The United States used to have a deal with the world. We would buy things from other countries, confidently assuming that those countries would sell them to us. We would also sell things to other countries, confidently assuming that they would want to buy them. And if some of those countries had a problem or two (dictators, human rights violations, oppressed peasants, etc.), as long as they kept those problems pretty much to themselves, we would leave them pretty much alone.
That deal has historical antecedents. Unlike the colonialist conquerors of Europe, we stayed secure behind our twin oceans, which made a commercial approach to the world appealing to us. And it suited our natures as a people. On our own continent, the two biggest single expansions -- Thomas Jefferson's $15 million Louisiana Purchase in 1803 and Secretary of State William H. Seward's 1867 buy of Alaska for $7,000,000 -- were deals. Of course, America did things wrong in pursuit of that policy. The words "banana republic" come to mind.
But, all in all, it proved a pretty peaceful, if some would say cynical, way to behave.
The deal-oriented approach to the world did create a complacent population, slow to be aroused to foreign danger. Note our delayed entries to World War I and World War II. That complacency persists to this day, in both American citizens and American leaders. The history of Islamist attacks on Americans illustrates that detachment.
In 1983, Hezbollah terrorists, operating with Syrian help and Iranian money, blew up the U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut, killing 241 Marines. Earlier that year, Hezbollah attacked the U.S. Embassy in Beirut, killing 63 Americans. President Reagan responded by pulling America out of Lebanon.
In February of 1993, Islamic terrorists drove a car bomb into the basement parking structure of the World Trade Center in New York City and detonated it, killing six Americans and wounding more than a thousand. President Clinton basically did nothing, though several of the terrorists were eventually caught, put on trial, and convicted.
In February of 1996, Saudi-based Hezbollah terrorists exploded a truck bomb at the Khobar Towers military housing facility in Dharan, Saudi Arabia. Nineteen U.S. servicemen were killed and 241 wounded.
In August of 1998, Al Qaeda exploded a bomb at the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi, Kenya, killing 291 people, including 12 Americans.
In October of 2000, Al Qaeda operatives rammed an explosives-packed rubber boat into the USS Cole, an American warship refueling in Yemen, killing 17 sailors, injuring 33.
Ultimately, of course, came the attacks of September 11, 2001.
This list leaves out a lot, but for present purposes, it serves. In every case but the last, American citizens and American leaders shrugged off the attacks. The deal stayed in place, even with the corrupt dictatorships of the Middle East. Even with Saddam Hussein. Even with Hafez (and then Bashar) el-Assad. Even with Hosni Mubarak. Even with Saudi Arabia.
Along the historic way, a number of less than totally friendly parties fattened on the spreading prosperity of the deal -- kind of the same way that artists flourish in big cities where big businesses carelessly spread lots of money around. These parties range from the nation of France to ABC News, from Gerhard Schroeder and Joschka Fischer to Terry McAuliffe and the fringe lefties who make up moveon.org.
With the attacks of 9/11, it became clear that a monstrously hostile entity -- radical Islamic terror -- existed in the world, and that their very reason for hostility was the deal itself. And they were determined to break us before the deal broke militant Islam entirely. The Golden Arches and Britney Spears videos were mortally dangerous to them. It became clear as well that all terrorists and all nations that encouraged and harbored them -- and virtually all Middle Eastern nations did so in some fashion or other, being too weak to fight America any other way -- were one and the same.
So when President George W. Bush decided, after 9/11, that the deal was off, he hurt those parties. He hurt them badly. He broke their rice bowls, to use a phrase from the brokerage industry. And when you break somebody's rice bowl, that somebody gets mad.
George W. Bush had a historic insight: Everything has changed. And he is acting on it, as more than one commentator has remarked. Terry McAuliffe? Jacques Chirac? Gerhard Schroeder? The seven -- or is it nine? -- Democratic would-be Presidential candidates? The Eastern establishment press? The academy? It's no wonder they're mad. Their world is gone.
Say that again, and hear it clearly. The old world is gone.
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