"9-11 changed everything" is a sentiment I've heard expressed many times over the past few months, maybe even years. But I've never understood it. I mean, what did 9-11 really change? The international balance of power? No, we're still on top. Our reputation? No, we're still seen as imperials by some and the promised land by others, and the former imperial powers are still jealous of us. Our economy? No, it wasn't the only cause of the recession. Internal politics? No, we still have the Evil Party and the Stupid Party, no changes there.
But I was reading this transcript of Bush's press conference a couple days ago. I'm sorry this isn't a very convenient format for to show what I'm talking about, but I don't have the time right now to find some better way that's still a transcript rather than a critique or a rebuttal. And it finally made clear to me how 9-11 changed everything. I think Bush is taking a question from a guy named "Jim". This is the question:
"You have been accused of letting the 9/11 threat mature too far, but not letting the Iraq threat mature far enough. First, could you respond to that general criticism? And, secondly, in the wake of these two conflicts, what is the appropriate threat level to justify action in perhaps other situations going forward?"
Several paragraphs into his answer, he says something that made it all clear to me.
"After 9/11, the world changed for me, and I think changed for the country. It changed for me because, like many, we assumed oceans would protect us from harm, and that's not the case, it's not the reality of the 21st century. Oceans don't protect us. They don't protect us from killers."
So, that's the mystery solved. 9-11 changed everything... for the people who believed that our country's primary defense was oceans and other geographical barriers. If you believed that a lack of boats meant we were secure from everyone who didn't like us, 9-11 changed everything for you. If you thought the National Missile Defense program (a.k.a. Son of Star Wars) was a good idea, 9-11 must have completely upended your views on international relations. If you thought dictators like Milosevic or the Taliban weren't worth worrying about because they're over there and we're over here, 9-11 was a shocking and breathtaking revelation.
Personally, I found the press conference uninspiring.