Thursday, September 11, 2003

Lost opportunities
Morat over at Skeptical Notion has given excellent voice to my feelings about 9/11.
Despite the claims that "the world changed on 9/11" the sad, but undeniable, truth is that nothing really changed at all.

And not for lack of opportunity. The entire world was behind us, after 9/11. We had a chance, a single moment, where we could have made a difference. We could have risen up, proposed bold new ideas on dealing with international terrorism. We could have taken this goodwill, this worldwide focus, and used it to forge better alliances and pool world resources to deal with rogue nations and well-armed terrorist groups. We could have done something.

But we squandered that opportunity. Instead of leading the world in a fight against terrorism, we find ourselves virtually alone, ostracized from our allies, and fighting a useless guerilla war in Iraq. Instead of defeating terrorists, we empowered them. Instead of bringing the world closer, we drove rifts between old allies.

At the time, I tried to give Bush the benefit of the doubt. A young Republican co-worker sobbed out her extreme gratitude that Gore wasn't president, that Bush was the only one who could save us in this moment of crisis. I thought (but didn't say) that was a pretty silly sentiment. What did she expect Gore to do--surrender to the unknown attackers? My feeling was that it would be hard to screw up such a moment. Most presidents or presidential candidates would have risen to the occasion. All he had to do was address the nation, assure us that we would not be cowed, that we would promise swift aid to the afflicted and swift vengeance on the assailants, then get out of the way and let the professionals take over. I had a few quibbles over his exact execution of the script--he was incommunicado too long, his cowboy talk grated, and his insistence that this was a military problem and not a law enforcement problem seemed unfounded--but I tried to give him some credit and shelve my partisan instincts.

Now I know how someone could blow such a moment of unity. What should have been an opportunity for statesmanship and breaking out of the old patterns was, for them, just another partisan advantage to be exploited.

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