Super-Absorbent

A lot of people are up in arms over President Obama’s statement in Bob Woodward’s latest book about how America could “absorb” another attack on the magnitude of 9/11. They’re talking about it as a sign of weakness, of complacency, of how it denigrates the lives of Americans that would be lost in such an attack.

Quite frankly, I don’t see the outrage. Perhaps because there are many ways to interpret Obama’s statement, and the way I am inclined to take it isn’t that offensive — but accurate.

Let’s look at 9/11. Yes, it was the defining atrocity of my adult life, and wreaked great changes in America. But we absorbed it. We survived it. We didn’t let it destroy us, or even fundamentally change us.

On the other hand, the reaction it prompted… that wasn’t so pleasant on the perpetrators. Al Qaeda ran and hid behind the Taliban in Afghanistan, and we took them both out. Then, we decided we didn’t like the way Saddam Hussein was looking at us, so we took him out, too. Libya saw the way the wind was blowing, and gave up its WMD program without any direct bribes or threats. (There, the wonderful finesse of the US-UK relationship played out, where the Brits said to Libya “hey, you know those crazy Americans might go after you next. Why don’t you let us broker a deal — you give up your WMDs, and they won’t blow you up?” Good old American muscle teamed up with the renowned British tact — it don’t get much better than that.)

So, who might not survive another 9/11? The perpetrators.

America is used to being the world’s punching bag — up to a point. We ignore the “death to America” and “Yankee go home” and the flag-burning and whatnot, because we believe that everyone — even asshats — have the right to express themselves. We’ll even tolerate a certain level of actual violence, because we’re largely more interested in being liked than being feared and kind of worried about being seen as a bully — to the point where we let ourselves be bullied a little.

But we have our limits. And once those limits are passed, the gloves are off. Our new foreign policy instantly shifts to (pardon the language), “fuck with us, and we’ll fuck you up and fuck you over.”

Even more fun, those limits are extremely vague. They’re not written down or codified into law anywhere.

When we cross that line, that’s what the American people demand of their leaders. At that point, the leaders better realize that the crowd is heading in its own way, and they can either try to run ahead of the crowd or get run over.

George W. Bush ran ahead of the crowd. Jimmy Carter was run over.

Should we suffer another attack of the magnitude of 9/11, I am fully confident that we, as a nation, will absorb it. We will survive it. We’re the “Weeble” nation.

What may not survive is the Obama administration. At that point, the American people will be looking for revenge/payback/justice/retribution/blood, and if Obama chooses to follow the Carter example, they just might not wait for the next elections.

Imagine this: there’s another attack. Obama refuses to go after the attackers with the full force of the US military. Congress passes a resolution authorizing the attacks. Obama again refuses. They pass another resolution requiring the attack. Obama refuses again, citing his Constitutional role as commander-in-chief to determine the actions of the military. Wham — instant Constitutional crisis, and even a possible impeachment.

Yeah, a little far-fetched. But I think it’s possible.

I have tremendous faith in our nation. I know, in my heart, that we can “absorb” another 9/11, and another, and another, should it happen.

But I hope like hell we won’t.

And I shudder at what will happen to those who cause it, and those who choose to cross us at what they see as a moment of weakness.

Carter Contrary
"The time has come to address our nation's bigotry"