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Was 9/11 really that bad?


Protecting His Comrades
Photo by Sgt. Martin K. Newton January 26, 2007

Pfc. Pedro Rangel, 1st Cavalry Division, provides security with his M240B machine gun from a rooftop while fellow Soldiers build a new combat outpost in Ghazaliya, Iraq, Jan. 14.

That's the title of an OpEd in the LA Times by a Professor David Bell.

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.

It also raises several questions. Has the American reaction to the attacks in fact been a massive overreaction? Is the widespread belief that 9/11 plunged us into one of the deadliest struggles of our time simply wrong? If we did overreact, why did we do so? Does history provide any insight?

Probably. The problem is agreeing on what that insight is. As Professor Bell and I look at the same event, but reach different conclusions based on the biases (oddly enough, both historical) we bring to the table.

As ever - you should read the whole thing, not just my snippets.

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. 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.

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.

I've made that point before, too - if not for this purpose. It's the point of we're practicing an immense amount of restraint, vice the manner in which other wars - existential wars - have been conducted. And now Professor Bell almost gripes at us about it, in the sense that he uses it to hone his rhetorical scalpel.

So why has there been such an overreaction? Unfortunately, the commentators who detect one have generally explained it in a tired, predictably ideological way: calling the United States a uniquely paranoid aggressor that always overreacts to provocation.

In a recent book, for instance, political scientist John Mueller evaluated the threat that terrorists pose to the United States and convincingly concluded that it has been, to quote his title, "Overblown." But he undercut his own argument by adding that the United States has overreacted to every threat in its recent history, including even Pearl Harbor (rather than trying to defeat Japan, he argued, we should have tried containment!).

Give the man credit, he's not being screedy!

He then moves on to how our prosecution of this war is in fact... a unintended consequence of a huge flaw in Western Civilization - The Enlightenment. Bear with me - there is actually some fire with this smoke, especially when you look at the political paradigm adopted by the Republicans and Democrats.

The Enlightenment, however, popularized the notion that war was a barbaric relic of mankind's infancy, an anachronism that should soon vanish from the Earth. Human societies, wrote the influential thinkers of the time, followed a common path of historical evolution from savage beginnings toward ever-greater levels of peaceful civilization, politeness and commercial exchange.

Which leads to this....

The unexpected consequence of this change was that those who considered themselves "enlightened," but who still thought they needed to go to war, found it hard to justify war as anything other than an apocalyptic struggle for survival against an irredeemably evil enemy. In such struggles, of course, there could be no reason to practice restraint or to treat the enemy as an honorable opponent.
Ever since, the enlightened dream of perpetual peace and the nightmare of modern total war have been bound closely to each other in the West. Precisely when the Enlightenment hopes glowed most brightly, wars often took on an especially hideous character.

The Enlightenment was followed by the French Revolution and the Napoleonic wars, which touched every European state, sparked vicious guerrilla conflicts across the Continent and killed millions (including, probably, a higher proportion of young Frenchmen than died from 1914 to 1918).

Now for the kicker:

Yet as the comparison with the Soviet experience should remind us, the war against terrorism has not yet been much of a war at all, let alone a war to end all wars. It is a messy, difficult, long-term struggle against exceptionally dangerous criminals who actually like nothing better than being put on the same level of historical importance as Hitler — can you imagine a better recruiting tool? To fight them effectively, we need coolness, resolve and stamina. But we also need to overcome long habit and remind ourselves that not every enemy is in fact a threat to our existence.

Okay, let's recap. Professor Bell says we're over-reacting, citing the rhetorical requirements of going to war in a democracy birthed from the Enlightenment. Okay. Then he cites the horrors of wars, as practiced by the West as a result of the world-view acquired as a result of the Enlightenment. He then goes to assert, with that slightly condescending tone used by much of the residents of the Ivory Tower when speaking to the unwashed, (yet Enlightened) that this isn't really much of a war, after all. And it almost sounds like that annoys him.

Snerk.

