GEORGE WILL: Sept. 11’s self-inflicted wounds – The Washington Post
By George F. Will, Published: September 9
On Dec. 8, 1951, the day after the 10th anniversary of Pearl Harbor, the New York Times’ front page made a one-paragraph mention of commemorations the day before, when the paper’s page had not mentioned the anniversary. The Dec. 8 Washington Post’s front page noted no commemorations the previous day. On Dec. 7, the page had featured a familiar 10-year-old photograph of the burning battleships. It seems to have been published because a new process made possible printing it for the first time in color. At the bottom of the page, a six-paragraph story began: “Greater Washington today will mark the tenth anniversary of the Pearl Harbor attack by testing its air raid defenses.” The story explained that “the sirens are part of a ‘paper bombing’ of Washington” that would include “mock attacks by atom bombs and high explosives.”
The most interesting question is not how America in 2011 is unlike America in 2001 but how it is unlike what it was in 1951. The intensity of today’s focus on the 10th anniversary of Sept. 11 testifies to more than the multiplication of media ravenous for content, and to more than today’s unhistorical and self-dramatizing tendency to think that eruptions of evil are violations of a natural entitlement to happiness. It also represents the search for refuge from a decade defined by unsatisfactory responses to Sept. 11.
In 1951, the war that Pearl Harbor had propelled America into had been over for more than two years longer than it had raged. And it had been won. Besides, the Dec. 8 Post’s front page reported on negotiations to end a subsequent war, in Korea, then in its 18th month.
The 10th anniversary of Sept. 11 coincides with concerns about whether, after more than eight years of war, just 3,000 American troops can be left in Iraq without jeopardizing U.S. gains. Which, whatever they are, have nothing to do with the stated primary reason for the war — eliminating weapons of mass destruction. Ten years after Sept. 11 lit the fuse that led in 18 months to the invasion of Iraq, what may now count as success there may depend on Iraq finding its John Adams: When, after losing the bitterly contested 1800 election, he peacefully transferred power to Thomas Jefferson, America’s democracy was well-launched.