Monday, September 05, 2005

"We Haven't Had A New Terror Attack Since 9/11"

An argument that seems to be uttered fairly frequently by those who want to come to some sort of "bottom line" is the above: "I am getting my money worth, we have not had another 9/11." But in fact the questions this argument begs are so many that the fact that the argument is raised is a testament to the ability of some Americans to find an excuse for apathy, however desperate.

After all, by this arbitrary measure, Clinton was a far better president than Bush: there were no 9/11s at all during Clinton's administration. But this is plainly not an argument that the right can stomach, nor is it a good one independent of the hypocrisy of those saying the above.

Whether Clinton or Bush were better on terror is not a debate I think is especially valuable to engage in. Their tactics were fairly much the same: Bomb the bastards... even if they're not actually the bastards (Sudan for Clinton, Iraq for Bush). Whatever difference was there doesn't seem to me to be worth harping about. In any respect, how long does it take a terror attack to develop? If the period was short, then Bush was responsible for the initial 9/11 incident, and yes, Bush may seem to be doing better now (though still worse than Clinton's presidency). But if the period is in fact rather long, then Clinton can be blamed, as the buildup for 9/11 would have occured during his presidency. Or maybe it went back to Reagan?

The fact is that terrorists do not tend to attack on your schedule, or with any regularity. Irregularity is actually better, for it makes individuals believe that any day an attack could come.

Also consider that the US is not the only target that al Qaeda has. If a list of targets would include any member of the coalition that bombed Iraq, by random chance the US would only be hit once every 30 times or so. Take into account the Madrid and London bombings (putting aside the 9/11-esque questions that conspiracy theorists ask) and Bush has presided over quite a bit of terror internationally.

In fact, to say that "Another 9/11 hasn't happened so Bush must be doing his job" makes one wonder: Just how many times have 9/11s happened? Since the people yelling loudly about the horrible human tragedy that was September 11th (and, as an aside: notice that we have a date, 9/11, globally recognized as a horrible atrocity, yet equally infamous days - say, the date of the Tonkin Gulf Resolution - are only locally recognized, despite the infinitely higher human catastrophe; ah, the benefits of empire) say that it was the single instant death toll outside of warfare in history, it shouldn't surprise anyone that another 9/11 hasn't happened. Historically unprecedented actions wouldn't happen within one Presidential administration of one another so often even if said Presidency was a complete basketcase. Take a small probability and combine it with a small number of years and you don't get very useful information.

The above quote, "I am getting my money worth, we have not had another 9/11." regards the Iraq war. Here the blatant artifice of the argument should be readily apparent. If Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11 and the bombing indeed increased terror there, then what the hell justified the cost there?

So perhaps Bush's basic terror regulations like keeping scissors off planes or similar (many such regulations in fact long called for by the left), or some other subset of Bush policy, has been a tolerable enough policy to explain the lack of 9/11s. But that wouldn't imply every part of Bush's policy would be acceptable. Even if the merits of the good policies outweighed the debits of the bad, if the bad policies could be separated out why not do it? To be mathematical:

Bush's good policies - 10
Bush's bad - -7

3 may be more than 0, but it's not as big as 10. This becomes especially cogent analysis if anybody could have done the 10, which would be my contention.

How would one evaluate all these things? Fairly simply. Take an account of successful damage done to terrorist infrastructure. Compare it to cost in. Look at alternatives that could have cost less or had fewer mitigating demerits. See if long-term grievances likely to make terror are increasing or decreasing. See if global incidences of terror have reduced. Maybe add or subtract some questions or alter their importance, but these strike me as relevant ones to ask.

When analyses like these are taken, not silly ones like "Has there been another 9/11?", Bush's administration has been a total failure.

But, if you don't want to go through all the above reasoning, here's the one vital argument that can be offered exclusively by the Left. After all, Kerry-esque liberals can handle all the above. But the question that must be asked, that cuts to the core of the imperial hubris, is this: Are those 1500 American soldiers, 100,000 Iraqis, and untold Afghanis fair "trade" for about three thousand American lives? Especially since those above had nothing to do with 9/11 and thus had no business being forced to be involved by others, especially not being killed? (Conservative commentators: Please spare me the lecture on promoting democracy. I cover this in "Assume We Gave Them Their Freedom...", but in any respect, the above remains a cogent question, especially since regime change only became advocated re: Afghanistan and Iraq when the other pretenses were collapsing).

Even if Bush's actions have reduced, not increased, "their" terror, is it justified for it to have been done through "our" terror?


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