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News and views on Israel, Zionism and the war on terrorism.

January 08, 2003

Where is the outrage?

Michael Oren, author of "Six Days of War: June 1967 and the Making of the Modern Middle East." has some interesting things to say on America's resolve or lack there of. A few excerpts follow.

"December 7, 1941," declared president Franklin D. Roosevelt, was "a day that will live in infamy," and the vast majority of Americans instantly agreed with him and united to avenge that infamy.

Today, by contrast, a year after an even more infamous event, Americans are divided in their feelings. They have yet to decide whether the attacks of September 11, 2001, have left them angry, hurt, traumatized or bewildered - or all of these combined.

How, in historical terms, can one explain the radical difference in America's reaction to 12/7 and 9/11?

THE MOST obvious reason is the disparate nature of the attackers. America's enemies in 1941 were sovereign states with standing armies that could be fought, and defeated, by force of arms. Al-Qaida, on the contrary, is amorphous, extraterritorial, and secret.

Moreover, terrorist elements can be found in many friendly countries - indeed, even in the US - and the means for combating them are not at all clear-cut. Taking on the dominant powers in Europe and the Far East was one thing, grappling with a worldwide movement with hundreds of millions of potential followers is quite another. It is not even certain how victory in such a war could be demonstrated or how the enemy, even if vanquished, could surrender.

And yet, stark as they are, the differences between the enemies of today and those of 60 years ago cannot alone account for the disparity in America's response to the two attacks.

The principal reason must lie in America itself - in the profound changes that have occurred in American society, identity, and culture since the end of World War II. A half-century of unprecedented prosperity, the impact of the 1960s - the "me generation" and the nightmare of Vietnam - and a growing opposition to big government, have left many Americans wary of foreign military entanglements, unwilling to forfeit their affluence, and resentful of federal interference in their daily lives. More.
Maybe OBL was right when he said that the West was soft.

Ted Belman tedbel@rogers.com