As September 11 comes around each year, those of us who focus on radical Islam inevitably ask whether the lessons of 9/11 have sunk in — or whether they are fading as the event itself becomes a memory. Are we, in other words, progressing or regressing in what once was called the war on terror?
In contrast to a conventional war, in which objective markers such as control of territory or the output of steel indicate trends, in this new kind of war one must look to subjective factors like understanding the enemy or pride in one’s own civilization. How, on this slippery basis, does the United States stand on the ninth 9/11?
On the plus side, about half of the population — basically the conservative half — has made substantial progress. It has done everything from read the Koran to volunteer for combat in Afghanistan. A speech by Newt Gingrich in July with an informed discussion of “a struggle with radical Islamists in both their militant and their stealth form,” symbolizes this increase in awareness.
On the minus side, the liberal half and the establishment it inevitably controls, from government to media to the academy to the arts, has become ever more determined to ignore the religious aspect of the war and instead reduce it to counterterrorism and economics. Eric Holder’s buffoonish congressional testimony in May, when he time and again refused to acknowledge any role for radical Islam, symbolizes this obduracy. Worse, liberals hamstring defense attempts by labeling these “Islamophobism” and “racism.”
Combining this contrary evidence, I conclude that the lessons of 9/11 seemed obvious but in fact were deep and subtle; therefore, drawing fully those implications will take decades. Fortunately, that process is underway. Unfortunately, it may be going too slowly to achieve victory.