Trouble: Pearl Harbor and 9/11   [open pdf - 99KB]

"The sense of having been played for a fool was most definitely part of the emotional mix after Pearl Harbor, as it was following the al-Qaeda attacks last year, which brought allusions to 1941 briefly to the surface of policy chatter. It was the only other time anybody could think of when Americans had so complacently leaned into such a ferocious sucker punch. Strategically, of course, the analogy has nothing whatever to recommend it, which is presumably why it has faded from view. Psychologically, too, the thing is all wrong, which is more interesting. "Pearl Harbor" stands for a call to arms--for everyone putting down their tools and tending to the trouble. Nothing remotely like that has followed the advent of the "war on terror," an expression one feels compelled to place within quotation marks not to disown it, but because its meaning is so plainly metaphorical: more like the war on drugs, on poverty, on cancer, than the war against Japan. Setting aside the fact that nobody knows what a mass mobilization against terrorism would entail, such a thing, were it to happen, would be widely (and reasonably) regarded as a victory for terrorism in itself."

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