Philip Brewer's Writing Progress


Friday, 14 September 2001

I haven't written since Monday. I'll get back to it this weekend.

At my office today, we gathered for a moment of silence.

I've been working with these people for a long time. There have been other tragedies that resulted in behavior like we had here on Tuesday, with people gathered around the TV trying to comprehend what had happened. But I don't remember the site coming together in this way before.

The closest was after the Challenger disaster. That produced the same shock and horror. But this is different. People are coming together differently from then, or even from during the Gulf War.

It is profoundly moving, even while being sad. And scary.

I watched the tail end of the service at the National Cathedral. I caught only the last few moments of Bush's speech. The next thing was a military choir singing the "Battle Hymn of the Republic." If you haven't thought about the words to that song in a long time, it's well worth reviewing them. The song is well titled.

A lot of people hate the United States. Some of them have some justification. I have often wished that the US would do less mucking around with other country's affairs: it would be more ethical behavior, and it would make it safer and more pleasant for me when I traveled overseas.

Given that I think that way, I acknowledge the ludicrousness of the position: "Let's find and kill terrorists worldwide, and overthrow the governments of any country that tries to block our efforts, and then stop interfering in the affairs of other countries so they won't hate us." And yet, it's the best I can come up with.

People have gotten the idea that the US is unwilling to take the risks and suffer the casualties that are inevitable in military conflict. I understand how people have gotten that idea from our behavior over the last dozen years or so, but I think they're wrong. The fact is that the US has grown unwilling to suffer casualties on behalf of foreigners. The US will not hesitate to put American lives on the line to save Americans. I think this will come as a terrible surprise to the foreign powers who have supported terrorism against us. We are, in ways that matter, still the same country that gave the lives of tens of thousands of soldiers in Vietnam for what were really nothing but a vague geopolitical notion. Think what we will sacrifice to destroy the only people to have brought war to our capital in 189 years.

I think we're going to go to war. I don't think that war will end with the destruction of a few terrorist training camps and the deaths of a few terrorists. I think the US will overthrow governments.

I hope for peace, but I think my hopes are unrealistic. The most hopeful vision of the future that I find I can believe in is that the US will find a way to follow the model of the post-WWII era and rebuild those countries that it destabilizes as free democracies. Two less promising models present themselves. One is the post-WWI model, such as we followed recently with Iraq, leaving the country defeated and isolated to fester in its hatred for us. The other is the genocide model, such as we followed with the native Americans, treating the land as if it were unpopulated.

I am sad for my country. And sadder still for our enemies.


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