This is not a rant, it's a ramble. The difference is that a rant has some structure to it. A ramble is just thoughts, spilling out one after another. And I hate commenting on current events, because I'm acting on emotion (always foolish) and incomplete data, but I feel compelled to say something, to record my thoughts as of this moment. I may well regret writing this later, but so it goes...
The smoke is clearing, but the rain is falling. The body count is less than expected, but still staggering. We are currently at peace, but I feel sure we will soon be at war.
To most people, the World Trade Center is just a place, akin to the Eiffel Tower or the Great Wall of China. To me, and to many people I know, it is -- it was -- someplace real. I worked there, once. Deloitte&Touche, somewhere around the 98th floor. I remember, on foggy days, looking out the window and seeing nothing but a sea of rolling white, broken only by the Empire State building and the Chrysler building. I remember, on clear days, looking down at the vast expanse of city. I remember working late, long nights of Foxpro and pizza, and riding the nearly empty elevators down, and trying to jump just as they reached ground level -- you could get a half second or so of free-fall that way.
Let's dismiss the usual facile excuses now. "Violence doesn't solve anything!" It solved Hitler, Hirohito, and Mussolini. It solved the issue of British rule over the American colonies. It solved the issue of Saxon rule over Britain. Violence solves a lot of things. Sure, it also tends to create new problems, but so does avoiding violence. Ask Neville Chamberlein.
"US Policy made this happen!". No, a group of murderers made this happen. If you don't like US policy write a letter to the editor -- or organize a revolution. Or have the guts to issue an open declaration of war and start landing troops.
"This could have been prevented!" Yes, it could have. It wasn't. That's that. I could have been a millionaire if I'd made different decisions in my life. I'm not. So do I spend money like I am a millionaire, or do I accept what my current situation is and act accordingly? The latter.
"All retaliating will do is breed hatred! The cycle of violence will never end!" Yes. This is why we're still at war with Germany and Japan, right?
"The US is an imperialist power!" Well, we've certainly tried to be. But you know what? the US sucks at imperialism. Let's go back to Germany and Japan. We whupped their little Axis heinies back in 1945. They were eliminated. They had no government, no infrastructure, no cities, no leaders, no hope. They were as beaten as any nation could be. And now? Are they vassal states of the conquering empire? Are they sources of slave labor and nubile women? No. They are independant nations, each an economic and political powerhouse on their continent, and while not enemies of the US, neither are they servile lackies or puppet governments.
"This is a government plot!" Now, I am no fan of any government, including our own. And there's no denying our government has gained a lot from this. It's an excuse to ratchet up the Big Brother state, to ban encryption, and to generally shred what little is left of the Bill of Rights -- this process has already begun. It's also a change for Dubya to look 'Presidential' -- a chance he's blown already, with his incoherent and passionless speech. (Giuliani, on the other hand, is gearing up for the 2004 elections, no denying that.) But did they cause this? No. Not that it would be 'too extreme' -- the government has killed far more people for far less cause. But because it wouldn't be necessary. There are simpler ways to achieve their ends. They're exploiting it, sure. But, please listen, especially those of you in the black helicopter and tinfoil hat contingents: Correlation is not causation. That an event benefits a party is not proof the party caused the event.
"Look at all the people killed by US foreign policy!" Ah, another great paradox. The United States is evil when it intervenes to stop genocide in Yugoslavia. The United States is evil when it doesn't intervene to stop genocide in Rwanda. The United States is evil for imposing economic sanctions on Iraq. The United Stats is evil for not imposing economic sanctions on China. And so it goes. (BTW, IIRC, the sanctions on Iraq are imposed by just about anyone, including the home nations of most of the people blaming the US.)