Well, it strikes me, that if he's annoyed about the Unintended Consequences of the Enlightenment, and how that has shaped the Western Way of War, he's missed an essential conclusion. In this war, we have fused the rhetorical requirements of Enlightenment thought with the rather more pragmatic restraint of pre-Enlightenment forms of conflict resolution. In other words - he should actually be pleased we are conducting this war with such restraint - though I don't really think that's what he's after. In other words - President Bush et cie have managed to break the link, and are perhaps avoiding the Great War paradigm, even as they couch their actions in the rhetoric of the Enlightenment. Enlightened Conflict, perhaps?

Flip side - a question I've asked before. Granting that Islamofascists don't necessarily have the capacity (an arguable point on the issue of economic impacts of a successful nuke/chem/bio attack on Wall Street for example, but I'll accept the point for argument's sake) to constitute an existential threat to the United States, neither did Adolf Hitler when he sent his Army in to re-occupy the Rhineland. If Daladier had acted as he was authorized to under international law - and kicked the German army out of the Rhineland, and Hitler had fallen from power - what would the verdict of history be? Don't assume it would be a sigh of relief. Because WWII would not have happened as it did (though there still would have been a war in the Pacific at least, and who knows what the Soviet Union might have done in the late 40's and 50's had WWII in Europe not occurred as it did) would not Daladier most likely be reviled for stepping on the legitimate aspirations of the Germans? Vice the man who saved Europe from a 7 year Urban Removal Project?

One of the great problems with history - what looks so neat and tidy after the historians have parsed it all out was never *nearly* that clear to the participants who had to make their decisions based on the incomplete information that they had at the moment. It is one of the conceits of historians that gripes me the most - the smug "but of course they should have done this" aspect that derives from perfect knowledge.

As I said - you should read the good Professor's whole piece, alone, without my interjections. I just find it interesting that he and I look at roughly the same data set - but interpret it differently.

Afoot with the Artillery Photo by Staff Sgt. Bennie Corbett January 26, 2007

A curious Iraqi child observes Sgt. Ilhoo Lhondohomoilhoo of the 2nd Battalion, 15th Field Artillery, 10th Mountain Division.

I admit - the good Sergeant's name tickles me.

For a view of Dr. Bell's Op-Ed (and the right-wing reaction to it) from the Left - go see The Mahablog. Read all the way through - there are points worth pondering there.


Afoot with the Artillery Photo by Staff Sgt. Bennie Corbett January 26, 2007

A curious Iraqi child observes Sgt. Ilhoo Lhondohomoilhoo of the 2nd Battalion, 15th Field Artillery, 10th Mountain Division.

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A Severe Case from Blue Crab Boulevard on January 29, 2007 8:27 AM

This op-ed from the Los Angeles Times astounds me. David Bell is a professor of history at Johns Hopkins University and a contributing editor for the New Republic magazine. And he appears to be trying to reframe 9/11 and the aftermath of that... Read More

You might want to take a look at this op-ed in the LA Times dispassionately comparing the attacks on 9/11 (and our reactions to them...

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Overreacting Americans from The Queen of All Evil on January 29, 2007 2:50 PM

David Bell writes an Op-Ed in the LA Times claiming that 9/11 wasn't that bad, historically speaking, that is.

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David Bell says we've overreacted to 9/11. No, seriously. Those are his words. Why have we overreacted? He blames the Enlightenment. So, I guess David Hume and Descartes are really to blame, and not Osama bin Laden and Mohammed Atta?... Read More

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15 Comments

Professor Bell also misses the larger cultural issue here: Just how are we to resolve conflict with pre-Enlightenment, medieval, radical Islam? In his condescension, he's left out the other half of the problem here.
 
