Monday, September 12, 2011

Provocative Conclusion

From Jorge Zepeda Patterson, a column titled "Bin Laden Won":
But the principal victim of that war [on terrorism], regardless of how fictitious it was, is the US itself. The Tea Party of today, the fundamentalism of the political right, the radical opportunism of Fox News can't be explained without the ascent of that hateful narrative and the fear generated by the necessity of a war in which the enemy had to be invented.

Ten years after the attack on the towers the US is a more divided country, with greater unemployment, growing social inequality, with a government in crisis, a worldwide leadership in full decline. Something was broken in the American soul in deeper and more violent way than those beloved and admired towers.
It's always worth seeing what others say about us, but this is, as I often find to be the case when Zepeda Patterson digs into American conservatism, not a particularly nuanced or astute analysis. There is no question that the reaction to 9-11 included some horrible mistakes (namely torture and the invasion of Iraq), but it's not clear that those will be long-term additions to the American way of life. They will remain horrible blemishes, but if we don't invade any more nations on the shakiest of premises, then the idea that 9-11 left scars that turned the US into an unrecognizable monster doesn't hold up nearly as well.

Furthermore, many of the symptoms he mentions aren't closely related to the war on terror. The Tea Party, for instance, is much more a product of the economic crisis, or more accurately, the response to it. Greater unemployment has virtually nothing to do with 9-11. And in general, the conservative mood today is much more animated by economic concerns than security threats, and the conservative mainstream has also been drifting rightward in fits and starts for half a century. In short, even on 9-11, not everything is about 9-11, though the NFL seemed to disagree.


Richard said...

I'm not particularly nuanced when it comes to talking about U.S. Conservatism either (which used to be about isolationism, not spreading international mayhem), but much of what he said is common currency. Even the "conservative" (and pro-military) San Antonio Express-News made the same critique in their lead editorial yesterday.

I'm not sure what the last time the United States didn´t invade some other nation "on the shakiest of premises"... The U.S. attacked Panama and Grenada (conservatives, but pre-S-11) in this part of the world for what reason exactly?

Richard said...


The U.S. attacked Panama and Grenada (under conservative administrations, but pre-S-11)...

Hope THAT's not a premise for editorial invasion :-)

pc said...

I dunno about the idea that 9-11 inexorably broke the US soul being common currency. Even if it is, I think it's wrong.

Point taken about Grenada and Panama (not to mention dozens of other Caribbean and Central American interventions in years past), but I think that just further supports my conclusion that there's little reason to think that 9-11 and our reaction to it, lamentable though it was, marked a sudden change and permanent decline in the US way of life and all that. WHat he is complaining about is better seen against the broader context of the last 30 years of rightward shift rather than just our freaky reaction to a freak event marking a sea change.

And insofar as America will no longer be a world power to the degree that it was, I dont think that has as much to do with 9-11 and the WoT (though Iraq certainly didn't help) as with the economic crisis and the rise of Asia.