Like Chickens without Heads: America’s Reaction to 9/11 and COVID

A military think tank expert and professor, Dr. Gil Barndollar, recently wrote a piece for the Wall Street Journal arguing that not only should the United States withdraw its troops from Afghanistan, but we never should’ve been there nearly that long in the first place. He also dared to suggest an alternative to the extremes of permanent military presence and permanent retreat: “U.S. troops can always go back,” Dr. Barndollar explains. “Punitive expeditions offer a middle course: brief, high-intensity campaigns to punish sponsors of terrorism and deter others. Large raids have both a moral and a physical force that far outweighs the largely symbolic impact of cruise missiles or limited bombing campaigns, while swift withdrawal after achieving the immediate objective prevents the U.S. from being drawn into ‘forever wars.’” Well said, sir!

As we approach the 20th anniversary of 9/11, I continue to show my history students the video of President George W. Bush’s stirring address to Congress on September 20, 2001, nine days after those horrific attacks, so as to point out the incredible bipartisan unity that enjoyed an all-too-brief honeymoon following 9/11, and one that was conspicuously absent after our nation confronted COVID.

In listening to Bush vow that the terrorists would be brought to justice, I remember the evening on which I heard that speech live and, probably like almost everyone else, never imagined we’d still be fighting that same war 20 years later. To put things into stark perspective, not only is it by far the longest war we’ve ever fought – longer than our involvement in the Revolutionary and Civil Wars and World Wars I and II combined – but there are troops fighting there now whose parents were deployed there a generation earlier! The war that was waged because of 9/11 now includes soldiers who weren’t even born at the time.

In hindsight, did we really need all the pomp and melodrama? Yes, of course any attack on our soil – and a deadly one at that – stirs up emotions of intense ire and oodles of patriotism (even some lefties wore a flag lapel for a few weeks), but the appropriate response may very well have been what Barndollar describes as an intense and overwhelming raid, followed by a swift withdrawal, and then calculated and narrowly targeted missions, such as the one that took out Osama bin Laden. Were 20 years of spilled blood and squandered treasure, a Department of Homeland Security, and a mindset of permanent presence really necessary? Unless we plan on annexing some foreign land (which I’m not suggesting), we have no reason to keep our forces there longer than it takes some babies to be born, grow up, and go fight in that same war.

Similarly, I much fear that as a nation, we ran around like chickens without heads yet again at the onset of COVID. I have buried the lead, which is that I’m recommending all of you read a book that is possibly the most important one written – at least of which I am aware – in several decades: it is Faucian Bargain, by Steve Deace and Todd Erzen. If you’re like me, you may not necessarily judge a book by its cover, but you do judge it by its author(s). Upon encountering this book, I asked myself: who are the authors and what is their agenda? Deace and Erzen – admittedly, I had never heard of either of them prior to reading the book – have a show on the Blaze network, which is a conservative media outlet which, from what I understand (I don’t watch it and don’t even know how or where to find it), provides a good deal of what I call ‘ideological crack’ to its audience.

Crack for conservatives, for example, would be a story about a public school principal who suspended a third-grader for telling his friends during recess that he and his family go to church on Sundays. Conversely, crack for liberals would be an equally extreme story, about a middle-aged white man in a silly costume spewing how the Clintons drink children’s blood to prevent aging. Note: these are not our average left-leaning or right-leaning fellow Americans.

I think extreme stories like these destroy our ability to think critically and to foster true intellectual discourse. Why, then, would I read a book written by two authors who conceivably (like I said, I’m not sure; I don’t watch their show) dole out such ideological junk? Because I appreciate the methodical structure of their argument and formidable bibliography of sources. For example, in pointing out that the book’s principal subject, Dr. Anthony Fauci, is full of contradictions, they cite numerous examples of his early diagnosis that masks don’t work, including a March 8, 2020 appearance on 60 Minutes. Such footnotes support the book’s three overriding themes: 1) we never should have locked down (we should’ve protected the vulnerable and left everyone else alone); 2) it is absurd to place so much faith in a single individual, whether it’s Fauci or someone else; and 3) it is alarming that any scientists, physicians, or others with a contradictory point of view are immediately labeled subversives and lunatics and are summarily censored and blacklisted.

Because I supported Donald Trump’s presidency, I was extra-conscientious about using a tremendous amount of documentation to back the points I made in my book Trumped-Up Charges! so that it would be considered legitimate, despite my bias. I think Deace and Erzen have done the same here.

If someone told me back in 2001 that we’d be in Afghanistan for 20 years, and at the start of that 20th year we’d shut down our society and hide in our homes like frightened masked squirrels, I’d say “that’s crazy!” on both counts. Afghanistan was supposed to be a quick skirmish to remove the Taliban from power. The COVID lockdown was supposed to be a 15-day cakewalk to slow the spread. Both of those plans wildly veered out of control, because far too often, our leaders act like chickens without heads, and we simply comply like Pavlovian sheep.


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