By Anton Wahlman
Times go by, and even within a generation, people forget major events.
16 years ago, Yugoslavia was in the middle of a civil war that broke up the country into at least a half dozen countries.
26 years ago, the United Kingdom declared war on Argentina and sent the Royal Navy to war over The Falkland Islands.
36 years ago, Arab terrorists took the Israeli Olympic delegation at Munich hostage and proceeded to murder all of them. A year later, all of the countries surrounding Israel including Egypt and Syria, proceeded to attempt the invasion of Israel.
46 years ago, the US failed its attempted invasion of Cuba at The Bay of Pigs, which was followed by the Cuban Missile Crisis when the world came minutes away from total war.
56 years ago, the US and the UN were fighting a Chinese-assisted invasion by North Korea of South Korea, and General MacArthur threatened to drop a nuke on the enemy, at which point President Eisenhower fired him.
66 years ago, the US had just declared war on Germany, Japan and Italy, and proceeded to go all the way to victory after 450,000 Americans fell.
76 years ago, Adolf Hitler was leading the election campaign for the German National Socialist Workers’ Party (Nationalsocialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei, or NSDAP), in which he won and became head of the government. The only major world leader who protested and warned that this was bringing destruction to the world was Winston Churchill, an obscure right-wing back-bencher.
86 years ago, the US was experiencing unprecedented economic growth, but the German government thought it was harmless to increase the money supply, so it started printing money, which generated hyperinflation, followed by a depression and 40% unemployment.
96 years ago, the US government was debating 3 new policies that were implemented the following year: (a) prohibition of pot/drugs, (b) introducing the income tax, which previously had not existed and (c) requiring the use of passports for international travel.
Sen. John McCain’s very vigorous mom Roberta was born 96 years ago, when drugs were legal, there was zero income tax and passports didn’t exist.
Many Americans have conveniently forgotten these historical events. What’s more surprising is that some Americans now also see September 11, 2001 – only little over 6 years ago – as a fading memory.
In this context, you may have missed it in all the coverage of Super Tuesday, but Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell gave his annual national security threat assessment to the Senate Intelligence Committee last week.
For anyone who still doubts that the United States and our allies are in a fight for our existence, Director McConnell’s testimony should put those doubts to rest.
Here’s part of what he said:
“Al Qaeda is improving the last key aspect of its ability to attack the U.S.: the identification, training, and positioning of operatives for an attack in the Homeland. While increased security measures at home and abroad have caused al Qaeda to view the West, especially the U.S., as a harder target, we have seen an influx of new Western recruits into the tribal areas since mid-2006. We assess that al Qaeda’s Homeland plotting is likely to continue to focus on prominent political, economic, and infrastructure targets designed to produce mass casualties, visually dramatic destruction, significant economic aftershocks, and/or fear among the population.
We judge use of a conventional explosive to be the most probable al Qaeda attack scenario because the group is proficient with conventional small arms and improvised explosive devices and is innovative in creating capabilities and overcoming security obstacles. That said, al Qaeda and other terrorist groups are attempting to acquire chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear weapons and materials (CBRN). We assess al Qaeda will continue to try to acquire and employ these weapons and materials — some chemical and radiological materials and crude weapons designs are easily accessible, in our judgment.”
What priorities will change after the next terrorist attack? Who will be blamed for failing to stop it? Will we blame our unguarded borders against Mexico and Canada? Will we blame the lack of biometric IDs? Will we blame the insufficient ability to wiretap suspected terrorists? Will there be calls to do what we did with the Japanese during World War 2? (internment camps)
I don’t know what will be the precise dynamics in the media spin, but what I do know is that the political debate will shift dramatically at that point, and instantaneously, suddenly reminding us of 9/11 and various other turning points in history. We will be “shocked” to find out that we had become complacent and hadn’t urgently addressed so many “obvious” holes in our security, such as our unguarded borders and lack of terrorist tracking.