Sunday, September 11, 2011

B-Daddy's 9/11 Perspective

I was in the U.S. Navy on September 11, 2001. For our armed forces, the day was truly a watershed event. We were continuing the changes that accrued to the end of the cold war. Base security had become very light, for example, in an effort to save money. At the time, we were still primarily focused on the continuing threat from Russia and the rising threat from China, as well as the possibility of regional conflict with Iran and North Korea. (LCR has a post that sheds light on the same issue.) 9/11 immediately changed that view. The initial efforts to establish greater base security were haphazard, and obviously inadequate. It took years of work and hundreds of millions of dollars to adequately put in place technology commensurate with the threat. Despite, those efforts our armed forces at Fort Hood in Texas suffered from the success an insider attack, for which we were unprepared.

But the military changed, and will ultimately rise to the full challenge of the changed environment, I have no doubt. I am far more concerned about the ways that we have allowed the war on terror to reduce our liberties. It is not a coincidence that the Obama administration carried on many of the same policies of the Bush years. Certainly the threat is real; but it is the predilection of government to establish greater control over we the people in the presence of a threat. This must be resisted; by legal means of course, but resisted none the less. Some of my concerns:
  • What is the legal basis for targeting U.S. citizens abroad for assassination? What check exists on Presidential power?
  • How can we ensure the the privacy rights of those making overseas phone calls? Surely we do not lose our rights just because the call went overseas.
  • Why has no action been taken to effectively oversee the FBI's prolific use of national security letters that are essentially a subpoena with little judicial oversight and have been abused?
  • Why does boarding an airplane amount to consent to being strip searched?
That's a short list, there are more.

In the meantime, we should also remember that al Qaeda is not an ideological threat to our nation, the way fascism and communism were. They sought to attack us in an effort to incite revolution in the Muslim world. That would be dangerous to us, but not in the same way that communism or fascism were; which found adherents in our own country. Defeating al Qaeda on its home turf appears to have been the correct strategy. But at some point the Arab and Persian masses who hate the West will have to abandon their fantasy that the world will conform to their vision. If their vision is achieved, it will impoverish their societies, because the West will no longer be shipping dollops of cash for the oil wealth of the region. Their autocratic, uneducated and illiterate societies would quickly collapse without Western wealth. One hopes that the "Arab Spring" is a movement towards a greater acknowledgement of the power of freedom, but that is yet to be proved.

Our interventions in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya have certainly changed the landscape in the region. Perhaps it is time to reduce our involvement and allow events to play out, given the huge uncertainties. We could certainly benefit from the reduction in spending. The
is now being played out, but we should remember that it was always a gamble.


  1. My 1st year in college I wrote a paper vilifying the patriot act. The single most terrifying part of the patriot act to me was the more liberal rules regarding national security letters. Of all the changes 9/11 imposed on our world, the freedoms it stole easily had the most profound impact.

  2. "Despite, those efforts our armed forces at Fort Hood in Texas suffered from the success an insider attack, for which we were unprepared."

    Were we unprepared or did we simply ignore obvious red flags?

  3. I agree with you on this one. Far too many people will sacrifice freedom for the illusion of safety. It has been a huge disappointment to see the Obama administration pretty much go along with everything done by the Bush admin. In fact when it comes to use of drones, the current admin has gone much further. There really doesn't seem to be any meaningful difference between the two administrations toward terrorism.

    Kt will argue that the Obama admin saw the same intel that Bush saw, and decided to keep the same course. I'd argue that if that is the case, why not make the argument to the public.