As We See Them
The Uncertain Decade:
The young are looking into a decade that may end up more storied than the 60's. It has emerged very quickly on the back-end of the Clinton Bubble and is characterized by four major events: Sept. 11th terrorist attack, Election 2000, Dot.com/Internet, Economic decline in high-tech sector, dot.bomb, corporate malfeasance, etc.
In retrospect the 80's and 90's, during which the young grew up, were more Camelot than the Kennedy years. There was peace, power, prosperity. Two populist presidents dominated the political scene. The fractured skirmishes from the remnant of the political left elicited laughter and were seen as a form of entertainment rather than thoughtfulness. The only exception to that was the anti-Apartheid movement that was successful in helping overturn the dreaded practice in South Africa. America grew smug and arrogant; both the government and the people. In fact, it reached such proportions that it took both over ten years to figure out they were being attacked in a war. The 80's and 90's could be termed The Big Snooze.
It's impossible to predict what will or will not happen. A certain type of giddiness always breaks out in America even with the bombs going off. It is padded and privileged and thankfully so. However, the privilege of the American people requires that they do magnificent things rather than trivial things. They've never figured this out or, no one has taught them this. Be prepared to fight for your survival and be prepared to do the extraordinary. That's the message that should be sent to the young.
"Now, you have been initiated into the wicked world; now you must grow and develop toward a free and good life."
The Bush Administration is criticized for its cowboy rhetoric in rooting out Hussein. It may be obnoxious but it works. I don't think President Bush is addressing the rest of us with his rhetoric. I think he is addressing Hussein in language Hussein understands. The United Nations could never have gotten Iraq to welcome back inspectors. Iraq flipped the UN the bird whenever it could. So, now the ball is in Hussein's court. If he comply's he's held onto his power and all the egotism he's capable of wants to stay in power. If he makes a mistake, Bush has UN sanction to go in and remove him. Is that not the very definition of leadership? Had Hussein done nothing Bush would have had his hands tied. Now, they are released.
That's not to say Bush will not made a terrible mistake along the way. We hope not. But, in his encounter with a tyrant he's proven much more resolute than his predecessor.
There may be legalistic reasons that sanction an attack on Iraq but experience tells us that there are untold consequences as well. And most of them are bad. The best thing the Bush Administration can do is put extreme pressure on Hussein and his administration, monitor his activities, make it clear what activities will bring on intervention and then let things take their course. Hussein may already have his bags packed. He may already be in Gstaad for all we know. The head we raise in victory may be that of a double. In an absurd world it is appropriate I suppose.
It boggles the mind, looking back now, that not more attention was paid to the first attack on the World Trade Center in 1993. In fact, a curious pattern can be seen. The bombing of the PanAm flight occurred in the post-election of 1988 of the senior Bush. The first World Trade Center occurred in the first year of the Clinton Administration. The September 11th attack occurred in the first year of the George Bush Administration. One could come to the startling conclusion that something, some force was testing each new President, a tactic well-known from history. Khruschev tested John F. Kennedy in 1961 with such ferocity that Kennedy was visibly shaken.
The first attack of the World Trade Center was potentially so much more egregious than the attack in 2001. The bomb was set at the foundation so that the buildings would collapse one on top of the other, killing tens of thousands of people. Not only that but a cyanide bomb was supposed to have gone off to spread poison over that section of New York. That would have killed many more.
We wouldn't go so far to say that Clinton shirked his duty but both he and the first Bush did not recognize that we were at war. If there is anything like the "arrogance of power," it's being so smug that it doesn't even recognize when its under attack!
We are at the beginning of something that puts us at an oblique angle of where we were just yesterday. The Clinton Years were bubbly without question. Even the interns had something of the bubbly about them. The one artifact to survive the bubble is a stained dress with some brilliant but murky DNA in it. And President Clinton will be judged fairly by history and relegated to the middling sphere of Presidents and the "bubble 90's" of our era will be irradiated into nothingness. That's not our concern. We want to try and understand the oblique angle we stand on today after the bubble has burst.
We are under attack. If the terrorist networks get swifter and tighter and more resilient like the AIDS virus, then the future doesn't look bright. If the networks are dependent on a small cadre of charismatic leaders and rogue states to protect them, then the problem will be handled fairly swiftly.
America should prepare to be tested. Her enemies will look for the most vulnerable points to harm her economy and morale.
It's difficult to get into a war-footing with no visible army. What is necessary is full exposure of these networks, how they operate, who sponsors them and the rest. Many of the reports I've read are on the frightening side.
The terrible thing that one sees when they are studying patterns is that since the acceleration of technology and capital during the 20th century, western liberal democratic cultures have been under attack. And they have been under attack by tyrannies who rally the masses around a "more perfect past and its glories." Fascism was certainly that way. Communism was that way. And now Fundamentalism. Islam has had a great and glorious past. We don't want the predictable to become the inevitable.
December 4, 2002