.: essays --> 09.11.01: first thoughts
09.11.01: first thoughts
I keep asking myself, 'to what end?' This seems like an awful lot of trouble and huge loss of (terrorist) life for a huge 'f**k you.' I now believe that the third target was the capitol building*, and that would have crippled the government for a week or so. Theoretically we couldn't have declared war during that week, but the president probably would have declared special war powers and done so anyway.
If those three targets had been hit, and if the Pentagon had been more fully destroyed, the federal government and military would have suffered severe blows, including diplomatic and military support around the world. Obviously domestic policymaking would have been compromised. Possibly military response would have been, too, but maybe not so much. With the destruction of the Pentagon (and war declared?) is it possible that American troops worldwide would have to be diverted to missions closer to home?
Taking out the entire US government makes sense to me (as a terrorist objective). Otherwise, destroying symbols of US military and economic might--while an accurate assessment of the source of American 'influence' around the world--does little more than upset people and rile them up. The only outcomes I can see from the two targets hit are economic recession or depression or war on Osama bin Laden.
(That is an 'or' because a war would prop up our economy right quick, regardless of the effects elsewhere in the world; that is 'Osama bin Laden' because he's the latest US boogeyman, and senators and the press have been bandying his name around since this began, regardless of a complete lack of evidence. That bin Laden walks the Earth somewhere is enough evidence for many. If you hated bin Laden or somehow wanted to take his place, doing this and covering your tracks really, really well would be an effective assassination measure.)
Even if the terrorists had managed to destroy the three targets I mentioned, they would have failed to destroy the US government. There would have been disarray, to be sure. But in a week, new senators and congressmen would have been appointed and business would have gone on as usual in new digs. Most federal business is not so pressing, anyway. It seems so, most of the time, these transportation subsidies must be assured today, or everyone will lose the farm! But it's really not so.
More importantly, despite an increasing concentration of power in Washington, our Constitution actually defines government a little differently than that. I am No Historian, but as I understand it, our government was designed to be a coalition of states. Federal government was designed to do those things that could be done more efficiently by a larger entity for all; but it was intended to support the self-governace of individual states.
Clearly circumstances of all kinds have changed, and each state is more reliant on federal government than our Founders ever envisioned they would be. But it's clear to me that in an instance of the removal of our federal government, states would discover that they are, in fact, endowed with power sufficient to govern until federal government was up and running.
In other words, if the yesterday's purpose was to cripple the United States, the terrorists have an incomplete understanding of both the US Constitution and the US character. To wit:
- through an accident of history, states have Constitionally derived powers sufficient to govern their people, with or without a fully functional federal government.
- most Americans do not recognize the true source of our global strength. Many Americans truly believe that we prevail because of the ideals our nation has espoused, not due to our inordinate military and economic power.
If the terrorist action was designed to illustrate to the US from whence their global power is derived, and if they had managed to fully destroy the Pentagon, perhaps they could have succeeded (assuming subsequent massive worldwide depression.)
But it seems to me that an act of retribution would be accompanied by a name; what good is it to take revenge if your victim does not know for what they are being punished? It would take a diabolically self-disciplined individual to silently exact a revenge intended merely to strike fear into the heart of millions.
And so back I come to outcomes, what were the intended outcomes of yesterday's actions? War? Famine? The withdrawal of US troops from spots around the world?
Of course, the important question now is 'What will be the outcome of yesterday's actions?' I pray that it is not war. I pray that there is not a 'quick resolution' for the sake of putting Americans' minds at peace. If we must punish the perpetrator (and I suppose we must) then at least let us take time to discover who that actually is.
Most importantly, as with everything, we must remember that we always choose our response to every circumstance. What will be the outcome of yesterday's actions is as fully in our hands as anything ever is or will be. It is our choices as individuals and as a nation that will determine the outcome for each of us, for our country, and for the world.
* Why I believe the third target was the Capitol Building
Judging from the flight path of the plane that crashed in Pennsylvania, it looks to me like the plane was headed for Washington, DC. Clearly, taking out the White House or the Congress Building would have much greater psychological impact on US citizens than any other monument in existence.
More practically, we have clear lines of succession laid out for the Presidency; replacing half of Congress would be much more difficult. Most importantly, Congress is the real seat of power in the US, the real decision-making body. Plus, (I learned this yesterday) the White House has anti-aircraft guns on the roof.
Addendum: there was a report that the plane that hit the Pentagon was originally aimed at the White House and then made a quick change to hit its target. Of course it's possible that the pilot received word that the fourth plane had crashed and changed it's course to a higher-priority target, or that the pilot had some reason to believe that it wouldn't succeed in his original aim and decided to go for a secondary target. But my initial thought was that they aimed at the White House in order to divert any response hoping that anti-aircraft weapons clustered around the apparent target wouldn't have time to get in between the plane and it's actual target.