US Reaction to 9/11 Just a ‘Massive Overreaction’?


By: Warner Todd Huston

Nearly 3,000 Americans killed in a series of attacks on one single day — the most American civilians ever killed in a single day with coordinated attacks — was no big deal as far as David Bell writing for the L.A. Times is concerned.

The attacks were a horrible act of mass murder, but history says we’re overreacting.

See, they know this because Russia had a bad time of it during WWII.

…imagine that the attacks had continued, every six hours, for another four years, until nearly 20 million Americans were dead. This is roughly what the Soviet Union suffered during World War II, and contemplating these numbers may help put in perspective what the United States has so far experienced during the war against terrorism.

Such a ridiculous comparison. WWII, a standard, symmetrical war, bears little resemblance to this threat we face today. The Russians were under arms facing Hitler. It wasn’t a “nice” war, surely, but it was a standard war none-the-less. Hitler invaded and the Russians resisted.

Standard war stuff, really.

On the other hand, Americans on Sept. 11th, 2001 were going about their daily lives with no thought of impending attacks. No war had been imagined declared and Americans had not the slightest clue that an attack was in the making. Granted Islamofascists had declared war on us, but we faced no nation state with a constituted army and didn’t take the threat seriously. Few Americans were even aware that a fight was even brewing.

The absurdity of the Times’ piece gets worse as one reads onward.

It also raises several questions. Has the American reaction to the attacks in fact been a massive overreaction? Is the widespread belief that 9/11 plunged us into one of the deadliest struggles of our time simply wrong? If we did overreact, why did we do so? Does history provide any insight?

Overreaction? 3,000 dead is something to ignore, something to consider insignificant??

Why is Russia’s loss during a declared war 60 years ago enough to make our own loss something to just forget about? Would the Times rather we sat about and awaited to absorb 21 million deaths at the hands of Islamofascists in order to then be able to claim that we can now be outraged legitimately?

But, wait. The piece tips its hand five paragraphs down.

As an instance of mass murder, the attacks were unspeakable, but they still pale in comparison with any number of military assaults on civilian targets of the recent past, from Hiroshima on down.

(bold mine)

Ah, there you have it. The Islamofascists are not so bad after all. It’s REALLY the USA that is the great Satan. The Times cannot tell the difference between acts during mutually agreed upon warfare, and those of a craven attack on an unsuspecting nation’s civilians.

They then go on to pooh-pooh the 3,000 dead from 9/11 and the soldiers we have lost since as insignificant compared to our annual traffic deaths.

Even if one counts our dead in Iraq and Afghanistan as casualties of the war against terrorism, which brings us to about 6,500, we should remember that roughly the same number of Americans die every two months in automobile accidents.

Using this somewhat odd comparison I would think the Times, then, would similarly find the losses of civilians in Iraq insignificant since nearly 6 million Jews lost their lives in the Holocaust? We have all seen the Times rant about how the eeevil Americans have killed so many innocent Iraqis.

And don’t papers like the L.A. Times make claims that even one death by, say, the death penalty, is too much? Yet here, they seem to feel we need to reach millions of deaths for them to “count”.

Now here is where the piece gets surreal. After relegating human life to sterile mathematics, Bell then goes on to explain that our “overreaction” is because of the 18th century Enlightenment thinking that created the modern west.

He explains to us that before the Enlightenment “…most people in the West took warfare for granted as an utterly unavoidable part of the social order.” But that the Enlightenment “…popularized the notion that war was a barbaric relic of mankind’s infancy, an anachronism that should soon vanish from the Earth. Human societies, wrote the influential thinkers of the time, followed a common path of historical evolution from savage beginnings toward ever-greater levels of peaceful civilization, politeness and commercial exchange.”

He goes on to say:

The unexpected consequence of this change was that those who considered themselves “enlightened,” but who still thought they needed to go to war, found it hard to justify war as anything other than an apocalyptic struggle for survival against an irredeemably evil enemy. In such struggles, of course, there could be no reason to practice restraint or to treat the enemy as an honorable opponent.

Sadly, Bell gets his analysis horribly wrong. There was a big reason that people didn’t intellectually rise up against war before the Enlightenment. Human beings did not have any sort of freedom before the ideas of individual autonomy popularized by the Enlightenment became universal. Men were the property of the King before the Enlightenment. Their individual lives were not important in the scheme of things either as far as the powers that be were concerned or as far as the common man was concerned. The King owned all and most people were relatively resigned to that ages old concept.

Then came the Enlightenment where the focus of government was shifted from a protection of the King’s rights to a protection of the individual’s. The Enlightenment’s best thinkers didn’t just imagine that “Human societies” would “evolve” out of a need for war merely out of the progression of time, but because the individual was ever after considered of prime importance.

This means that any attack is, indeed, an “apocalypse” because that attack isn’t an attack on some far off sovereign, but one on every man, woman and child in the country. To be deprived of life is the worst violation of civilized behavior. It must be met with overwhelming force, enough to stop the attempts and return to the status quo of peace.

Bell closes with a straw-man argument made and then harkens to the left’s favorite claim against Islamofascism… it’s a criminal matter.

Yet as the comparison with the Soviet experience should remind us, the war against terrorism has not yet been much of a war at all, let alone a war to end all wars. It is a messy, difficult, long-term struggle against exceptionally dangerous criminals who actually like nothing better than being put on the same level of historical importance as Hitler — can you imagine a better recruiting tool? To fight them effectively, we need coolness, resolve and stamina. But we also need to overcome long habit and remind ourselves that not every enemy is in fact a threat to our existence.

Setting up the straw man: Mr. Bell, no one has said this conflict is the “war to end all wars”.

As to your prosaic claim that this is but a criminal matter, that absurd argument blithely ignores the fact that we have no jurisdiction over an Islamofascist movement that is spread across the globe in dozens of nations and without jurisdiction criminal charges are meaningless. Additionally, with some of those nations we have bad or no official relations and some are even PAYING for and sponsoring that very “criminal” activity. It is impossible to conduct criminal proceedings with a nation that refuses to participate in the process. Even if we wanted to treat them as criminals we would have to use military capabilities and assets to track them and capture them to bring them up on any charges.

It would end up being a military procedure anyway; either that or it would all be ineffective causing the criminal activity to go on completely unabated.

Worse, Mr. Bell’s ideas would force us to sit about and wait for that 21 million Americans to die so that we would have a “crime” to investigate in any case. Otherwise, we would be presumably violating the “rights” of the terrorists planning the very attacks that he claims are but crimes.

Bell and the Times reveal their disregard for life and show their woeful lack of ability to understand and quantify the threat we face.

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