A Day That Will Live in Infamy

Of course, I’m talking about December 7. Will 9/11 acquire a moniker like that? I don’t know; all I do know is that today is the 10th anniversary, and all the news sites are filled with remembrances. I could do that as well, but I’d like to, instead, ponder this question: what are the pluses and minuses since that day:

The Plus Side

Since 9/11, we’ve become aware we are vulnerable. That’s a good thing, in many ways, for it removes the complaicency that can be dangerous. How we address that vulnerability is the critical factor. More on that later.

We’ve become more appreciative of our first responders. They’ve gone from being “pigs” as they were in the 1970s, to being heroes. For many, this is deserved: Our firefighters, police, coast guard, and other civic personnel go out of the way, putting their lives at harm, to serve the public. They do deserve recognition. They also deserve better salaries and treatment, just like our teachers, but we can’t give them that. So we’ll just recognize them and say thank you.

We’ve learned to separate the troops from the battle. We can be appreciative of what our troops are doing for us even if we don’t agree with our leader’s objectives or priorities. This is a good thing. It is something we were unable to do in Vietnam, and a whole generations of veterans went unappreciated as a result of it.

The Minus Side

We’ve addressed the realization of our vulunerability with theatre and posturing, instead of actual protection. Oh, the theatre gives us some protection. But we still think that taking off shoes, frisking babies and grandmothers, and using technology will make us safe. We still haven’t learned we can’t depend only on the technology. To be successful we need to depend on the four “E”s: engineering, education, enforcement, and emergency services. Education is the approach done in Israel: watching people and looking at behaviors. Enforcement is having some rules, and being consistent on them. We aren’t now: we screen passengers, but not other traffic. We only screen some forms of transportation. Emergency services is recognizing that the determined will get through, and we need to be able to keep operating—and keep people alive—through whatever is thrown at us.

We’ve become more racially and religiously intolerant as a result of the attacks. In particular, look at the treatment of muslims or anyone suspected of being a muslim (cough Barack cough Obama) today. It’s abhorrent. We’ve lost the ability to separate the religious fanatics from the religious mainstream. Just as Christian fanatics don’t represent all Christians, the Muslim fanatics don’t represent the vast majority of muslims in the US. (ETA: In fact, here’s a nice piece about how the Muslim’s have actually protected us. H/T to mortuus for the link.)

We’ve become more divided. It was bad in the Clinton presidency, became worse in the Bush presidency, and has gotten ridiculous. Compromise is now seen as giving in to the enemy. This is the wrong attitude.

We’ve lost the notion of what war is. In the past, wars had a distinct goal: gain territory, or liberate territory from a maniacal government. But for our latest war, we lost sight of those simple objectives. Instead we fight a battle with no clear end point, and thus it goes on and on. We didn’t learn from Vietnam in this respect. Our initial motives were right (get the people who attacked us)… but we never clearly defined what that meant and when the war would be over. We don’t need a 100 years war.

Now Its Your Turn

These are just my quick thoughts. I’m curious about yours. Where do you think we’ve done the right things since 9/11? Where have we gone wrong (and thus, where do we need to improve)?