Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Reflections on 9/11

I finished watching 'The Path to 9/11' last night. Factual or not, it brought back a lot of memories. I can easily play back the 24 hours following the attack in my head. My wife was on a plane due to arrive at LaGuardia around 9am. She was diverted to Philadelphia. Thank God she was ok and I was able to drive from Chicago to pick her up and bring her home.

It is easy to look back at the years since 9/11 and criticize. Despite this, I think the criticism is warranted. Terrorism has not won the war but they've won the first several rounds. They will continue to win as long as we continue to focus on politics and spin ignorning positive change.

Watching 'The Path to 9/11', it occurred to me that I really don't care who is to blame. Democrats simply drew more attention to the program by flipping out over it a few days beforehand. I don't care if Clinton screwed up. I don't care if Bush screwed up...the CIA, FBI, INS, Congress, Democrats, Republicans, the Florida flight schools, the Pakistanis, whomever! I don't care. I don't care because it doesn't matter.

Certainly, we should seek to learn from history. Let's all read the 9/11 Commission Report to understand what happened--and why. But let's apply that knowledge and proactively go out and do something with it. If I learned anything from 'The Path to 9/11' (and from living though the last 5 years), it's that we failed ourselves. Politics and spin failed us. Everyone covering their butt and suppressing the truth or failing to do the right thing, failed us. Not asking the right questions, failed us. Not cooperating amongst ourselves, failed us.

Since post-WWII, we've managed to put spin and politics in front of getting things done and doing what is best for our country. The few obvious exceptions include the fall of the Berlin Wall (and thus the end of the Cold War) and putting a man on the moon. It is past time we put our personal agendas and egos aside and start working for the betterment of this country.

So let's cut through all the crap and do something about it. My recommendations:
  1. Pull out of Iraq. Not immediately and not on a time table but enough is enough. Maybe our departure will focus their resolve. And if not...well, maybe they didn't want it bad enough. But don't think we've forgotten about you. If you can't manage it, we'll be back but in a different manner...
  2. Form a new, under-the-radar government agency with broad powers and a big budget to eradicate terrorism. Call it the U.S. Counter-Terrorism Agency or something. Give them a staff of, say, 500 elite fighters and intelligence personnel. Something like a Mossad or SEALs (actully, Rainbow Six from Tom Clancy's head comes to mind...). Deploy them throughout the world, one problem country (starting with the U.S.) at a time, to bring terrorists to justice (or their demise). It's surgery--not demolition. The broad sword of the military is ineffective (ok, that's a strong word...how about not the most effective option) here.
  3. Forget bin Laden. Who cares? Every time we mention this guy, it fuels the flames. He's the poster child for the movement. Even if we get him, he'll either become a martyr or be replaced by someone else.
  4. Open oil drilling in ANWR and off the coastal shelf in the short term. Seek rapid elimination of foreign oil dependence. Dial it back once we're independent.
  5. Build 35? safe, nuclear power plants in the U.S. Use them to power corporate and residential needs. Build new cars to use electricity. Eliminate dependency on foreign oil.
  6. Build 55? safe, nuclear power plants in China. Use them to power corporate and residential needs. China needs oil to fuel their economy. They have cash. Iran has oil. Iran needs cash. Russia has oil. Russia needs cash. Venezuela has oil. Venezuela needs cash. (You see where I'm going...) Bad guys exploit their natural resources to fuel their regimes. Take natural resource markets away from bad guys. Bad guys lose cash. Bad guys lose power. Bad guys no longer a threat.
  7. Recruit the best and brightest students to the U.S. Where are the Google guys from? Not the U.S. Where was Einstein from? Not the U.S. We're a melting pot. That's what makes us unique and powerful--well, and the fact we're a free republic.
  8. But build systems to track (with accuracy!) all foreign nationals. Seal the borders tightly.
  9. Profile. Wire tap. Infiltrate. Do it legally but do it. These guys are brazen. If it walks like a duck and looks like a duck--it's probably a duck.
  10. Prepare. Prepare for the next attack. Prepare mentally, emotionally, and physically. Disaster preparation will be key to survival.
  11. Leave the Solar System by 2050. Whew, that one threw you! We need to progress. To progress as a society, as humankind. We are desperately in need of a lofty goal to challenge ourselves and to focus our talents and energy. How much money have we spent on military operations in the past 55 years? (ok, yes, military operations also fuel scientific discovery but work with me here...) Probably trillions in the U.S. alone, right? (It was $455B in 2004.) I'm confident we could pilot a manned space craft out of the Solar System for $2T. Eliminate all this terrorism and wars and we'd have my budget in just a few years!
And don't think all these need government sponsorship or ownership! Yes, some--but business and people in general will flourish (flourish!) once government gets out of the way. We have the technology and smarts to achieve brilliance! Just let us do it.

Our track record of "do the right thing" and "do it better" seems to have slipped in the recent past. We started out so strong: exploring and discovering the northern hemisphere, founding America, declaring independence from England, forming a free republic, abolishing slavery, championing capitalism, leading the world to democracy, landing on the moon, defeating communism...but I fear we've lost our way.

The path to success lies within ourselves. We must cast off our incessant agendas and egos. Get out of the way you sycophant politicians and lobbyists. Stop the partisan bickering and get to work. And that doesn't mean increasing the size of government--just work more effectively and more efficiently. Let's get down to business and solve problems--before we no longer have the opportunity to choose.

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