It may seem an odd way to begin a post about 9/11, but remember Pearl Harbor?
While most casual observers think that World War II began when we were attacked by Japan on December 7, 1941, the reality was that hostilities began over two years earlier when Nazi Germany invaded Poland on September 1, 1939. It was the culmination of several years of concessions to appease Adolf Hitler that proved to have the opposite effect.
The Long War between America and the forces of radical Islam came into sharp focus on 9/11, but there were several skirmishes leading up to that date. I’m old enough to remember the takeover of the American Embassy in Tehran in 1979 and the 444 days we watched as Americans were held hostage. Certainly some had flashbacks to that incident during the events in Benghazi, Libya two years ago on 9/11.
And then we had the original World Trade Center bombing in February 1993, an event which made clear that building was a target. Eight years later, the planners changed their tactics from a single truck bomb to two jet aircraft hijacked for the purpose of becoming civilian-laden missiles.
But like Pearl Harbor or, to borrow a different violent event, the assassination of John F. Kennedy, the lives of millions of Americans were defined that day in such a way that most remember what they were doing when they heard the news. (I was at work at the former Hobbs+Black Architects office in Toledo, on a glorious late summer day.)
A key difference between Pearl Harbor and 9/11, though, is that America knew who the enemy was and spared no expense or effort in fighting it. Less than four years later Hitler was dead, Japan had surrendered, and the world began a transition from a global war of destruction to an uneasy peace between adversaries in the sense of liberty – a peace defined by the knowledge of mutually assured destruction if either pulled the nuclear trigger. But America had vanquished all of its Axis foes, yet was assisting in rebuilding where it could.
On the other hand, we responded to 9/11 with somewhat conventional warfare but found out that it’s a model which doesn’t last and is ineffective against an enemy which glorifies death and rarely fights in a conventional manner.
Since the Benghazi incident in 2012, we’re more aware that 9/11 is a pivotal date on the calendar .People are looking over their shoulders today, waiting on the other shoe to drop and another terrorist attack of some sort. They all but expect it given our current weak leadership.
But just a few years after abandoning Iraq and in the midst of doing the same to Afghanistan, now it’s Barack Obama believing we can dispatch the Islamic State with a minimum of blood and treasure. I don’t see it happening, at least not unless we go back to fighting like we did in World War II and junk the ridiculous rules of engagement and political correctness. Blasting the whole thing into a sea of glass appeals to some, too.
History always repeats itself somewhere, sometime. A millennium ago Christians began a series of Crusades to beat back the Islamic invaders, and this may signal the need for a second round our grandchildren may yet fight someday. The instruments of war are far different, but the toll on advancement of civilization is often the same.