September 11, 2003

Two Years On

I figure it's better to post some highlights of what other people are saying on this 9/11 anniversary, than to presume that I have anything interesting or profound to say myself. So here goes:

First off, I was reminded of why I read Andrew Sullivan almost every day. Less than one hour after the first plane hit the World Trade Center two years ago, he posted this blog entry. It's worth rereading if only to appreciate the clarity of his thought so soon after the shock of the events that morning:

I have been unable to think of anything substantive to write today. It is almost as if the usual conventions of journalism and analysis should somehow remain mute in the face of such an event. How can one analyze what one hasn't even begun to absorb? Numbness is part of the intent of these demons, I suppose. So here are some tentative reflections. It feels - finally - as if a new era has begun. The strange interlude of 1989 - 2001, with its decadent post-Cold War extravaganzas from Lewinsky to Condit to the e-boom, is now suddenly washed away. We are reminded that history obviously hasn't ended; that freedom is never secure; that previous generations aren't the only ones to be called to defend the rare way of life that this country and a handful of others have achieved for a small fraction of world history. The boom is done with. Peace is over. The new war against the frenzied forces of what Nietzsche called ressentiment is just beginning. The one silver lining of this is that we may perhaps be shaken out of our self-indulgent preoccupations and be reminded of what really matters: our freedom, our security, our integrity as a democratic society. This means we must be vigilant not to let our civil liberties collapse under the understandable desire for action. To surrender to that temptation is part of what these killers want. And the other small sliver of consolation is that the constant American temptation to withdraw from the world, entertained these past few years by many, will perhaps now be stifled. We cannot withdraw; we cannot ignore. We live in a world where technology and hatred accelerate in ever-faster cycles, and in which isolation is not an option. Evil is still here. It begets evil. When you look at the delighted faces of Palestinians cheering in the streets, we have to realize that there are cultures on this planet of such depravity that understanding them is never fully possible. And empathy for them at such a moment is obscene. But we can observe and remember. There is always a tension between civilization and barbarism, and the barbarians are now here. The task in front of us to somehow stay civilized while not shrinking from the face of extinguishing - by sheer force if necessary - the forces that would eclipse us.

Then there's Mark Steyn on the sneering Left:

If 9/11 liberated the Bush administration to put into action its scheme to take over the world, then it also liberated the Western elites to embrace finally and wholeheartedly anti-Americanism as the New Unifying Theory of Everything. It didn’t have to be like that: the intellectual class could have sided with the women of Afghanistan or the political prisoners of Iraq. But the advantage of sour oppositionism is that whatever happens there’s always something to sneer at. If Osama pops up, see, he got away. If he doesn’t pop up, how do you know he didn’t get away? If he turns up dead, whoa, now you’ve made him a martyr, a thousand more will bloom in his dust.

From today's Best of the Web , James Taranto says it's not a popularity contest:

Perhaps the most fatuous post-Sept. 11 cliché is the notion that America (or "the Bush administration") has "squandered" the "goodwill" the world felt for America in the wake of the attacks. The idea seems to be that popularity is more important than national security. Probably without meaning to, John Hassell of the Newark Star-Ledger offers a parody of this argument:

In the immediate aftermath of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks nearly two years ago, America became a mailbox, receiving letters of condolence from all corners of the globe. Even Moammar Gadhafi and Mullah Mohammed Omar of the Taliban, no friends of the United States, sent their sympathies.

Today, after U.S.-led wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and the launching of an ambitious enterprise to reshape the politics of the Middle East, things are very different. Polls show a deepening resentment of U.S. power worldwide, even among traditional allies. America's mailbox is again full, this time with hate mail.

Does anyone really yearn for the approval of such reprobates as Moammar Gadhafi and Mullah Omar? Anyway, we would rather be alive and hated than dead and popular. If the rest of the world likes Americans only when we're dying, the rest of the world can go to hell.

James Lileks was one of the first people I wanted to read today, and he didn't disappoint. Here's an excerpt:

Two years ago today I was convinced that every presumption I had about the future was wrong. This war, I feared, would be horrible, total, and long.

Two years later I take a certain grim comfort in some people’s disinterest in the war; if you’d told me two years ago that people would be piling on the President and bitching about slow progress in Iraq, I would have known in a second that the nation hadn’t suffered another attack. When the precise location of Madonna’s tongue is big news, you can bet the hospitals aren’t full of smallpox victims.

Michele's "Voices" project at a small victory is an exercise in remembrance and reflection. Good stuff, including lots of 9/11 links, starting here.

And via Instapundit, here's a pretty good 9/11 memorial

Another impressive list of links and all manner of 9/11 material from Joe Katzman at Winds of Change.

Posted by dan at September 11, 2003 7:58 PM