John, I fight a similar battle on a regular basis with many revisionist as well as "normal" historians. I do a lot of work for the NPS CW battlefields, and the one thing that always peeves me is how Dan Sickles was treated by post-war historians for his actions at Gettysburg. It fascinating to read all these armchair generals say how he "SHOULD HAVE KNOWN" this, or "SHOULD HAVE DONE THAT" and of course, hindsight is always 20/20. My solution was to take copies of his and Meade's correspondence, copies of notes and reccolections by officers and men present, some topo maps, and go down and walk the ground. Read the orders Sickles was given, keep in mind the actions he had seen at Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville, and then actually walk the ground where he was initially deployed. It'll open your eyes quite quickly and you'll understand completely why he did what he did. Any competant officer would have done the same. Anyway, good article. I agree with you, btw, and draw similar conclusions. Respects,
 
fdcol brings up a great point-the enemy we are fighting is pre-Enlightenment, at least in their worldview. Add to it the fact that they really are a death cult, not just criminals (though they are that, too), who view death in battle against us (or even death just blowing up a few of our women and kids) as the highest possible good. And the good Professor omits one other thing: we made the mistake once of not taking a megalomaniac, Hitler, at his word-you alluded to it when you spoke of the Rhineland. Tens of millions died, and tens of millions more conquered before we cleared up the problem. Anyone who read Mein Kampf and took it serious could have predicted what Hitler was going to do in time to stop him, but nobody did. Now we have a madmen who want to kill us, and establish the most repressive theocratic regime ever seen on this planet. We know they've been doing everything they can to get terrible weapons to do it with (though I think they gravely misjudge the consequences of using such weapons). Can we afford not to take them at their word?
 
Wow... You know that is a fine piece of writing by that fellow. Really, no kidding. Given where he went he did a nice even handed job. Good for having a real, honest debate about the things he covered... And I agree with some of what he said (a very small some, but some), in fact, by about 1300 on 9/11 I was in a serious argument with one of mycoworkers about exactly that. My point was that the bad guys hadn't really hurt us as much as everyone was screaming about--not really. not hurt the same way as Bell points out anyone else inany other war... However (and that's a big however), he did miss the point, as you said. And so had my friend... The size of the war doesn't matter, the size of the battle doesn't matter... Pearl Harbor did less real damage to than US than 9/11 in human terms (fewer people, almost all military), and THAT wasn't even the United States. What made 9/11 something to nuke another country over (and I would have been all for that on that day, regardless of how anyone else feels) was two things: 1) It was my damn country and those people were MY national family, and I don't give a rat's a$$ if that many people died a week on our highways, no person or country on this planet gets to take that many American lives intentionally, and get away with it. Ever. If other nations or peoples want to kill one another, or have wars among themselves, that's fine. They can have at it--kill each other all they want--but my ancestors came to this country to get away from all the sorry, murderous, evil people on this planet (and YES, a lot of them WERE european--don't even get me started on that), and those people damn well need to stay where they are and not bring their evil here, 'cause our ancestors may have 'run' away individually, but once they got here, they became part of a family that stands together against the world. Ronald Reagan said it best: "Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn't pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same." AND "You and I have a rendezvous with destiny. We will preserve for our children this, the last best hope of man on earth, or we will sentence them to take the first step into a thousand years of darkness." And 2) Primal though it may be, war is not going to end anytime soon, at least not in our lifetimes, which means our nation--a free nation--has one choice, and only one choice: to be ready for war and to make war as often and as violently as necessary to keep the wolves at bay, to show the evil people of the world that they can challenge us, but they ought to expect to die for doing so. I personally have no problem with some primal urges. And as far as I'm concerned the reason we're having problems in Iraq is that we have been far too PC, far too concerned about hurting people's feelings. We should have taken care of Sadr a year ago or more, for example. We are always too nice to start, and it always costs us in the end. That's what the liberal dirtball whitehouse-burning Democrats just don't seem to get! Again, to Reagan. "Our forbearance should never be misunderstood. Our reluctance for conflict should not be misjudged as a failure of will. When action is required to preserve our national security, we will act." As is absolutely right! Bell's piece is good for the debate, but not something anyone should give more than coffee house consideration to.... 'Nuff said. [you know, I sure do miss hearing Reagan--a lot. And I sure wish he were running things now. It's almost like you just know he could make it all right]
 
