This week, Americans observed the 12th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. We noted it in speeches, moments of silence, news stories and on social media. With the observation comes the refrain to “never forget” and “learn the lessons” of 9/11. Some claim we haven’t learned those lessons. I disagree, with one notable exception.
Lesson No. 1. Americans are tired of policing the world. A CNN-ORC poll shows that a majority of Americans oppose striking Syria and 72 percent don’t believe it will be successful. Most don’t believe it is in our national interest. There are 189 countries that have signed or acceded to the 1997 Chemical Weapons Convention. Why is it up to the U.S. to deal with Syria? When are those other countries going to start walking the beat?
Lesson No. 2. We may be doing more harm than good. Read Mark Mazetti’s “The Way of the Knife” or Jeremy Scahill’s “Dirty Wars” and you’ll see that the United States is at war all over the globe. We’re not only using drone strikes, but we’re sending special operations forces such as Navy SEALs and Delta Force on nightly kill missions in multiple countries. They’re often making costly mistakes.
While Americans understand disrupting terror cells in their countries, they worry that debacles like the Iraq war, the endless Afghanistan occupations and drone strikes are making more enemies than we’re killing.
Lesson No. 3. With friends like these . . . One of the lessons of 9/11 that the public seems to grasp is that other countries don’t like it when the U.S. backs dictators. No. 2, even when we eventually oppose those dictators, it doesn’t mean that a new regime is going to embrace the U.S. No matter what Sen. John McCain believes, most of us don’t see Thomas Jefferson and George Washington when we look at those Syrian rebels.
We fear that those same folks eager to take our money and arms and American airstrikes now will be plotting jihad against us tomorrow. As awful as the videos from Syria are of the use of chemical agents, we’d rather it be Damascus than on the newly opened Bay Bridge.
Lesson No. 4. Another lesson Americans seemed to have learned is that yes, they’re prepared to give up some freedom for security. Take that, Benjamin Franklin! We live in a world of computer hackers who can take down the power grid and disrupt air traffic control and banking, chemical weapons, biological agents and nuclear devices.
Pre-9/11, the National Security Agency spying scandal would’ve rocked the government and heads would’ve rolled. Right or wrong, polls show that while the public may not like the spying, they understand it in terms of security. We reason that if the government wants to monitor our Pinterest posts, George Takei-shared Facebook postings or calls to secret lovers in order to hunt for a crazed jihadist, have at it.
Lesson No. 5. Though we may be at each other’s throats politically and on social issues, I think most Americans believe charity begins at home. With New Orleans rebuilding, Detroit rotting, the soft housing and jobs markets and the sequester squeezing us, we have enough domestic problems to spend our money and focus our attention on.
Those are the lessons I’ve learned and I think a majority of the public has learned in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks. Now, when will our leadership learn? Peace.
Kelvin Wade is the author of “Morsels” Vols. I and II and lives in Fairfield. Email him at email@example.com.