We are now getting close to the 10th anniversary of the al-Qaida attacks of 9/11. Although a decade is an insufficient period for most historians to comfortably draw firm conclusions about anything, it is possible to look at our world today and see how it appears to have been affected by that disastrous event and the ensuing decade.
It is critical to remember that terrorism is not designed to overwhelm. It is designed to undermine. In that context, whatever it does to cause or initiate anxiety in targeted populations and governments, it relies on the reaction of those populations and governments equally as much to achieve its final goals. And America has reacted in ways that have haunted us and will continue to haunt us for decades. Al-Qaida could not have wished for more.
Domestically, we have seen major changes in our lives. Think of our color-coded terrorist warning system, our current airport controls, our paranoia over anyone who “looks like a Muslim” (whatever that is), or “acts differently.” What is that paper bag doing in the subway? Airport? Train station? Movie?
In the aftermath of 9/11, Americans were clearly prepared to and ultimately did surrender their civil liberties and individual rights in the hope that doing so would add to their own physical security. We forgot Benjamin Franklin’s injunction that “they who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.”
The Patriot Act, where it was designed ostensibly to increase our security here at home, did many other things that have negatively affected the way we lead our lives. It increased the government’s ability to spy on us, to monitor our activities in a very broad and general way. It introduced warrantless wiretapping and the monitoring of fund transfers and Internet communications. It also initiated the national security letter process that required any person or organization to turn over records and data pertaining to individuals without warrant, and all this without probable cause or judicial oversight.
The other major domestic impact of the decade has been financial. During that period, we have gone from what was verging on a national surplus to a deficit that is now approaching $15 trillion and increasing at the rate of $3.95 billion every day. We got there through a combination of factors, including tax cuts, the “War on Terror,” and unfunded military operations in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan and now Libya. Brown University’s comprehensive June 2011 “Costs of War” project, factoring in all the costs associated with the decade, arrives at close to $4 trillion. Tax cuts add $2.8 trillion. There seems virtually no doubt that in the absence of our reaction to 9/11, we would be fiscally relatively healthy.
In addition to the foregoing difficult domestic situation, which we largely created for ourselves in the aftermath of 9/11, the changes we have seen in our foreign policy will haunt us for years to come. In that arena, our move to military-based, unilateral policy was a radical change. Yet our invasion and defeat of Iraq and the ascendance to power of the Iranian-allied Iraqi Shiites will likely prove to be our most egregious blunder.
It’s not that Saddam Hussein’s Iraq was in any sense enlightened; it is very simply that Saddam’s Iraq was the only effective impediment to Iranian control over the Persian Gulf. From 1980-88, Iran and Iraq fought a war for supremacy in the gulf. In the absence of a clear resolution of that conflict, the fact that Iraq survived served as a critical deterrent to Iranian dreams for hegemony there.
Our invasion and defeat of Saddam’s Iraq was something the Iranians could never have accomplished on their own. With Shiites now assuming power under our new order in Iraq and Iran threatening the old Sunni positions in the Gulf States, Iran has come even closer. We have destroyed the last real impediment to Iranian dreams for the gulf.
We have had our chances to deal with 9/11 in ways that would have better favored our own national interests. Instead, we panicked, invoked questionable practices at home and became involved in military adventures abroad that will almost certainly ultimately be viewed as disasters.
Without the active, witless involvement and acquiescence of our government and Congress over the past decade, al-Qaida terrorism would have caused us far less pain than it ultimately has and we would be a great deal safer, richer, wiser and internationally more powerful and respected than is now the case.
Haviland Smithfor The Daily Reckoning
Haviland Smith is a retired CIA station chief who served in eastern and western Europe and the Middle East and as chief of the counterterrorism staff. He lives in Williston.
Very good analysis.
It’s simply amazing how completely retarded opinion pieces like this find their way into the public domain.
It would have been a useful article if had addressed the fact that 911 was a false flag event DESIGNED to eliminate the freedoms of ordinary americans. In that sense, Bush was right when he said “They hate our freedoms.”