"America should use this as an opportunity to rethink their foreign policy!" Yes, like letting our enemies live when we could kill them. Are you listening, Mr. Hussein? There is no foreign policy which can prevent terrorism, because any choice leaves someone upset, and most of the world contains angry young men with nothing to lose and a willingness to die for a cause. If you help a nation against its foes, you anger those foes. If you do nothing, you anger those you could have helped. And, contrary to the incoherent whining of leftists in Seattle and the spittle-flinging hatred of rightists like Pat Buchanan, isolationism is not the answer. All that does is remove your ability to shape the rest of the world to your liking, and does nothing to prevent attack. The mere existence of the United States, as the 800 pound gorilla of the planet, invites attack. We're too inviting a target to ignore.
I've had a lot of bad influences in my life when it comes to war. People like Robert Heinlein, who taught me that while you don't lust after war, when it comes, you fight it absolutely and without mercy. People like Captain Kirk, who taught me that you don't have to accept that just because there has always been violence, there must always be violence -- that all it takes is the choice not to kill. (In other words, the Mideast can end its interminable wars whenever it chooses to do so -- it does not have to keep fighting. All it takes is a simple decision -- We will work something out peacefully. We will stop killing. And any individual human being is capable of deciding not to kill. The other thing I learned from Captain Kirk, of course, is when you encounter someone who simply does not want to live in peace, you lock phasers on kill.)
And I wonder -- what were they thinking? Did they think we'd roll over and play dead? That the shock of being a direct target would somehow weaken us, cause us to pull back? Remember the number one rule of politics:Never, ever, ever, believe your own propaganda. (This is the mistake the Democrats keep making. The Republicans make it less often, but they made it during the impeachment hearings and it hurt them big time.) The US has only one reaction to being hurt -- to hurt back, only a lot harder. And we have the power to do it, too. Never mind enough nukes to bake the planet a thousand times over -- our conventional army has kept the peace for fifty years. Attention, Euro-weenies -- the reason you have all your little socialist programs is because your effective military budget has been paid for by US taxpayers. The rest of the world knows it, too. Pakistan is showing its belly and saying "Please, please, use us as a gateway to Afghanistan!" -- because it knows full well we will, whether it lets us or not.
Afghanistan...heh. Afghanistan's crocodile tears can be translated as:"Oh god. We were supposed to wipe out your military and your president too and you were supposed to be helpless and confused and scared and you're not and oh god your entire command structure is still intact and all we've done is really really piss you off and oh god please don't nuke us we're sorry we're so sorry".
Let us also clear up one point -- innocent people are going to die. Does this make us as bad as the terrorists? No. Why? Because we aren't doing this to cause the deaths of innocent people -- it's just a consequence of living in a world where bombs can't tell who is a bystander and who isn't. This is war, and war is hell. Innocents die in war. Innocents died in Berlin, while Hitler cowered in a bunker. Innocents died in Japan -- not just in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, but in Tokyo and Kyoto and everywhere else, as the country was covered in a rain of firebombs while their military leaders continued to refuse to surrender.
If we decide to go to war, as seems likely, we should do all we can to minimize innocent deaths -- but not at the cost of our own troops or of victory. This is more than the terrorists did -- they could have crashed those planes at night, and made the same 'statement' while killing far fewer people. No, they wanted to kill as many as possible, and to make the biggest show they could. Well, guess what. It didn't work. We are Mongo -- you don't shoot us, it only makes us mad. And, man, we're mad now.
They confused a reluctance to make war with an inability to make war. They assumed our weak response to Lockerbie and Kenya meant nothing could provoke us to real action. They thought the ridiculous spectacle of our past election meant we couldn't rally behind even so loathesome and weak a man as George W. Bush. They misunderestimated America, as our President is all too likely to say, and now they're in for it.
Yamamoto's statement after the bombing of Pearl Harbor is apocryphal, but the sentiment is real:"We have awakened a sleeping giant, and filled him with a terrible resolve." It is my sincerest hope that Dubya somehow, against all evidence, can rise to the occasion. That we determine, with absolute and unquestionable certainty, who orchestrated these attacks, and which nation or nations shelter them. Then we announce to those nations, as civilized nations do, that we are now at war. If this announcement is taped to the front of the first bombs to hit their capital, that's fine with me. They knew it was coming.
