Friday, March 17, 2006
Competing visions: Pre 9/11 vs. Post 9/11
When Karl Rove told Republican activists that "Republicans have a post-9/11 view of the world. And Democrats have a pre-9/11 view of the world," I remember being a bit ticked off. I thought that Rove was just politicizing an issue that really ought to bring Americans together, not be used to divide us. I also thought Rove was basically calling Dems soft on terrorism. But then I had my epiphany... (which a trip to the restroom relieved... oh never mind!)
You know who else had a pre 9/11 view of the world? Our founding fathers. The constitution was good enough to see this nation through civil war, social upheavals, two global wars, and many other trials and tribulations.
The constitution certainly has been battered over the course of it's existence. Abraham Lincoln lived in a pre-9/11 world and during the emergency he faced found it necessary to suspend several constistutional rights. FDR suspended the constitutional rights of Japanese Americans. Yet in both these cases the suspension was done with the full participation of Congress. The basic constitutional precept of the co-equal branches of government has never been attacked in the way we see it under siege due to the post 9/11 mindset of the administration.
Living in the post 9/11 world evidently means disregarding over two centuries of American history, not to mention just about the entire history of civilization. It was the post 9/11 mindset that led this administration into the Iraq invasion. History proves the disastrous consequences of opening unnecessary fronts when conducting an ongoing war. (Sorry... this is going to my military historian side which a lot of my readers probably do not wish to read.) The most glaring example of a nation at war needlessly opening another front resulting in disaster was Hitler attacking the Soviet Union in WWII. I certainly do not equate the opening of the Iraq front whilst conducting the war on terror to Hitler's blunder. I will however agree with many experts in asserting that the administrations Iraqi quagmire is the biggest strategic blunder in American military history.
Living in a post 9/11 world, despite the lesson we currently are being painfully taught in Iraq, the administration has recently reaffirmed the disastrous policy of preemption which landed us in this mess in the first place. Pre 9/11, when American policy was based upon defense of ourselves and allies from aggression, America had risen to become the sole superpower in the world. Immediately after 9/11 the world stood with America in an unprecedented show of support as we deposed the regime that harbored the terrorists responsible for 9/11. Yet the administration invoked 9/11 to invade Iraq, and in the process tossed aside two centuries of American policy and the good will of nearly the entire world. I for one believe the lessons of our history versus the lessons being learned by the current administration point to the judiciousness and efficacy of the pre 9/11 mindset here.
To me, the most egregious example of post 9/11 thinking that has brought harm to America is the determination by administration lawyers that the President has the constitutional authority to order the torture of detainees. To posit the notion prior to the 2000 election that Americans would soon oversee several notorious examples of detainee abuse and mistreatment would have been to argue the unthinkable. Yet we find ourselves having come to this sorry state of affairs precisely because of the post 9/11 mindset of this administration. This stain on our national honor is not forgivable to my way of thinking.
I understand full well that American history is replete with examples of our failing to live up to our lofty stated principles. The oppression of Native Americans, support of dictatorships who rely on us to continue in power, slavery, and many other cases are not moments of pride in our history. But to me, our nation has always strived to improve our standing and gain the high ground demanded of a successful constitutional democracy. The post 9/11 mindset of this administration demonstrates the willingness to toss aside the effort to improve our moral standing in favor of short term gain and out of a sense of misplaced idealism. It is the duty of the patriot of today, in my way of thinking, to point out these failings and strive to improve ourselves.
I also understand that there is a post 9/11 world that has changed. But we would do well to understand there was a post 12/07/41 and 04/12/1861 world as well. And our response in those moments of crisis was hardly to trounce the ideals and constitution that can make us the great democracy that we strive to be.
Given the choice of the post 9/11 world envisioned by this administration or the the pre 9/11 world which historically led us to greatness as a nation, I would prefer the pre 9/11 mindset. I suspect that when the differences are truly examined that I would not stand alone in this regard.
I think that I would go a step further. This is a statement of perfect accuracy, perhaps the only one that has ever come out of Karl Rove's mouth.
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