Ten Years Later

If the anniversary of 9/11 can't get me to write something here, nothing will.
It hardly seems possible that it's been ten years since that awful day, but in some ways it is almost impossible to remember what life was like before the airplanes hit the World Trade Center towers, the Pentagon and the field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, where the passengers of Flight 93 managed to avert a fourth strike on symbols of American power.
I look back at the path our country has taken, and I see both successes and failures. Success in preventing any further significant attacks on our nation, in deposing the Taliban regime in Afghanistan, in neutralizing some regimes like Iraq and Libya that sought to acquire weapons of mass destruction. Failure to overcome political correctness in identifying the enemy, which is not some nebulous "terror" that struck us for unknown reasons, but Islamic extremists who oppose everything America stands for and who make up a non-negligible portion of the Muslim world. You will not hear the M-word or the I-word today at all. Guaranteed.
And failure to remake the countries that our armed forces quickly defeated militarily, but failed to change politically. While the power of Muslim terrorist groups to attack us has been degraded, their militant Islamic ideology has not changed. The governments of Iraq and Afghanistan are not secular, nor are they ever likely to be; the same thing is likely to happen in Libya as well. It is quite apparent that nation-building in the Middle East is a fool's errand, a waste of vast quantities of American money and American lives. We've been in Afghanistan for almost ten years and it's still one of the world's armpits. Iraq is better, but only marginally so. We would have been better served if we simply crushed our enemies and then left them to rebuild themselves, with the warning that if they ever messed with us again, we'd come back and hit them twice as hard and make the rubble dance. That's the kind of lesson that once applied, seldom needs to be repeated. But such ruthlessness is unfortunately not in the American character.