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Monday, August 26, 2002
Via the inestimable Moira Breen who seems (delightfully) to have recovered from shoulder surgery:

Terry Oglesby reports on a professional seminar he attended. The seminar included a presentation by the engineering firm which initially designed the WTC and which was also involved in the renovations which followed the 1993 bombing. That presentation included a video tape of a prior slide show and lecture.

... [The tape] ... went straight to his question and answer session at the end, which had a few technical questions, and then one more:

[Off camera-almost inaudible] ‘Is there anything you wish you had been able to do differently?’

He paused.

“I wish,” he paused again.

Choking on his words, he slowly and quietly said, “I wish…I could have…made it stand up.”

Every once in a while, someone will say something, or I will read something, to which I have an extremely strong emotional reaction. Terry Oglesby's description of the anguish of the designers of the WTC turns out to have been one of those things.

Somehow, I never see it coming. It always takes me by surprise.

I am not conceited enough to think that my emotional sore spot from 9/11 is universally shared, but its a very safe bet that its pretty widespread in the US. Olglesby reports that he and others seeing that video shared my reaction. The only analogous event in US history that I can think of is Pearl Harbor. Americans who woke up on December 8, 1941 to discover that their nation had been attacked reacted by causing a "regime change" in Japan. We dismantled it and rebuilt it. Our reaction to the Japanese attack necessitated our involvement in the war in Europe. Germany reacted to our declaration of war on its ally, Japan, by declaring war on the US. We returned the favor by declaring war on Germany and gave it the same treatment: dismantling followed by rebuilding.

Please note that dismantling preceded rebuilding, in both cases. And please also note that the rebuilding involved more than simply repairing bombed out buildings, roads and rail lines. We dismantled the very cultures of our former enemies, and rebuilt those cultures to our own taste and pretty much in our own image. I believe that the fact that both German and Japanese culture now bears a decidedly Western face (compared to what existed in each nation prior to the war) has been the single most important factor in preventing a recurrence of attempted world domination by either of those two nations. Was that an example of cultural imperialism? Sure. I don't care. It worked.

I think that our course of action here should be pretty much the same: dismantle our attacker and rebuild it in a manner which makes it unlikely that they will repeat their monumentally barbaric act. Dismantle first, then rebuild. And in rebuilding, we must incorporate the Western value of tolerance, at the very least. Cultural imperialism? Yup. Too bad. You'll get no sympathy from me.

This time, the task we face is more complex, in that we are not being confronted by a traditional nation-state with identifiable borders. That means we must take some care to identify what it is we are dismantling and rebuilding.

The US has been attacked by the adherents of a culture:

Which believes that it and only it has all of the answers to every possible problem faced by man;
Which believes that no adherents of any other culture have any right to exist, much less participate in that other culture; and
Which is completely unrestrained in its choice of weapons, targets or methods of attack.

That culture claims to be a religion, Islam. I simply don't care whether or not its a religion. I don't care whether other adherents of Islam hold the same beliefs. It cannot be seriously disputed that our attackers profess to hold those beliefs, and that is enough to justify dismantling that culture, regardless of whether it calls itself a religion.

Any religion which authorizes and even directs its adherents to kill me because I don't share its beliefs is simply unacceptable to me and cannot be allowed to continue. Period. I will not be tolerant of a belief system which refuses to be tolerant of me. Any punishment which I incur by reason of my faulty beliefs must await my (unaccelerated) entry into the next world, if such exists. Anyone who entertains any debate at all on this point is a suicidal fool. If and when that religion changes to the point where it no longer claims that I cannot be permitted to believe as I chose, then I will not oppose it in any manner. Until that time, however, that culture is what we must dismantle.

Where ever and when ever we find it.

Should we constrain ourselves in our choices of weapons, targets or methods of attack? No. There are two reasons for that. First, our adversary uses every weapon available to it and refuses to limit its attacks to targets which would impede our ability to retaliate, so I see no reason why we should not make a similar decision. Second, I have no desire to prosecute this conflict under the Marquis of Queensbury rules. We neither sought nor provoked this conflict. We should prevail as quickly and as cheaply (in terms of the number of our own lives expended) as possible. I cannot condone the death of one American for the purpose of being "fair". Screw fair. Fair went out the window along with the desperate people jumping from the upper floors of the WTC.

Our choice of weapons, targets and methods should be dictated by our goals and by our desire to prevail with the lowest possible expenditure of the lives of our own citizens. All other considerations are secondary, at best. Are we worried about civilian casualties? Our own, certainly. Our adversary's, yes, but only to the extent that incurring them will impede our ability to achieve the goal of dismantling and later rebuilding the culture of our attackers. Is this unfair to the innocents who will die? Yes. Is it somehow fairer that Americans should do the dying? No. A war has been thrust on us through no choice of our own. War is not fair. If war ever was fair, it stopped being fair a long time ago.

You want fair? Here's fair:

Innocent civilians with our adversaries known to be scattered and hiding among them are not innocent unless and until they isolate and identify the terrorists and allow us to attack. They are in a far better position to know of the existence and location of these people than we are. If and when they isolate and identify our adversaries, and allow us to attack, the civilians are more than innocent. They are allies. We are being forced to choose sides in this war. There is no reason to allow others to remain neutral, if by doing so they thereby assist our adversary, intentionally or otherwise.

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