This week the country paid its respects to the more than 3,000 victims of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Together with their loved ones, we mourned their loss on that tragic day which befell our nation five years ago.
The slogan, “Remember 9/11,” has been gaining momentum during the course of the week – but why stop there? A more appropriate rallying cry would be: “Remember 9/11 and beyond.” It is not enough to remember 9/11 without thereby reflecting on the “war on terror” at large.
In retrospect, Sept. 11, 2001, was a catalyst for more violence, antagonisms and needless deaths. On this fifth anniversary of the terrorist attacks, I wish to reflect on some of the lessons that 9/11 and its aftermath have passed down to us. These are lessons that many Americans understand to be irrefutable.
However, the same cannot be said about our policymakers in Washington. In fact, part of the reason we currently find ourselves in the predicament we are in is because various policymakers either deny or refuse to recognize the saliency of the following observations.
The U.S. mainland is vulnerable to attacks. The initial shock of 9/11 was the notion that an external force could attack the U.S. mainland. As a country that has greatly benefited from its geographical location in terms of avoiding worldwide military conflicts, 9/11 put any pretensions that the United States is somehow exempt from being inflicted with military onslaughts to rest.
It does not follow, however, that Americans should live in a constant state of paranoia. Moreover, politicians should not capitalize on citizens’ fears of attack in order to consolidate their power. Such was the case when, vying for the 2004 presidential election, Vice President Dick Cheney warned voters that if they did not vote for the Bush-Cheney ticket, the nation would surely be attacked again.
We should have maintained ourselves in Afghanistan. A month or so after 9/11, a U.S.-led global coalition of forces invaded Afghanistan with the purpose of uprooting the terrorist-supportive Taliban and extinguishing Al-Qaeda cells.
That is all fine and good, but, as The Nation magazine commented on the first anniversary of 9/11, “Rather than pursuing a limited military action in Afghanistan designed to strike a swift blow against the terrorist leadership responsible for the attacks and then joining in a sustained, worldwide policing action to dismantle the terrorist infrastructure, the Bush Administration has exploited the tragedy as a license for an endless war against endless enemies.”
Unilateralism is at best a frivolous misadventure and at its worst, an expression of arrogance in power usage. Today, we are paying the consequences for our unilateral engagement in Iraq in the form of lives, surging sentiments of anti-Americanism, and money. As Republican Sen. John McCain has publicly expressed with reference to Iraq, “It grieves me so much that we had not told the American people how tough and difficult this task would be.”
President Bush should not give in to Dick Cheney. In his book, “Imperial Hubris: Why the West is Losing the War on Terror,” the author, who has remained anonymous, makes an interesting link between the decision to go to war in Iraq and former President Lincoln.
In 1861 Lincoln’s Secretary of State, William Henry Seward, advised him to start a war with Britain and France in order to unite both the North and South against a common enemy. To this comment, Lincoln shrewdly responded, “Mr. Seward, one war at a time.”
Back in 2003, I wish President Bush had followed in the tradition of Lincoln and responded to Vice President Cheney, “Dick, please don’t shoot me in the face for saying this, but I really think we should take it one war at a time.”
Fighting might with might is futile. This is without a doubt the most painful lesson of all.
Luci Storelli-Castro is a junior political science and philosophy major. Her column appears every Thursday in the Collegian. Replies and feedback can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.