This will be a week of pondering the result of that horrible morning when two planes crashed into the twin towers and another one fell to the earth in Pennsylvania. How did this event shape our world?
Ross Douthat notes that most of the same policies (drone wars, targeted assassination, regime change) continue in some form from W to Obama. And thus:
Here it’s worth asking a version of Ronald Reagan’s famous question: Are we better off than we were 10 years ago?
The case for answering yes is strongest on the counterterrorism front, where our shadow war has clearly diminished our enemies’ capacity to do us harm in ways that our pre-9/11 efforts never did.There are significant moral costs to a policy that depends on routinized assassination and detention without trial. But 10 years without a major attack, the death of Osama bin Laden and the steady degradation of Al Qaeda and its affiliates are not achievements to be taken lightly. The United States will always be vulnerable to terrorists, but in the decade since we were blindsided by Mohammed Atta’s team of hijackers, our spies and SEALs and interrogators have dramatically improved our odds.On the strategic front, though, it is extremely difficult to argue that America’s geopolitical position is stronger today than it was 10 years ago.
via It’s Still the 9/11 Era – NYTimes.com.
Jeffrey Goldberg explains how the memory has shaped our complicated (and frequently counterproductive) approach to Islam:
The existence of a thousand streams of Islam; the Arab revolts; the loathing of al Qaeda that has spread wide through the Muslim world (the majority of of Qaeda victims by now have been Muslim); none of this has convinced some in the West that we are not, in fact, engaged a clash of civilizations with Islam itself, that if there is a clash, it is taking place within Islam. Even certain presidential candidates in this country have sought to make a war where there is no war. George W. Bush was generally assiduous on this question; he visited a mosque just after the attacks to make the point that the U.S. was not Islam’s enemy. His party today should follow his lead, and stop giving Bin Laden’s heirs what they want. With the murderous sociopaths of al Qaeda there is no compromise, but we will only defeat al Qaeda with the cooperation of the great mass of Muslims, and we won’t have their support if we demonize their faith.
via The Real Meaning of 9/11 – Jeffrey Goldberg – National – The Atlantic.
I wondered if there was a book or film series to see as a reflection or commemoration done well. My favorite read thus fare is David Simpson’s thoughtful approach to memory and 9/11. (Speaking at the Kennedy Center). But this piece from Slate made me think a bit, even if I don’t know if I agree with him.
These movies haunt my own personal and inadequate understanding of the events of that day. Our understanding of the movies, too, is inadequate too; we can’t know whether each of these filmmakers, making movies that explicitly don’t reference 9/11, intended them as a response to the tragedy. But in this case, we can know. They don’t, and can’t, because they were all made before 9/11 happened. Waking Life, Mulholland Dr., and Donnie Darko all came out in a cluster just weeks after the attacks. Memento came out earlier that year; it took some months for its reputation to spread across the country, and it was still playing in many cities in early September.
There are two explanations for this disconnect. The first and simplest is coincidence—that I’m forcing meaning into movies that don’t have it, at least in regard to an event that happened after their creation. Accept that one if you wish, and you may be right. But I think it’s something different. I think that the sources of inspiration are hard to pin down. It can take almost 25 years, as it did for Kurt Vonnegut, to come to understand an event that happened literally right in front of you. For others, artistic antennae vibrate to other sensations. In what we accepted as a calm and gay time they found something overbright, hyperreal, and ultimately ominous. They couldn’t tell us they were making 9/11 movies because they didn’t know what they were doing. They remind us that inspiration is a mystery—and that not every response to a cataclysm comes with a press release.
via 9/11 movies: Four brilliant 9/11 films that get overlooked. – By Bill Wyman – Slate Magazine.
And this, relating to memory, from a NYT Op-Ed regular voice, Roger Cohen–who writes with an international twist, formerly posting mostly in the International Herald Tribune:
Tell me your 9/11 and I’ll tell you who you are.
Joseph Brodsky once wrote: “If there is any substitute for love, it’s memory. To memorize, then, is to restore intimacy.” That’s not a bad definition of what the best journalism does: restore intimacy. The Portraits of Grief that appeared in The New York Times for months after the attack hit home because they undercut, through the particulars of single lives, Stalin’s formula: Murder en masse and loss becomes a mere statistic.
via Imagining 9/11 – NYTimes.com.
And if you have even more stamina, FP provides coverage to liberal and neo-con reportage on various informed views of 9/11.
Conflicts over the meaning of the attacks and the U.S. response remain just as intense today as they were a decade ago, if not more. Here’s how liberal, conservative, and libertarian magazines are covering the 10th anniversary.
via The 9/11 Anniversary Reader: Liberals vs. Neocons Edition | Foreign Policy.
Finally, the “torture question” is addressed in this timely book by FBI agent Ali H. Soufan:
Mr. Soufan writes that the most consequential mistake of all was the C.I.A.’s embrace of brutal tactics for interrogation, which Mr. Soufan says were directed from the Bush White House and opposed by some C.I.A. officers. The book calls the interrogation of Abu Zubaydah, the first important prisoner questioned by the C.I.A., as a fateful wrong turn toward torture and away from what he considered more effective traditional interrogation methods.
via Ex-F.B.I. Agents Cites High-Level Dysfunction Over 9/11 – NYTimes.com.