After we honor the 10th anniversary of the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, we need to leave the day behind. As a nation we have looked back for too long. We learned lessons from the attacks, but so many of them were wrong. The last decade was a detour that left our nation weaker, more divided and less certain of itself. . .Charles Krauthammer, Washington Post, September 9, 2011:
[I]f we continue to place 9/11 at the center of our national consciousness, we will keep making the same mistakes. Our nation’s future depended on far more than the outcome of a vaguely defined "war on terrorism," and it still does. Al-Qaeda is a dangerous enemy. But our country and the world were never threatened by the caliphate of its mad fantasies. . .
We know now, as we should have known all along, that American strength always depends first on our strength at home -- on a vibrant, innovative and sensibly regulated economy, on levelheaded fiscal policies, on the ability of our citizens to find useful work, on the justice of our social arrangements.
The new conventional wisdom on 9/11: We have created a decade of fear. We overreacted to 9/11 -- al-Qaeda turned out to be a paper tiger; there never was a second attack -- thereby bankrupting the country, destroying our morale and sending us into national decline.Give credit to the Post for presenting both sides--but I'll take door number two.
The secretary of defense says that al-Qaeda is on the verge of strategic defeat. True. But why? Al-Qaeda did not spontaneously combust. Yet, in a decade Osama bin Laden went from the emir of radical Islam, jihadi hero after whom babies were named all over the Muslim world -- to pathetic old recluse, almost incommunicado, watching shades of himself on a cheap TV in a bare room.
What turned the strong horse into the weak horse? Precisely the massive and unrelenting American war on terror, a systematic worldwide campaign carried out with increasing sophistication, efficiency and lethality -- now so cheaply denigrated as an "overreaction." . . .
In the end: 10 years, no second attack (which everyone assumed would come within months). That testifies to the other great achievement of the decade: the defensive anti-terror apparatus hastily constructed from scratch after 9/11 by President Bush, and then continued by President Obama. Continued why? Because it worked. It kept us safe -- the warrantless wiretaps, the Patriot Act, extraordinary rendition, preventive detention and, yes, Guantanamo.
Perhaps, says the new conventional wisdom, but these exertions have bankrupted the country and led to our current mood of despair and decline.
Rubbish. The total cost of "the two wars" is $1.3 trillion. That’s less than 1/11th of the national debt, less than one year of Obama deficit spending. During the golden Eisenhower 1950s of robust economic growth averaging 5 percent annually, defense spending was 11 percent of GDP and 60 percent of the federal budget. Today, defense spending is 5 percent of GDP and 20 percent of the budget. So much for imperial overstretch.
Yes, we are approaching bankruptcy. But this has as much to do with the war on terror as do sunspots. Looming insolvency comes not from our shrinking defense budget but from the explosion of entitlements. They devour nearly half the federal budget.