STEYN: No Terrorism, Just War?
No Terrorism, Just War?
Oh, it's a long, long while from September to September. This year, the anniversary falls, for the first time, on a Tuesday morning, and perhaps some or other cable network will re-present the events in real time – the first vague breaking news in an otherwise routine morning show, the follow-up item on the second plane, and the realization that something bigger was under way.
If you make it vivid enough, the JFK/Princess Di factor will kick in: you'll remember "where you were" when you "heard the news." But it's harder to recreate the peculiar mood at the end of the day, when the citizens of the superpower went to bed not knowing what they'd wake up to the following morning.
Six years on, most Americans are now pretty certain what they'll wake up to in the morning: There'll be a thwarted terrorist plot somewhere or other – last week, it was Germany. Occasionally, one will succeed somewhere or other, on the far horizon – in Bali, Istanbul, Madrid, London. But not many folks expect to switch on the TV this Tuesday morning, as they did that Tuesday morning, and see smoke billowing from Atlanta or Phoenix or Seattle.
During the IRA's 30-year campaign, the British grew accustomed (perhaps too easily accustomed) to waking up to the news either of some prominent person's assassination or that a couple of grandmas and some schoolkids had been blown apart in a shopping center. It was a terrorist war in which terrorism was almost routine. But, in the six years since President Bush declared that America was in a "war on terror," there has been in America no terrorism.
In theory, the administration ought to derive a political benefit from this: The president has "kept America safe." But, in practice, the placidity of the domestic front diminishes the chosen rationale of the conflict: if a "war on terror" has no terror, who says there's a war at all?