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Monday, February 16, 2004

Presidents Day thoughts re 9/11's impact on domestic matters

Brendan Miniter, writing today in the Wall Street Journal Online, clearly still gets it about how 9/11 continues to affect our country on matters of foreign policy:

Fighting terrorism ... is increasingly dividing this country — and not always along party lines. There are two distinctive camps developing. One comprised of Americans who don't think the war is something that should touch their everyday lives. And another that sees combating terrorism as a fundamental struggle not just between good and evil but also over the soul of this nation — a struggle over who we are, as a people, and what we will tolerate on the world stage.

He goes on to argue about how 9/11 has affected domestic policy:

America is now at a crossroads. In one direction is complacency, a return of the mindset the nation was in before 9/11. It is here that staying within the consensus of "world opinion" is valued above acting on moral principles. It is here that, we are told, the ethos of the "everything goes" culture must not change. Schools and other civic institutions need more money, but shouldn't come in for fundamental reform.

In the other direction lies a wholly different mindset. Here Sept. 11 is still seen as a turning point not only for foreign policy, but culturally as well. That day marked the coming of an era where America is again confident enough in her ideas of individual liberty to not only encourage their spread abroad (sometimes through forcibly removing dictators) but also to teach them in her schools at home.

He sees John Kerry on the wrong side of both the foreign and domestic policy divides:

This election year it's clear where John Kerry, for one, stands. He promises to take his hat in hand and walk back to the United Nations. Under his leadership, national security will again be treated as a law enforcement matter and schools will likely be left to be run by the teacher unions. The question remains, will America choose his complacency over Mr. Bush's vision?

I'm no fan of John Kerry, certainly. And I'm not sure that I disagree with Miniter about 9/11's significance for domestic policy issues. I certainly agree, for one thing, that teaching "civics, raising education standards and shoring up other religious and civic institutions is perhaps the best way to address [the] domestic problem" of ctizens "who do not have a sense of the goodness of their nation or even of their own history."

But neither am I yet convinced that 9/11 ought to become a rallying cry for domestic policy issues that aren't closely related to national security issues. "Civilization versus barbarism" is, I think, still a distinct issue — albeit a preconditional one — from "how we make ourselves better as a society."

For those who still "get it" — which unfortunately excludes some who once "got it," but have allowed themselves to be lulled back to sleepy dreams of invulnerability since then — 9/11 was an abrupt, ugly awakening to reality about where our civilization stands vis-á-vis the forces that are trying to pull down that civilization. But too many have forgotten, or are forgetting, the clouds of dust and smoke filling spaces that once held two towers — too many have already blocked out, or are busy blocking out, the falling bodies, the pieces of corpses of innocents, the raw wound in our national psyche. For them, 9/11's powerful shock is already fading. Those are the people who already are finding hypnotic comfort in Kerry's view of the fight against terrorism as largely a "law enforcement" matter; those are the people who'd feel safer demonizing Donald Rumsfeld, John Ashcroft, Halliburton, and yes, George W. Bush than Osama bin Laden.

Trying to use memories of 9/11 to leverage a broad domestic agenda, as well as a foreign policy one, won't work with those people. And I worry that the attempt to do so would further dilute the remaining power of 9/11's far clearer meaning as it pertains to the War on Terrorism. Confusion begets sleepiness and inattention to what is, still, a threat to our existence. Dubya frankly needs the votes this November of those who remember — or can be reminded of — that threat's overriding significance, even if they cannot be persuaded to his domestic policies. Miniter, I fear, is trying to go a bridge too far here.

Posted by Beldar at 11:46 PM in Current Affairs, Politics (2006 & earlier) | Permalink


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(1) Zarate made the following comment | Feb 17, 2004 10:20:45 AM | Permalink

I agree. Regardless of your views on 9/11 and the ensuing war on terrorism, it's important that Americans parse the issues individually. If America reelects George W. Bush after considering all of his policies, then I can accept that. But I'm afraid that there are too many people like Mr. Miniter, who let one emotional issue seep into all the rest.

(2) Taint made the following comment | Feb 19, 2004 7:39:45 PM | Permalink

I agree. Instead of debating gay marriage, Mr. Kerry and MR. Bush should make it clear they will campaign to eliminate most of the bill of rights. From your comments, it would seem that there no place for the constitution after 9/11, and that we need to NEVER question the president, and the president should NEVER allow himself to be questioned. Lawyers should swear to never challenge the constitutionality of anything, because after all, we are in a war against terror.

I hope you make your views on the infaliability of the executive clear to your clients.

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