Back in college, a wise professor told me that foreign policy debates in America are about the next election. This assertion, bluntly proven true over the past eleven years, rather dissuades me from having anything to say to mark the anniversary. All the old feelings return, the old anger, the old sadness, the old regret. I don’t want to write about it. 9/11 did not effect me personally, except insofar as it affected everyone American. I don’t want to slam the other side of the aisle for what I see as an irretrievable stupid approach to the problem of global terrorism. I’ve read all that before, and while I don’t disagree, it doesn’t seem quite as important as it did in 2003-2006. And also, none of it matters.
Guantanamo Bay is still open. I’m going to repeat that: GUANTANAMO. BAY. IS. STILL. OPEN. Despite everything Obama said, whatever paper he signed, the place is still running. We still keep men there in a legal limbo. None of which I have a problem with. But I’d like it noted for the record.
Also, we’re still in Afghanistan. I don’t know if we’re winning or losing, and neither do you. But we’re still there. Despite every screech about Bush being the warmonger of all warmongers, the Lightbringer still has troops in country. It’s as much his war now as it ever was Bush’s.
So while we send Seal Team Six everywhere from the Horn of Africa to the Himalayas, while unmanned drones drops screaming death on our suspected enemies without possibility of return fire, I have to ask. Is this what John Kerry would have done? Is this what Al Gore would have done? Is this the flexible response, the shadow war, that Democrats wanted all along?
Maybe. Maybe not. I kind of think they’ve lost interest. I suspect that they assume that someone on their team knows what he’s doing, as Republicans also do. And I suspect that the fury at Bush was kabuki to highlight political differences in an election year. Because we haven’t stopped killing people on the other side of the world, and I don’t see Code Pink or Cindy Sheehan much up in arms about it. Or if they are, they’re getting deliberately ignored by the legacy media, which amounts to the same thing.
None of which matters, because this is not over. In five, ten, twenty years, someone is going to find a way through our security systems and hit us again. And we’re going to go off to war again, in the same quixotic and heavy-handed manner. It’s what we do. And the same players will make the same arguments with some new rhetorical dressings and the same noise will sound. And we’ll win, and lose, and struggle again. And some new places will get democratic regimes, and some new locals will play us for the saps we are, and some new graves will be dug at Arlington. And then things will quiet down again.
Two thousand years ago, the Romans spent decades, countless lives, and cartloads of treasure pacifying the Jews. It was on-again, off-again. Legions were slaughtered and Temples destroyed. And every time the Romans thought they had made a desert and called it peace, the soil burst forth with the same old fight. Until it didn’t.
No one knows the future, on this of all days. But I’m pretty confident in the assertion that we have settled nothing in all our back-and-forth, and that our enemies, though chastened, are not crushed, and that the problem is still there. Draw your own conclusions.