Saturday, May 19, 2007

Actions and Consequences

I already posted about the latest GOP debate in a more general sense on Wednesday, but I wanted to follow up on one specific part. A lot of buzz was created when Rudy '9/11' Guiliani went after libertarian Rep. Ron Paul in a fit of righteous anger when Paul suggested that the origins of 9/11 are in part due to U.S. foreign policy decisions involving the Middle East. With help from his Fox News hosts, Guiliani has made great hay from this moment.

Moderator 'rpeate' at Livejournal Democrats asked people their opinions on this debate-- and asked how much does 9/11 "entitle" us to-- and here was my response.

I wouldn't say that 9/11 was the logical consequence of our foreign policy choices (because mass murder/war never seems logical to me), but it was a consequence nonetheless. We can quibble over the degree to which it was, but it's nonsense to say that our foreign policy wasn't a key factor in why al Qaeda targeted us. They don't "hate us for our freedoms" (as Guiliani well knows, but he's playing a role now for the base)... if it was freedoms they hated, they'd be blowing up Amsterdam. Look at the other countries attacked since 9/11-- Spain, England-- both were key supporters of the invasion of Iraq. Our actions have consequences. That doesn't mean, per se, that we/they 'deserve' to be attacked, but just the logical acknowledgement that actions have consequences.

As for this question: "how much does 9/11 entitle us to do?"

The answer is nowhere near what we have done in its name over the past 5+ years. And that's not just on the foreign front, either, but also the numerous domestic abuses of power justified by the events of that one day.

We have wrapped ourselves in 9/11 in a psychologically unhealthy manner and we believe it entitles us to act unilaterally in whatever manner we choose. We are accountable to no one. A New York magazine article last September wrote that-
The memory of 9/11 continues to stoke a weepy sense of American victimhood, and victimhood, as used by both left and right, is a powerful political force. As the dog whisperer can tell you, strength and woundedness together are a dangerous combination. Now, 9/11 has allowed American victim politics to be writ larger than ever, across the globe. When someone from Tulsa, for example, says, “It’s important to remember 9/11 every day,” what he means is, “We were attacked, we are the aggrieved victims, we are justified.” But if we were victims then, we are less so now. This distorted sense of American weakness is weirdly mirrored in the woundedness and shame that motivate our adversaries. In our current tragicomedy of Daddy-knows-best, it’s a national neurosis, a perpetual childhood. (With its 9/11 truth-conspiracy theories, the far left has its own infantile daddy complex, except in that version, the daddies are the source of all evil.) No doubt, there are real enemies, Islamist and otherwise, more than ever (although the cure—the Iraq war—has inarguably made the disease worse). But the spectacular scope of 9/11, its psychic power, continues to distort America’s relationships. It will take years for the country to again understand its place in the world.

I think that sums it up well. How long will it take? That remains to be same.


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