Monday, January 29, 2007

Was 9/11 really that bad?

David A. Bell wrote in Los Angeles Times

The attacks were a horrible act of mass murder, but history says we're overreacting.
Well you, and history, can take that thought, and the entire issue of the Los Angeles Times that printed it, and stick it where the sun does not shine.
Imagine that on 9/11, six hours after the assault on the twin towers and the Pentagon, terrorists had carried out a second wave of attacks on the United States, taking an additional 3,000 lives. Imagine that six hours after that, there had been yet another wave. Now imagine that the attacks had continued, every six hours, for another four years, until nearly 20 million Americans were dead. This is roughly what the Soviet Union suffered during World War II, and contemplating these numbers may help put in perspective what the United States has so far experienced during the war against terrorism.
How long did the Soviets wait before they retaliated.
It also raises several questions. Has the American reaction to the attacks in fact been a massive overreaction?
No. The Left seems to have forgotten what we are fighting against, and if they are successful in taking the White House in 2008 I suspect they will relax our guard, and we will be attacked again, probably killing more than 3,000 people, and dooming the Democratic Party into not taking the White House again for at least 40 years.
Is the widespread belief that 9/11 plunged us into one of the deadliest struggles of our time simply wrong?
We are definitely in a major struggle, against a foe that wants to dominate the entire world. And the number that will be killed before they stop will certainly make it the deadliest in our time. Whether it is now or not depends on your definition of "our time". Certainly we lost over 10 times as many people in Vietnam as in Iraq, yet they call Iraq another Vietnam.
If we did overreact, why did we do so? Does history provide any insight?
Only if you are able to understand the problem.
Certainly, if we look at nothing but our enemies' objectives, it is hard to see any indication of an overreaction. The people who attacked us in 2001 are indeed hate-filled fanatics who would like nothing better than to destroy this country.
And they would not have attacked if we had not withdrawn from Lebanon after the Marine Barracks bombing, and if we had not pulled out of Somalia after Black Hawk Down.
But desire is not the same thing as capacity, and although Islamist extremists can certainly do huge amounts of harm around the world, it is quite different to suggest that they can threaten the existence of the United States.
They certainly threaten Western Europe right now.
Yet a great many Americans, particularly on the right, have failed to make this distinction. For them, the "Islamo-fascist" enemy has inherited not just Adolf Hitler's implacable hatreds but his capacity to destroy. The conservative author Norman Podhoretz has gone so far as to say that we are fighting World War IV (No. III being the Cold War).
And he is right.
But it is no disrespect to the victims of 9/11, or to the men and women of our armed forces, to say that, by the standards of past wars, the war against terrorism has so far inflicted a very small human cost on the United States.
Actually it is disrespect to both, and saying it is not does not remove the disrespect.
As an instance of mass murder, the attacks were unspeakable, but they still pale in comparison with any number of military assaults on civilian targets of the recent past, from Hiroshima on down.
So should we wait until the body count of Americans is higher?
Even if one counts our dead in Iraq and Afghanistan as casualties of the war against terrorism, which brings us to about 6,500, we should remember that roughly the same number of Americans die every two months in automobile accidents.
Why don't you point that out to the rabid left that wants us to pull out of Iraq before the job is done.

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