Twelve years ago today was one of those times where you remember where you were and what you were doing when you heard the news.
The attack on the two World Trade Center towers and the Pentagon are seared in our memory, joining a pantheon of events in the electronic age that include the two shuttle disasters, the landing on the moon, Kennedy's assassination (50 years ago this November) and the attack on Pearl Harbor.
As a nation, we have rarely been as united as we were in those early dark days after the attacks.
Those terrorist attacks launched America's longest war -- in Afghanistan (we're still there) -- the war in Iraq (we're out but the country is melting down behind us), and the open-ended War on Terror in response to a threat that realistically will never go completely away (but will keep all those restrictions on our liberties firmly in place).
When we hit the Taliban and al-Qaeda forces in Afghanistan our blood was hot. We wanted revenge. It's a rule other nations should take to heart. Never royally piss off the United States. You can chip at the edges. You can annoy us. But don't ever make us genuinely mad, because if you do, we'll introduce you to a few Marines we know (and soldiers and sailors and airmen).
Still, 12 years after the attacks, al-Qaeda is a shadow of its former self, and every time it comes out from under the rocks where it's been hiding it gets hammered back into the ground.
The threats are still there, but the blood has cooled and the American public is tired of war. For that matter, so are the troops, and especially their families, who've watched them head off to war and then worry themselves sick until they came home. Most of the time.
That war fatigue is being expressed in many ways, but perhaps most significantly in the president's efforts to punish Syria for using chemical weapons on its own people.
Our standing in the world isn't quite what most Americans think it is. There's some tarnish on our shining silver armor. But when push comes to shove, we're still the only nation that really acts on its moral principles, we're still the only nation the rest of the world can turn to for help against the world's bullies. We can't solve every problem, but we try to solve the ones we can. That makes us still a very special nation.
A week ago, it seemed certain we'd be punishing Assad this week. Now, it's not so certain (Congress, as usual, is playing politics and following the president's lead at being indecisive). But if we can do some damage to Assad's regime (and the Hezbollah/Iran "volunteers" fighting for him) without risking any American lives directly, using stand-off missiles and drones, then it seems to us the risk/reward is worth it.
Because, no matter how beat up, tattered and torn we may have gotten in the last decade, we are still the good guys, the ones who genuinely care. Some highly limited strikes will at least send a message that bullies must pay a price. We may not be able to cripple Assad, but we can at least sting him and let him know there are still a few who will stand up for humanity.
-- Kelly Everitt