MORE thoughts on the meaning of the WTC bombing.
I've been reading the discussions on Plastic and MetaFilter and I'm really disappointed in how trivial most points of view are. People seem to break down into two groups: one group blames the US and its policies, and says that the US has killed innocent civilians, too. This group does not seem to have any plan to deal with the problem. The other group wants all-out retaliation, nuke Afghanistan NOW!
I don't find either point of view very helpful. And there doesn't seem to be much middle ground.
Politicians on CNN are talking war. They say we're in a war now. I think that's true, but it's a very different kind of war. There's no nation to attack. All the talk of nuking Afghanistan is silly. It would be wrong, it would kill even more innocents than the WTC attack did, it would turn the world against us, and no one is going to do it.
I think we're in another Cold War. The Cold War, too, was something new to the American experience. We had just won WWII, and suddenly we were plunged into an entirely new and different kind of struggle, that the lessons of WWII didn't prepare us for. We had to learn anew how to fight this kind of war. The weapons of the Cold War were military preparedness, intelligence and counterintelligence, propaganda, and the willingness to fight brushfire wars around the world for four decades. Ultimately, it worked. The west won, at least against the USSR. The fate of China is still uncertain.
We didn't always do it very well. Vietnam was clearly a mistake, a brushfire war that got out of hand. Afghanistan we won, but at the cost of succoring the very Muslim extremists who threaten us now, and heaven knows, we supported enough nasty right-wing despots in an effort suppress potential Moscow-leaning left-wing despots. Nevertheless, two generations, and multiple Republican and Democratic administrations persevered, and ultimately won.
But at least in the Cold War we were fighting other nations. This new war is more diffuse. We have to learn to fight again, in new ways. We have to re-think war.
We're smart. We can do this. We did it once, we can do it again. But, like JFK said of the Cold War, it will be a 'long, twilight struggle'. It won't be over in a year, or ten years, or twenty years. It may be over in 50 years. It won't be glorious or heroic except in retrospect. It won't be in the newspapers very much. It will sometimes be dirty.
More thoughts tomorrow.