Data Troll

Musings of a database designer, right-wing constitutional anarchist and overly idealistic schmuck.

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Location: Texas, United States

A middle-aged database designer, specializing in Oracle. I have a teen-aged son and Chinese wife.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Five Years after the 9/11 Wake-Up Call

Five years. Five years since my overly idealistic dream- that my son would live in a world with only scattered and short-lived conflicts- died. Five years since our entire concept of the barbarous capacity of men changed. An anniversary such as this is a time of reflection- and of comparison. Only one event in American history comes close to 9/11 in terms of the American psyche; that which happened December 7th, 1941.

Comparisons of the events themselves have been extensively done. Similarities include the unprepared status of the country and leaders and the crystal clear 20/20 hindsight are all on full display in a TV movie tonight; all aspects just as prevalent in 1941 and just as bipartisan. The differences are as important; a valid military target and a strictly civilian one; the enemy we face today is even more brutal than before (though the 300,000 dead Chinese civilians in Nanking might disagree).

Where are we now is more important to consider and the best way to do that is to compare now to where we were 5 years after Pearl Harbor . In that case, the clarity of the enemy in terms of nation-states resulted in a shorter timeframe. It was also a timeframe substantially shortened by the total ferocity of the American response and the absolute unity of the country. Our enemy knew there was no shaking our resolve and no amelioration of our military’s actions to protect the enemy’s civilians. Dresden, Tokyo, Hiroshima, Nagasaki; we only got two nuclear bombs built and used them both.

Also, direct action was not required for an American response then; merely supporting our enemies was enough. Germany had nothing to do with Pearl Harbor, very much in the same vein as Iraq had little to do with 9/11. Italy’s ambitions in North Africa did not conflict with U.S. interests in any regard. Yet does anyone today (even in Japan, Italy and Germany) think the world would be a better place had American vernacular included phrases like ‘misled by the administration’, ‘Roosevelt’s War’ and ‘proportional response’?

This is a different war. The enemy is far more diffuse, does not act directly through nation-states, obtains resources from diverse places, and uses weaponry that is neither specialized nor expensive. There is also no way to ‘end the war’ for most of the upper and middle ranks of the enemy; their beliefs drive them to win or die. Even thought the lower and middle ranks of the Japanese were willing to die to the last man, their leadership realized- in the end- the futility of that. You can only kill the new enemy, or imprison them for life; anything else and they will try to kill again.

Another key difference is- after 9/11- the absolute minimal impact of the war on the general population. In no time in past wars have the sacrifices for the effort been so concentrated only on those that serve and their families. In that, we are developing a highly divided society in terms of understanding and support for the costs of war and that faction that suffers the least is complaining and opposing the most. I am ashamed that most of the whining and desire to ‘switch the channel; we don’t like this’ is coming from my ‘Vietnam’ generation. But I have hope because the warfighters, who ‘get it’ and are doing a magnificent job, are from my son’s generation. In them, in the crucible of the generations-long conflict we face, is the sole hope for America and a way of life that has the envy of the world and the greatest deliverer of freedom the world has ever seen.

Considering all that is going on, I feel we have a 40-50% chance of seeing a nuclear weapon going off in an American city in the next 5-8 years. If that happens, I pray the current warfighters step up, slap some Baby Boomers upside the head, and set things right on a cultural and societal basis. Or we risk going the way of the Roman Empire and, with that, centuries of tyrannical darkness may return to the world.