“Haviland Smith is a retired CIA station chief”
I missed that earlier. No wonder he’s pushing the Al-Qaida line. Al-CIAda more like it.
For anybody out there who doubts it, just search for “building 7 collapse” on youtube and watch the collapse.
I doubt it.
For a rational explanation of why it collapsed sans Area 51 spaceships, CIA demolition teams, and Rosie O’Donnell’s engineering expertise:
Smug is not an argument.
Popular Mechanics? Hahaha!
Waddya doin’? Building a birdhouse?
And the nano-thermite came from where exactly? Oh, they forgot to mention that. Hahaha!
Thumbs up to the writer from me. It takes some courage to say these things.
While it’s probably likely that certain members of the government knew or suspected an attack was coming and allowed it to happen for their own selfish ends, I find it difficult to believe the “truther” narrative.
Imagine a government that is corrupt to the core, notoriously inefficient and lumbering, and manages a sort of reverse Midas touch: everything it touches turns to crap.
All except 9/11. They somehow knew Atta and his band of box cutter-wielding fanatics would hijack planes. Further, they knew what the targets were well in advance, and sent crews into the Trade Center and set explosive charges to go off – all without raising any suspicion from thousands of workers, night crews or security guards. Right.
And we’re supposed to believe that in the intervening 10 years, not one soul involved in this massive conspiracy would have a change of heart. Not one death bed confession. A perfectly planned and executed operation of stunning complexity carried out by…George W. Bush? Really?
“Panicked” is the correct word. A rush to wage war, a rush to curtail liberty, and a rush to print money.
Not a finest hour.
The nano-thermite came from the nano-aliens, silly. Specially delivered in odd-looking aircraft direct from Nellis AFB.
Mork told me so. Nano-nano.
(Or was it Rosie? I forget.)
Our reaction to 9/11 — actually, everything, 9/11-related or not — is our fault, or, more precisely, our responsibility. In a democracy, we elect the people who make policies and pass laws to effect them. If we disapprove of the way President Bush handled 9/11, we have no one to blame but ourselves, because we ourselves put him into the position where he had the job of handling 9/11. And then, after 9/11, after the PATRIOT Act, after the invasion of Iraq, we re-elected him. In a democracy, we get exactly the government we deserve.
Very good article. America indeed made poor choices after 9/11, and that’s what made Al Qaida won this war. Only, most people just won’t admit it… as known as the sunk cost fallacy.
Terrorism is a nasty thing. It was designed to hit with minimum effort yet with maximum effect, and it is near impossible to stop. It is one of the grandest strategies ever devised, because it’s one against you can’t win. All you can do is try to lessen your losses.
If you’re scared, then terrorism wins. You’ll act in a hurry, taking bad decisions, unnecessary risks, you’ll fight a war you can’t win because you don’t even know who your enemy is.
If you do nothing, you won’t lose anything else. But it means you admit your defeat, and yield to terrorists’ requests.
It would have been unacceptable to just stand there and do nothing. But then, you can’t say these decisions were all good.
I take issue with the statement:
“There seems virtually no doubt that in the absence of our reaction to 9/11, we would be fiscally relatively healthy.”
The housing bubble would have collapsed regardless, as it had been building for ~20 years.
Otherwise, the Iran/Iraq analysis is quite interesting. Thanks for the post
9-11-2001 is the day the that American got knocked off its smug pedestal of holier-than-thou invulnerability and the panicked bed-wetters decided to give up our freedom in exchange for the illusion of greater security. It’s a national day of shame that we will not soon (if ever) recover from.
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For most investors, it’s weird to think of stocks as their go-to investing option.
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Investors don’t seem to care that what's propping up their investments is what will ultimately destroy them: government monetary policy.
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Why the Sage of Baltimore’s commentary persists through America’s changing times.
After attending Platt’s oil conference in London I want to relay two important themes you need to know.