Two terrible September days sum up the first decade of the new American millennium.
The first, of course, was Sept. 11, 2001. Osama bin Laden's suicide terrorists that morning hit the Pentagon, knocked down the World Trade Center, killed 3,000 Americans, and left 16 acres of ash in Manhattan and $1 trillion in economic losses in their wake. Two invasions into Afghanistan and Iraq followed -- along with a more nebulous third "war on terror" against Islamic radicalism.
America was soon torn apart over both the causes and the proper reaction to the attacks. The Left often cited America's foreign interventions and Middle East policies as provocations. And it soon bitterly opposed the second war in Iraq, and even more adamantly decried the antiterrorism protocols that followed 9/11.
The Right countered that only unwarranted hatred of the U.S. prompted the carnage. The best way, then, to prevent more Islamic terrorism was to go on the offensive abroad against regimes that sponsored terrorism, whether the Taliban or Saddam Hussein. New security protocols and laws at home were likewise needed to prevent another major terrorist onslaught.
But a decade later, the unforeseen happened. More than 30 major attempts to trump the 9/11 attacks have all failed. Across the globe, radical Islam is in disarray. The U.S. military killed bin Laden. His successor, Ayman al-Zawahiri, remains in hiding. The Arab world's two most prominent murderous lunatics, Saddam Hussein and Muammar Gadhafi, are dead. Middle East theocracies and dictatorships have either fallen or now totter.
For all our internal bickering, the Obama administration continued almost all of George W. Bush's antiterrorism policies. Guantanamo is still open. The Patriot Act remains in effect. Predator drone assassinations have increased tenfold. The subject of military tribunals, renditions and preventative detention now elicits yawns.
For Vice President Joe Biden, the Iraq war would prove his administration's "great achievement." For President Obama, another former opponent of the war, the effort to remove Saddam Hussein and to foster constitutional government in his place was an "extraordinary achievement" -- one in which America birthed "a sovereign, stable and self-reliant Iraq, with a representative government that was elected by its people." George W. Bush could not have said it better.