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The Big One-Off
By Ed Driscoll · September 11, 2006 02:36 PM · Bobos In Paradise · War And Anti-War

James Taranto, writing from "Ground One", the Dow-Jones building that neighbors the remains of the World Trade Center notes that our success in the War On Terror is what, seemingly paradoxically, emboldens its critics:

It was often said at the time that 9/11 changed everything. That turns out to have been an exaggeration. One thing it did not change is elite liberal opinion--as represented by the press, academia and the Democratic Party--which has fallen back on the adversarial attitudes it developed in the late Cold War era, which is to say the era of Vietnam, Watergate and their aftermath.

Partly, we suppose, this is a matter of intellectual laziness. But partly it is because of an illusory similarity between the Cold War and the war on terror. If you assume 9/11 was a one-off, then the terrorist threat is a distant, abstract one, easy to move to the back of your mind while arguing about such trivia as the infringement of terrorists' civil liberties.

Thus Los Angeles Times TV critic Samantha Bonar can sneer, in reviewing ABC's flawed Miniseries "The Path to 9/11," that "according to 'The Path,' the Clinton administration was too concerned with such trifles as respecting international laws and treaties, protecting civil liberties, following diplomatic protocol, displaying cultural sensitivity and pursuing larger goals (like Mideast peace) to bring down the bad guys." Which is an entirely accurate description of the Clinton administration, even if the picture takes liberties with the facts.

The italicized clause in the paragraph before the preceding one [bolded in this excerpt--Ed] is what the experts call "a big if." Our enemies, of course, did not intend 9/11 to be a one-off; if it is, it is only because the government--that is to say, the Bush administration--has thus far succeeded in preventing another attack on U.S. soil. Liberals' blasť approach to the terror threat will be wholly unsustainable in the event of another attack. Thus, paradoxically, opposition to the antiterror effort remains alive only because of that effort's success.

In his segment of a National Review Online symposium on 9/11, James Lileks writes:
If 9/11 had been followed by 10/17, 11/02, 12/24, the Smallpox Epidemic of í02, the EMP blackouts of í03, and so much promiscuous anthrax distribution that mailmen tottered around in Hazmat suits on the hottest day of July, America would look quite different. But the other shoe didnít drop ó or rather, Richard Reid was KOíd before he could light it ó and consequently we donít look at the paper for news about the latest attack. We look at the ads in the paper for news about plasma-TV sales.
That sort of world would render 9/10-style statements such as this even more superfluous than they actually are today.

Update: Bryan at Hot Air writes:

Five years on, the most striking change I see having taken place is the stridence and apparent insanity of war critics. We were attacked on by a brutal enemy on 9-11, a fact they either dismiss or refuse to acknowledge and understand. The actual changes to civil liberties have been marginal and donít compare to what Lincoln or FDR did to civil liberties in the course of war. But in this war a coalition of Stalinists, mainstream lefties, some on the right, jihadis, moderate Muslims, cranks and kooks has blown its irrational fears of our own leadership out of all proportion and made 9-11 denial acceptable. They have made it more acceptable to hate Bush and Cheney than bin Laden and Zawahiri. On Fox News, Alan Colmes can say that he is agnostic about what happened on 9-11 and be back the next day to criticize Bush, as though what he had said he night before didnít qualify him for the looney bin.

Five years on, a psychosis has gripped millions who canít and wonít fathom the true nature of the war we are in. For many of them, having been born and raised in an essentially post-Christian West, they canít imagine that anyone might be motivated to kill and die because of something a warlord wrote down centuries ago. They cannot imagine any religion other than the one they believe they have outgrown being violent or causing violence. They cannot imagine anyone fighting for a cause that offers no material gains and therefore cannot be negotiated away. In our essentially materialist West, millions lack the imagination to believe that bin Ladenís pining for the return of Andalusia to Muslim rule is in his mind a legitimate reason to wage war on America now. They can imagine their own countrymen being so motivated, though, and I think thatís key to understanding their state of mind. They can imagine the Rotary Club member down the street plotting mayhem because he goes to church and votes Republican, but they canít imagine that the Muslim in Karachi is a real, live enemy who is actually plotting an attack.

Fortunately, they can escape into "the most serious crisis ever confronting human civilisation", as the ultimate 9/10 man recently boasted.

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