Basically, he's saying because they didn't succeed in their over all aims, we should have been more forebearing. I say "didn't succeed" and "over all aims" because no one can look at the intended targets and imagine that the original attack did not aim to actually do exactly what all other conventional wars intend to do: destroy the government and defeat the country. I am still amazed that so few folks get the whole picture or understand exactly how damaging the attacks would have been had Flight 93 made it to DC or the plane attacking the Pentagon been able to penetrate further. Each target was designed to do exactly what all warfare intends to do: destroy the economic, military and governance capability of a state. Total success of any one of these three objectives would have brought this country to a stand still or total collapse for years to come. In retrospect, the Japanese attack was even less devestating, having only intended to destroy naval capabilities in the Pacific. This attack succeeded, but not completely as the carriers and several other ships were not damaged. It simply changed how we fought naval battles. It did not have the ability to change or destroy our government, though it could have resulted in deterioration of our economy. Yet, I don't hear anyone saying we should not have retaliated against the Japanese. But, in the long run, this is simply anti-war rhetoric wrapped up in some intellectual schlock. As for whether the enemy has the "capability" as it is understood to destroy this country (ie, no conventional army, no tanks, air force, navy and, to date, no inter-continental ballistic missiles) completely missed the entire point of the attacks. The use of our own air planes against soft targets was meant to show that they did not need those "capabilities" to defeat us. Not only is Bell's argument "intellectual schlock", it's also disengenuous to a degreee that it's almost criminal.
 
More absurd is the "logical" conclusion from Bell's vehicle accident scenario - that we should be able to tolerate 40,000 deaths per year from terrorist attacks before we can avoid "overreacting" and take adequate countermeasures.
 
Actually, Kat, they exceeded their goals. They had no reason to suppose the WTC would collapse, nor could they have expected the DC crashes to do much more than they did (though we don't know if the other was aimed at the White house or the Capitol--I'd bet on the latter--and doesn't that ever set me up for a conflict, eh? well not really, but you know....) Anyway, it's not that 9/11 did not achieve its aims, but that it achieved them too well. While it is reasonable to suppose Bin Laden was an idiot, I don't think that's true. He may be nuts, but he could not possibly have expected the US to react as it did or he would have been hiding a lot better when it happened... No, I think he meant to do us harm, build up some more cache by counting some more coup, and that we would be pissed, but not enough to invade Afghanistan. Of course, I think he underestimated our ability and willingness to start killing lots of people in return, but even so, I really don't think his intent was to provoke the U.S. into war. If it was, then he miscalculated about how much we could do and how fast, and how much support he was going to get from the rest of the craven of the world... he should have known... And yes, I could be wrong. He may have been hoping for Armageddon. If so, then he got that wrong too. And as for destroying the economic, military and governance capability of the US, he couldn't even begin to come close to doing it. Which is the point I was making to my friend that afternoon. If he'd nuked Washington, the US would move on and recover and fairly quickly... Americans are more than capable of reorganizing themselves for action as qickly as need be, and I have no doubt that even if every top level official in washington has been killed and every General, there still would have been someone in a chain of command to step up take charge. And people would have followed and cooperated. At least until the dust settled some... We are not two buildings, or 3, or 4, nor so small a number of people as 3,ooo. This country has 300 million people, and ... well, you know what I mean. Yes, we could have been hurt much worse than we were, but it would take a castastrophe of enormous magnitude--more than just one or two nukes, even--to stop this country dead in its tracks for more than a day or two. Remember, military people and government people spent almost 50 years thinking about how to survive an all out nuclear war. Not that it would have been worth it, but the thinking and the planning was there, and that didn't go away with the end of the cold war, as you know. And finally, re: intellectual schlock, I agree that his conclusions are wrong--really I do, but I appreciate it when someone just lays on the table a number of ideas and presents them, not as gospel but as thoughts and ideas. I didn't get that he was being a horse's ass, just not really thinking it all through properly... And as for that, look, I was able to spend more than 6 years in Germany and even come to like the poeple somewhat, in spite of the fact that some of them surely must have helped murder all of my old world relations 30+ years earlier. If I (and lots of other Jews) could work that out, it should be no surprise that reasonable people sometimes answer hard questions in ways that to us normal folks seem just $hithouse dumb. Z'at make sense?
 
