Saturday, November 03, 2007

9/11 Changed Everything

I've long been one to deny that 9/11 actually changed anything. Sure, the towers are gone, a lot of people died, but the fact is, terrorists have been attacking US targets for years. They'd already had successful operations against targets on foreign soil, and it wasn't even the first time someone attempted to blow up the World Trade Center. 9/11 did not change state of the world in a way that required a sudden upstep in US efforts to bring eternal peace via eternal war. However, I am starting to recognize that it did, truly, change the content of the public foreign policy debate.

Before, "9/11 changed everything" meant nothing more to me than "We win, you don't matter because people are too scared to listen to anyone that won't blow up anything that moves for their sake, so instead of actually attempting to refute your arguments, I'm just going to ignore you. Because of 9/11, it is safe for me to do so." I saw it this way because, for me, 9/11 really didn't change anything. I already knew there were Islamic extremists that wanted to blow up, and already had blown up, US targets. I also knew that much of their motivation was political in nature, the result of CIA operations that placed dictators, no better than Joseph Stalin himself in regard to the lives and rights of the people over whom they ruled, in a position of near total control. The Shah of Iran is a good example, but there is also the government of Egypt, the House of Saud, and many others. People in that part of the world have had to fear for their lives on a daily basis, and the perpetrator of those wrongs nearly universally have the label "Made in the USA" stamped on them. Islamicism is just the flavor of the movement to redress those grievances. It is the grievances themselves that lends the movements their power. For me, 9/11 changed nothing.

However, I am coming to realize just how in the dark most people were about the rest of the world. Most people never thought about it. Those that did, simply thought of them as problems "over there," and that between the moral rightness of our way of life, and the awesome power of the US Military, nobody could, or would, ever touch us. The Soviets had once been a threat, but we "beat" them, and now we could afford to just assume the rest of the world didn't exist.

9/11 changed that. Suddenly, the aura of invincibility has been shattered... and I really had no idea just how much most people depended upon that aura for their mental stability. I've never assumed this, but it seems there are those who do: being hated, being in mortal danger is the norm, and only the threat of overwhelming force keeps people from being constantly at one another's throats. For such people, 9/11 changed everything. To them, we cannot allow "them" (whoever "they" are) to get away with it, lest we invite more, and more, and more... and the armored shell which is necessary for every human being's survival be broken.

Honestly, it boggles my mind, how much people fear each other. I'm shy, but that's just because I fear rejection... not because I fear that if I step out of my bubble world I'm likely to be murdered by the first guy I see! But then, I remember the mutual fear between different areas of the city in which I live. There are folks on the west side that won't go to Clovis because they fear the evil racist cops. There are folks in Clovis that won't go to the west side (and thought I was crazy for attending a west-side magnet school) for fear of the evil, ubiquitously aggressive and murderous gangsters. Personally, I'll go into the very heart of "The U" if someone there calls for pest control.

I could ramble on about irrational fear forever, but then I'd bore you before I got to the second group of people for whom 9/11 changed everything. There are more people than ever before that realize that the same people who set domestic policy also set foreign policy, and with the same motivations: for the benefit of politically connected interest groups, to the detriment of the remainder of the people. People on both sides of this issue are seeing the other side's way. I've personally met a few people who traditionally argue for a more interventionist domestic policy and decry an interventionist foreign policy, who are suddenly willing to consider major shrinkage in the federal government, and pursue their domestic ends at the state level. Sadly, I haven't seen many examples of the reverse conversion: those who traditionally want a minimal domestic policy and yet want a strong, active foreign policy seem much more willing to compromise on domestic issues for the sake of maintaining an aggressive, militant posture on the world stage. Still, I have heard of people going the other way, people who are willing to support Ron Paul because, despite the fact that they disagree with him on the War, they agree with him on just about everything else.

The forces of empire haven't acted so overtly since the Spanish-American war. There probably haven't been so many people aware of the true nature of the foreign policy establishment since the end of World War 1.

9/11 scared some people. It woke some other people up, and as a result we are seeing the most exciting election cycle ever. When was the last time we saw a presidential front runner talk about ending the IRS? When was the last time we saw a presidential front runner talk about ending the Federal Reserve? When was the last time we saw a presidential front runner talk very, very specifically about how the government is the cause of various ills people traditionally run to the government to solve (over and over again, despite repeated, highly predictable failures)? It isn't so much that someone is saying this: Ron is but one among many who have been talking about these things for years. It is, however, the first time we've seen someone garner so much public support (the proof is in the money), to the point where the establishment could not ignore him.

It isn't him. He hasn't discovered some magic political formula that, at long last, makes this all possible. It's 9/11. 9/11 changed everything. 9/11 caused people to wonder about other places in the world. 9/11 emboldened the proponents of empire and conquest to show their hands. And many people, who are now actually paying attention to what is, and has been, going on, are coming to realize who the real enemy of liberty is.

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