Thursday, September 11, 2008

When the fire was lit - TNR on 9/11

I'm glad to see that The New Republic has dredged up some of its old pieces conveying "the immediate reaction" to the September 11 attacks.

Here are two articles that I still remember making an impression on me:

1. Fault Lines, by Peter Beinart (Oct. 1, 2001)


[P]erhaps the most pitiful thing about [Robert] Fisk and The Nation's efforts to rationalize bin Laden's hatred of the United States is that they don't even correspond to what bin Laden himself says. . . . In bin Laden's mind, America's greatest offense — by far — is its military presence in his home country of Saudi Arabia. . . . And that's a harder line for Western leftists to peddle. Because bin Laden isn't upset at the United States for bolstering Riyadh's oppressive policies — after all, the Saudi government's views on individual freedom and the status of women roughly mirror his own. Bin Laden is upset simply because non-Muslims live in the Holy Land around Mecca and Medina. His first priority is banishing Christians and Jews from Saudi Arabia. And his second priority is banishing Christians and Jews from every other Muslim country. As he told ABC News in 1998, "Allah ordered us in this religion to purify Muslim land of all non-believers, and especially the Arabian Peninsula." . . .

If Fisk and The Nation really want to argue that America brought the World Trade Center attack on itself, they shouldn't delude themselves. They are not defending the Palestinians' right to a state or the Iraqis' right to medicine. They are defending a Muslim's right not to live with a non-Muslim.

2. How to Fight, by Eliot Cohen (Sept. 24, 2001)

We will pay a price in convenience and even, perhaps, in the full scope of our personal liberties. We will spend more time waiting in line at airports, find access to government offices more difficult, and quite likely submit to more intrusive monitoring by police and counterintelligence than we have known since the early years of the cold war. We may come to understand, at least in our big cities, the experience of Israelis today or of Londoners several years ago, when IRA bombs meant not being able to go into a cinema without having one's belongings carefully searched. Welcome to the world of omnipresent video cameras, retinal scanners, and perhaps even national identity cards.
Cohen concludes this essay by quoting Winston Churchill's response to the attacks on Pearl Harbor:
Silly people—and there were many, not only in enemy countries—might discount the force of the United States. Some said they were soft, others that they would never be united. They would fool around at a distance. They would never come to grips. They would never stand blood-letting. Their democracy and system of recurrent elections would paralyze their war effort. They would be just a vague blur on the horizon to friend or foe. Now we should see the weakness of this numerous but remote, wealthy and talkative people. But I had studied the American Civil War, fought out to the last desperate inch. American blood flowed in my veins. I thought of a remark which Edward Grey had made to me more than thirty years before—that the United States is like "a gigantic boiler. Once the fire is lighted under it there is no limit to the power it can generate."
In the last sentence of the article, Cohen adds his own sentiment to Churchill's:
The fire has been lit.