Professor Bell can't tell the difference between random scrapes and scratches and a bullet to the head. He also fails to consider nightmare scenarios that are easily within the reach of Al Qaeda. If they got hold of some of Saddam's old stock of weaponized anthrax for example, they could kill hundreds of thousand of people armed with little more than a light plane, a knowledge of prevailing winds and an aerosol dispersal device. He compares the 3000 lost on 9/11 to the 50 million killed in WW2. The correct comparison is with the 420,000 Americans killed in WW2.
 
Yes and no... Look, I supported the war from the get go, do not have a PhD and I guarantee that I could have used the same philosophical context to justify the war and show why, in all reality, this is not an "over reaction", but a mild, limited action. Which, in several areas he almost makes the same point. That is why I called it "intellectual schlock" because his theory actually points out the opposite of "over reaction", yet he let his pre-disposition dictate the conclusion, no matter how many times he totters on the line of agreeing with the action. And, I disagree with the theory that bin Laden simply wanted to provoke us into this "over reaction". That's simply a convenient theory because the attack did not succeed to the extent that he may have expected. You know, one of the biggest issues I have with this theory is based on a video of bin Laden saying that he had not expected the towers to fall. I think that is BS because 1) they tried to blow it up by attacking the base of the building in 1993 with a giant truck bomb; 2) having learned his lesson, he attacked the towers with two giant planes. Maybe he didn't expect them to fall down, but he certainly expected them to be severely damaged, possibly burned to such an extent that it disrupted or destroyed the economic functions of those buildings. What I don't think he had thought out was the changes in technology since his original attempt as well since the plan was first implemented 5 years before. I mean by that to be the redundancy of the servers for these businesses as well as moving the servers offsite, which had just been accomplished/completed about a year before hand. Had that not occured, he didn't need to bring down the buildings to destroy the economic force of those two buildings. he only needed to damage or destroy the information. And I disagree that this would not have caused a serious and immediate impact. Had information on stocks and shares been irretrievable, it would have shut down trading on wall street indefinitely. Certainly, this could not "end" the industrial economic capabilities of the US, nor manufacturing, shipping, etc but it would have very likely caused an immediate and long term recession if not a depression. That was his purpose. He stated it quite clearly several years before that the "war machine" of the US was driven by our financial power houses. In regards to damaging the Pentagon, I don't think that these gentlemen knew how successful or not it would be. No, I don't think he could have totally destroyed our command structure. Yes, we have redundancy built in. That doesn't mean that his aim wasn't meant to directly disrupt the flow of command or weaken it and our ability to respond to any actions. Just because it would not destroy does not mean we should assign some non-specific strategic aim like "provoke us to war" without assigning the actual target a specific purpose. The Japanese had to know that their strategic act of attacking Pearl Harbor and destroying the Pacific Fleet would provoke us into attack. They simply hoped to have effectively disabled enough of our military power structure to allow them to accomplish their other strategic goals in the region before we regrouped. that is exactly how I see bin Laden and the 19 hi-jackers. Like you, I understand redundancy would have eventually allowed us to replace even congressional leaders. Unlike you, I don't imagine that the purpose was simply to provoke us into war, but that each target had a strategic value and that value, while obvious it would provoke us into war, was meant to destroy or delay as much capabilities, decision making and monetary flow as possible in order to achieve his goals. do I think they hoped to take out our government or attacked us because they want to "kill us" or take over the country tomorrow? No. Their first aim was to strike deep at home, disrupt and delay in order to put in effect the second phase of their "war" which I don't believe was an invasion of this country. However, I do believe the second phase was meant to take over Saudi Arabia and cut off direct oil flow. You know, these are all classic tactics of war. I don't see why people don't see that or can't believe that this fellow, having hands on study of tactics and strategy as a Mujihadeen in the Afghan/Russo war, would not select his targets with more in mind than "provoke us into war". yes, I am simultaneous saying that it was very good strategic concept executed in the face of a serious failure in intelligence as well as false assumptions. he literally said, on many occassions, he believed the US would not respond without going months to a build up. He has literally said that America was soft and could not or would not re-act if we had to worry about attacks at home. He has literally said that Vietnam shows we have no resolve (I'd love to see somebody replay that interview a few times to buck up the waffling public). I believe he did not know that the newest technology and actions to protect information would prevent the towers attack from succeeding (to the extent he expected it). I don't think he completely understood the nature of redundant government or military command (since many a mujihadeen band disbanded or were absorbed when the main charismatic leader was killed as well as the top heavy arabic militaries, as he would be familiar with, does not allow for redundancy). However, again, I don't think he had to "destroy", to the last brick or person, the entire set of targets to achieve the expected outcomes, which, I respectfully disagree was some simplistic "provoke us to war". I think that does not give the enemy enough credit, actually. *didn't clausewitz say to neither underestimate or overestimate your enemy; doing so may lead to immediate disaster - he's so profound, as if you couldn't figure that out without him. On the other hand, maybe that was Sun Tzu?
 
