With the ninth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks coming up tomorrow, it's time to reflect back on what has developed in the struggle between fanatical nutjobs and our advanced way of life. Ossama and his gang were hoping to make a spectacular attack, inspiring the Muslim world to rise up against Westerners, and goad us into a reaction that would clearly divide a billion Muslims from a couple billion "infidels" (with the Chinese and Indians on the sidelines).
Of course, that hasn't quite happened. For one thing, the billion Muslims were hardly a monolithic group--racially varied from Indonesians to blacks to Arabs to whites, and with religious doctrines ranging from Wahabbi to Shiite to barely practicing party animals. Far more Muslims rejected bin Laden's call to arms than embraced it, and even among those opposed to the United States there was hardly agreement about what they wanted. The Al Quaeda cells proved to be more a scrappy group of semi-competents than an all powerful resistance force, and they're now reduced to running from Predator drones and native militias in almost every Muslim-majority country. Even in pariah-states like Iran, Al Quaeda has no where to feel safe, and they're reduced to recruiting morons like Richard Reid or that underwear bomber. Still, the bad guys only have to be lucky once for another 9/11 to occur.
Our reaction to the attack, we should remember, was not perfect--many "security" measures adopted (see, airports) are more geared to give the illusion of security than the reality of it. Many bigots in this country still mistrust anyone Arab or Muslim, as the 9/11 attacks confirmed what they already believed. But the country as a whole was remarkably reasonable--public officials made it clear that we mustn't lump all Muslims in with those who attacked us, and there was no widespread racial policy like that we imposed against Japanese-Americans--U.S. citizens, mind you--under that scumbag FDR during WWII. We didn't exactly fall into bid Laden's trap.
Even the controversial Iraq War seems to be on the right track, with violence reduced and far more of the governance and security being handled by Iraqis, who for the first time ever have real elections and a level of corruption down to about half a Chicago. Whether it was worth what we spent in blood and money, things appear to be improving there--and that country has for the most part rejected the Al Quaedists.
9/11 reminded us that anything horrible can happen to us, though it also reminded us that we can react with sobriety and reason. It also brought out heroism, from the passengers of the fourth flight who fought back, to the emergency services providers on the ground who kept the death toll amazingly low.
During tough economic times and political bickering, it's important to remember how a crisis can bring out what is great in us. That is what we should consider on 9/11.