What Happened to America's Righteous Anger After 9/11?

(AP Photo/Moshe Bursuker)

Not since Pearl Harbor did Americans unite with righteous anger against a foreign aggressor as they did after 9/11. The young people of America would have rallied around the flag and marched anywhere their leaders asked them to in order to avenge the murder of thousands at the Twin Towers and the Pentagon. How did we fall from a crest of patriotic spirit in 2001 to the demoralization of 2019? The main culprit is the Republican Establishment.


A recent Wall Street Journal/NBC poll found:

Among people 55 and older, for example, nearly 80% said patriotism was very important, compared with 42% of those ages 18-38—the millennial generation and older members of Gen-Z. Two-thirds of the older group cited religion as very important, compared with fewer than one-third of the younger group.

Only 31 percent of millennials thought having children was an important goal in life, vs. 54 percent of baby boomers. Meanwhile, a 2018 Pew Survey found that 59 percent of millennials identify as Democrats.

What happened? There are many small explanations, but one really big one: We misdirected the energies of the generation that came of age in 2001 into a utopian scheme to create a liberal democratic world order. We rotated more than 3 million Americans through tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan and spent anywhere between $4 and $7 trillion, and had nothing to show for it except huge deficits, tens of thousands of casualties, and millions of disrupted lives. Quick and nasty punitive expeditions would have had the near-unanimous support of the American public. Instead, we dissipated the lives and energy of the bravest young Americans in an ill-conceived social engineering scheme and got nothing out of it. The quagmire in Iraq prevented the United States from taking action against Iran, as I explained in 2010.


I won’t rehearse the depressing details once again. Lt. Gen. Daniel Bolger told the inside story in his superb 2012 book  Why We Lost, which I reviewed for Asia Times and PJ Media. The Establishment went all in, however. It ruthlessly suppressed dissent in its own ranks. Every mainstream Republican and most of the Democrats signed on to the program. That is why the Establishment cannot admit how utterly and completely stupid it was.

Here is Gen. Bolger’s summary of the Petraeus “surge”: “The stark facts on the ground still sat there, oozing pus and bile. With Saddam gone, any voting would install a Shiite majority. The Sunni wouldn’t run Iraq again. That, at the bottom, caused the insurgency. Absent the genocide of Sunni Arabs, it would keep it going.”

Petraeus swept the Sunni resistance under the rug by paying hundreds of millions of dollars in cash to Sunni leaders, and gave the Bush administration (and the Establishment) a success story of sorts–until the dormant Sunni resistance morphed into ISIS. Nonetheless, the Establishment still lionizes Petraeus, who gave them a story behind which to hide their collective blunder.

Not long ago I heard Mrs. Henry Kravis offer a softball question to Petraeus at a luncheon full of Wall Street swells who fairly glowed in the presence of the great man. Petraeus spoke of “Great ideas…Bill Gates…Jeff Besos…Jack Ma…the ‘Surge.'” The Establishment, like the Bourbons, has learned nothing and forgotten nothing. But it knows how to cover its collective posterior. Gen. Bolger doesn’t get invited to address Wall Street lunches.


Of course, the Bush administration encouraged the great housing bubble that led to the Great Crash of 2008, in ways that only accountants appreciate (by allowing the banks and the rating agencies to concoct fraudulent “AAA” mortgage-backed securities, and then allowing the banks to lever them up 60:1).

The American people weren’t fooled, of course. In 2016 Donald Trump went around the country saying that the emperor had no clothes–that the Establishment had bungled America’s foreign policy. That’s a big part of the reason he defied precedent and won the presidency: He said what everyone knew to be the case, but none of our self-styled betters would admit. Not only does the emperor have no clothes; the empire has no tailors, and Trump has been hard put to assemble a foreign policy team that works. Iran is more a danger than ever, Russia has become a major power broker in the Middle East and elsewhere, and the prospect of Chinese world dominance has passed out of the realm of fantasy into official military assessments.

Americans of my generation rejected the Establishment and voted for Trump. Too many of our kids rejected the Establishment and voted for Bernie Sanders and socialism. I know all about the cultural Marxists, the progressive faculty making its long march along the tenure track at our universities, the diehard enemies of the American ideal and Western civilization. But the sad truth is that our young people wanted great goals after 9/11, and we gave them instead a quagmire guarded by hypocrisy.



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