I think kat is onto something here. As we all know, the 9/11 attacks had been in the planning stages for years, well before the 2000 election. I think, based on his observations of previous administrations ... especially Clinton's .... and our anemic reactions to previous terrorist attacks, he had every reason to believe that we would not respond so aggressively to this one. I have no doubt that Leftists will claim that Gore would have responded just as strongly as Bush did after 9/11. However, I personally doubt that Gore would have responded as did Bush. I personally really doubt that a Gore administration ... or ANY Democrat administration .... would have responded to 9/11 by pursuing an offensive, forward-deployed, aggressive military posture combined with a "multi-faceted" campaign involving all other elements at our disposal. At most, President Gore would have responded with just what we saw after WTC 1, the Khobar Towers, the African embassy bombings, and the attack on the USS Cole: a "criminal investigation" headed by the Justice Dept and the FBI, and perhaps a few worthless cruise missile attacks on suspected training camps and al Qaeda leadership positions. We would never have seen a military invasion by ground troops in Afghanistan. If you doubt this, go back and re-read Victor Davis Hanson's articles on NRO during the run-up to our actions in Afghanistan, and refresh your memory of the leading Democrats' and other anti-war advocates opposition to any military action in Afghanistan. We were warned ad nauseum about the "brutal Afghan winter", the failure of the British and Soviet adventures there, and the nightmare of the impending humanitarian crises ... all of which never occurred. Bin Laden miscalculated. But he erred most in believing that Bush 43 would respond as he expected all US presidents to respond, based on his observations of previous American presidential administrations, including Carter, Reagan, Bush 41, and Clinton. His goal may have just been to gain TIME by crippling and delaying our response just long enough to accomplish his next step .... perhaps other actions in Saudi Arabia and elsewhere to disrupt oil flow, or perhaps other actions in the Middle East to further inflame the Israeli-Palestinian crisis. However, Bush's aggressive and offensive posture led to a wider war against al Qaeda and the removal of his safe-haven in Afghanistan that he did not foresee. I for one thank God everyday that the US Senate failed to convict and remove Clinton from office. This would have probably ensured that an incumbent Gore would have prevailed in 2000, without any need for RECOUNT, RECOUNT, RECOUNT or any US Supreme Court decisions.
 
People die in war. Millions have but why single out war. 6 million Jews died in the holocaust not in battle but by genocide. Millions died in Stalin's purges. Millions of Ukraninans starved when the soviets started the collectives. Millions died in China during the cultural revolution. Millions of Cambodians died in Pol Pot's "re-education" camps. How many Irish starved in the potato famine? Million's of Armenian were starved by the Turks Sure, millions have died in the clash of arms but millions have also died by the stupid or ruthless exersize of political power.
 
An article about 9/11 failing to mentioning Islamic fanaticism is just as empty as talking about 9/11 without ever mentioning America.
 
