The awful truth is: what 9/11 revealed, and what it was designed to reveal, is that there is nothing we can really do definitively to stop another one. They had no weapons but our own technology. The training they had was not that sophisticated and the costs of the operation were relatively tiny. There were 19 of them. None of the key perpetrators has been brought to justice. Bin Laden remains at large. If you calculate the costs of that evil attack against the financial, moral and human costs of the fight back, 9/11 was a fantastic demonstration of the power of asymmetry to destroy the West.
Everything that has subsequently transpired has merely deepened that lesson. The US is now bankrupt, trapped in Iraq and Afghanistan for the rest of our lives, unable even to prevent the two most potentially dangerous Islamist states, Pakistan and Iran, from getting nukes, morally compromised and hanging on to global support only because of a new president who is even now being assaulted viciously at home for such grievous crimes as trying to get more people access to health insurance.
Yes, security is much better. Yes, it's amazing that more attacks have not taken place. Yes, Muslim-Americans have not joined Jihad the way many Europeans have. Yes, we have gained some small benefits from ousting the Taliban, and Saddam ... although at terrible costs. But we have done nothing to show that we can really win this war by the methods we have used so far. The biggest blow to al Qaeda as a global brand has not been what we have done to them, but what they have done to themselves, by their flagrant violence against fellow Muslims, their nihilism, and their barbaric brutality.And now, in the wake of Fort Hood, we face the possibility of radicalizing Muslims in America and polarizing more Americans against them. This does not help.
I've obviously talked quite a bit this week about Fort Hood. I think there are two things at work in our foreign policy, both of the traceable to the citizenry. 1.) A consistent overestimation of American might. The notion that American "can do anything," and what it fails to do is a reflection of its leadership, not its people. 2.) And related to that, the human inclination toto search for solutions in the wake of tragedy, to find that one thing that we could have been done differently. This is useful, I guess, but only up to a point.