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A blog wherein a literary agent will sometimes discuss his business, sometimes discuss the movies he sees, the tennis he watches, or the world around him. In which he will often wish he could say more, but will be obliged by business necessity and basic politeness and simple civility to hold his tongue. Rankings are done on a scale of one to five Slithy Toads, where a 0 is a complete waste of time, a 2 is a completely innocuous way to spend your time, and a 4 is intended as a geas compelling you to make the time.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

9/11 plus 10

There is an adage that says "just because you can do something doesn't mean that you should.". For most of the past ten years my general belief is that this is something that Osama bin Laden should have heeded.

I think Al Qaeda could've done serious damage to the US military and to US interests, the death of a thousand cuts with dozens of operations like the USS Cole or the Dar es Salaam embassy bombing, and people in the US just wouldn't have cared very much or for very long.  Militarily, 9/11 was a mistake. Bin Laden became a marked man. His organization was tossed from it's safe haven in Afghanistan. Countless leaders of the organization have been killed. Neither 9/11 nor 7/7 nor 3/11 have led to the death of NYC or London or Madrid. People still work in tall buildings and ride the Tube and commute to work.

However, part of bin Laden's calculus was different, and while I believe 9/11 was a military mistake NY Al Qaeda, the organization has had immense success.

Many of you may not believe this, but there was a time not too long ago when you could just walk into an office building without having to wait on line, show ID, pose for a picture, wait for your visitor pass to print out. There was a time when you could comfortably get to the airport 45 minutes or even a half hour before your flight. There was a time when you could breeze in to a baseball game without wondering why the Mets allow an iPad but the Yankees do not, why the Yankees allow a factory sealed one liter water bottle but the Mets only 20 oz, and why some teams won't allow your completely empty bottle in for filling at a water fountain when it is exactly the same as the 20 oz factory sealed bottle that is emptied out just the other side of the turnstile.  And in all of those instances we are giving up our liberty and hours of our lives, little bits and little infringements at a time.

There was a time when torture was torture.

And all of these things cost not only time but money. The TSA costs money, the guards that check your bags at the ballpark and your IDs in the office lobby cost money.

And that is just in the private sector. The government has spent a huge amount of money building a counterterrorism security infrastructure.

And getting us to do all of this was part of the bin Laden calculus.

So in one sense, the terrorists have won, they've gotten us to spend so much of our treasure taxing ourselves in time and dollars to attempt to win a war that can never entirely be run.

And still, 9/11 was a mistake.

If the western world collapses as a result of the erosion of our values and bank accounts since 9/11, it isn't a caliphate that will come next to pick up the pieces.  China, maybe; caliphate, no.

And a lot of what's happened might have happened with a stream of Dar es Salaams. US embassies would have become fortified and closed to the world, and other damage done to our standing and reputation. Was the extra damage from the sheer enormity of 9/11 worth that so few of its planners might be around to enjoy when the Chinese can finally conquer a depleted and degraded American empire?

Oh -- we manage to be so resilient in the face of every gun massacre of which the US had many. Why have we been so unresilient to the Richard Reids of the world?

And a confession -- deep down I am kind of happy circumstances have me away from NYC for most of 9-11-11.


Joseph L. Selby said...

The very first time I went to the New Hampshire statehouse, I emptied my pockets so I wouldn't have to wait long to go through the metal detectors.

When I went through the front door, there wasn't a metal detector. Small state, I thought, so I waited for a guard to come ask me why I was there or to ask me to show ID or to ask me to empty my pockets.

Nope. No one. I walked around unescorted and without an appointment and looked at the entire building. Almost stopped in the governor's office, but I had nothing of value to tell his secretary and didn't want to waste her time.

Came to learn later that there's no law preventing carrying weapons much less change/Swiss army knife into the statehouse as long as the person isn't being threatening. Never would have thought it possible. (And this was only a few years ago, well after 9/11.)

Anne-Mhairi Simpson said...

Thank you for referencing 7/7. I know it wasn't on the same scale as NYC or even Madrid, but it still hurt. Strangely enough, the security measures for using the Tube haven't changed (not since they removed all the bins to stop the IRA putting bombs in them), but given the number of people using it every day, the powers that be probably considered the idea for 45 seconds at most before tossing it out as unworkable.

Anyway, thanks for remembering that we got hit too :) It's appreciated.