Kat, First, we do not disagree on substance, just debate points, ok... Second, Bin Laden's attacks on those towers was like a little boy walking up and kicking a grown man in the shin, maybe like flicking his ear real hard. I was not talking about redundancy (though I am certain he had a clue, or if not him then one of his very smart advisors did), I was talking about the simple fact that he could have killed all 50K people in that building, and destroyed everything in it 10 or 15 YEARS ago, and it still would not have been the kind of calamity that would bring the US to its knees. He could have leveled the Pentagon and it would not have brought the US to its knees, he could have put a nuke on the Washington monument and just the same. I was not arguing about the extent of the damage, or the strageties of war, I was talking about something a bit more vital and important... Consider: The Russians never figured they could do us in or they would have.... They never figured they could take over western Europe or they woud have tried. China's jsut the same... They tried to take over Korea but they ended up getting the snot kicked out of them then (once we got down to buisness) and if you think they would wait one day to take Taiwan if they thought they could do it, you don't understand the situation. The fact is that the US is not the reigning superpower because it says it is. It just is. The stats are incredible, there is NOT another country that can match us anywhere, nor any combination of countries that might want to, including those in western Europe.... And I am not just talking about arms. For example did you know that compared to other countries, the US still imports a great deal less than it uses. We are not nearly as dependant on the rest of the world as they are on each other or on us. You wouldn't think so, but it's true. See you are talking about bin laden as if he were a real army, with all the resources of someone like France or the UK or... well, there aren't many more. Certainly not any other Euro countries or Asian countries that can do force projection (though India is looking to move that way in teh future, I think), etc... Yes, Bin Laden could do great harm with anthrax or nukes or small pox, but the sheer size of this country, and the power of it, is truly beyond his ability to harm in any real serious way. It was true in 2001, and it's doubly true now. And then there's this sad but true fact: Americans may have forgotten how to deal with thousands of dead at one time, but we can do it. It's been done here before lots of times (these are US killed or missing, not wounded): Battle of Antietam 1862, +/- 4,808, 1 day Battle of Gettysburg 1863, +/- 7000, 3 days Battle of Chickamauga 1863, +/- 3,970 2 days In fact, in the Civil War alone about 620,000 Military (both sides) and 50,000 Civilians died because of the war. Which comes out to about 170,000 killed a year for 4 years. The number of wounded was orders of magnitude more. AND the country was about half the size, and the total population of the country in 1860 was only about 31,443,321, which means that the percentatge of the population killed in 4 years was right around 2%. In todays terms 2% of the population would be around 6,020,000! Can you imagine!? And later, WWI, Meuse-Argonne (26 Sep-11 Nov 1918): 26,277 WWII, Pearl Harbor, 1941: 2,403 WWII, Normandy (6 June-19 Aug. 1944): 9,386 WWII, Okinawa (1 Apr-21 Jun 1945): 12,520 WWII, Tarawa (21-24 Nov. 1943): 1,000 [note: of the 5,000 Japanese, all but 17 were killed] (jeez, the magnitude of this is really hard to take when you think about it...) And not in war? Among many others: 1900 Galveston Hurricane: 8,000-12,000 1901 Heat Wave: 9,508 1906 SF Fire & Earthquake: >3,000 1980 Heat Wave: 10,000-15,000 1988 Drought/Heat Wave: 5,000-10,000 So what's my point? Not at all that we overreacted to 9/11--we didn't, but that was kind of the point of my first msg, which was that there were other reasons for acting the way we did, and should ahve done, but even so, it wasn't the worst thing that's ever happened to the US, and in fact, ranks kind of low on the real damage scale... As for the rest, well, I too don't think Bin Laden was trying to provoke us into over reacting, but discussions about real, measurable effects of things are always interesting to me... Anyway, that's just my 4 cents for today... I realize it meandered some, but I'm kind of scatterbrained today.
 
You're right John, there were points to ponder at the Mahablog. First and most important point: can this country protect itself while lumbered by the Fifth Column it exemplifies?
 
I was banned at Maha's for being a "troll" if you can believe it. I think I may have hit a nerve.