Victor Davis Hanson: Post-9/11 Mysteries

NRO contributor Victor Davis Hanson is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, the editor of Makers of Ancient Strategy: From the Persian Wars to the Fall of Rome, and the author of The Father of Us All: War and History, Ancient and Modern.

Strangely, both the media and the public rarely mention some of the most important aftershocks in the decade since 9/11. Here are some representative examples of landmark events that to this day remain mostly undiscussed.

1. No more falling skyscrapers? Few imagined that the United States could go an entire decade without another major terrorist attack — other than freelancing jihadists’ killing members of the American armed forces. Almost monthly, U.S. authorities have thwarted serial attempts to cause mayhem on airliners, bridges, city squares, shopping malls, and high-rises. It was almost as if the more we caricatured the often silly security measures at the airport, blasted Guantanamo Bay, and ridiculed renditions, the more we assumed that our security, initially thought permanently imperiled (“not if, but when”), was once again our birthright. Someone somewhere did something that kept us safe, but we were strangely afraid to acknowledge that there was any utility in the very protocols and foreign operations that had weakened our enemies to the point of an inability to replicate 9/11. If immediately after the attacks in New York and Washington we accepted that the old security was no longer possible, soon thereafter we started assuming not only that it was natural, but that, in organic fashion, it had reappeared through spontaneous regeneration.

2. The greatest political turnabout of the age. If one had collated everything candidate Obama declaimed about the Bush administration’s anti-terrorism policies from autumn of 2007 to November 2008, then one would have expected a President Obama to dismantle the entire Bush-Cheney national-security apparatus upon entering office, to pull out of Iraq (he originally said this should be done by March 2008, no less), and to keep our military out of the Middle East. Instead, Obama retained Secretary of Defense Gates, stuck to the Bush-Petraeus withdrawal plan in Iraq, expanded Predator-drone attacks in Waziristan, surged into Afghanistan, bombed Libya, and embraced everything from Guantanamo to renditions. That about-face, I think, was the most radical political development of the last quarter-century, and was treated with near silence by the media. It was as if, Code Pink, and Michael Moore had simply vanished from the face of the earth sometime around January 2009. The notion today that a canonized Michael Moore would be invited to a lookout perch at the 2012 Democratic Convention or that would run another “General Betray Us” ad is surreal. A cynic would say that the anti–War on Terror movement did its job in helping to elect Barack Obama, and then moved on, so to speak, when Barack Obama likewise did his job in continuing his predecessor’s anti-terrorism policies....

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