terrorists, nor is it popular with people living in a Sept. 10th or 11th world. But it is necessary.
Regardless of which mental category we fall into, the sad truth remains that that we physically live in a Sept. 12th world. And we will remain in a Sept. 12th world until radical terrorists have given up trying to destroy us. That will in all probability take a while, but like most long-term endeavors, it’s a goal worth pursuing.