Then we do it right. We take out their government, their industry, their ability to make war and, more importantly, their will to make war. Every nation has a breaking point, and we will beat them to it and beyond. We will break them, utterly. We will take from them a thousand eyes for an eye, a thousand teeth for a tooth. We will reduce their cities to rubble and then reduce the rubble to ash and then reduce the ash to atoms. And then...
We will rebuild them. We will give them a democratic government, and we'll stick around long enough to show them how to use it, to make sure the people get used to democracy and like it. We'll rebuild their factories, and their roads, and their schools -- and they'll make goods to sell to America, and drive American cars, and learn American values. We will, after a year or so of war and a decade or so of aftermath, leave behind a nation whose history tells only that, once upon a time, they were led by evil men who foolishly angered a mighty god, and that god struck down the evil leaders, and then healed the wounds it caused. And they will know that there is nothing on Earth, or in any imagined Heaven, that could ever be worth angering that god again.
As usual, there's been a few days delay between when I began writing this and when I posted it. History is playing out according to script, and the target of choice remains Afghanistan. But in the interim, I've had some more thoughts.
We have a phrase, "Bomb 'em back to the Sone Age!". But, as many people, including myself, have noted, they're already there. So I propose a new concept:"Bomb 'em up to the Information Age!" I stated, above, the need for breaking the will of the people to make war, of destroying their culture and society and replacing it with one more amenable to peaceful coexistence in the global economy. Large quantities of explosives are one way. Small, solar-powered TVs and powerful offshore broadcasts are another. Airdrop in tens of thousands of custom-built, rugged, long lasting handheld TV, and let them see all of American culture -- everything the evening news to football to "Survivor". We don't even have to translate it -- hell, it's more entertaining if you can't understand the dialog. Let them see how much there is of the world, and how little of it they (currently) have access to. Mass media and mass production and mass consumption brought down the Soviet Empire -- it can bring down the Mideast.
The main concern I have is that we won't do it right -- that we'll leave behind not another Japan, but another Iraq -- a hostile, angry nation which knows the US only as a destroyer, not as a rebuilder. That would be stupider than doing nothing at all, but our President isn't known for his brains, and the American people haven't had to deal with long-term solutions to long-term problems for a long time.
And, of course, we have our own Taliban here -- in the persons of Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson and their followers, who claim God has ordered some redshirted Ensign to lower our deflector shields, leaving us exposed to the photon torpedos of our enemies. Uh-huh. All I know is, I have many friends in New York City who were at or near ground zero, and who are definitely not the sort of people Falwell&co would like -- liberals, feminists, ACLUers, pro-lifers. God spared them all, it seems. Seems to me that if God's trying to send us a message, He's have arranged for only straight white conservative Christian males to survive, granting them all the missed connections, bad (or rather good) travel karma, and so on. Perhaps God's concept of 'good people' and Jerry Falwell's don't line up? Or perhaps, more likely, there is no God -- neither Falwell's nor the Taliban's, and the only thing which can be said of those who lived and those who died is "There are those who lived, and those who died."
And one quick note to the Usual Suspects -- Michael Moore, millionaire media star, and Noam Chomsky, whose tapes are sold at Blockbusters, and the rest who have grown fat and rich feeding American's natural self-loathing and love of feeling guilty: If you were living in Iraq or Libya, could you freely and openly write essays, printed in nationally circulated newspapers, signed with your real names, and read daily by agents of the government, in which you said American attacks on those countries was morally justified and that the actions of those governments had caused this? No? Then let us not make facile comparisons of moral equivalency. Not all nations are created equal, and a bomb dropped by an Allied plane on Berlin is not ethically indistinguishable from a bomb dropped by a Nazi plane on London.