The further we get from September 11, the harder it is to write about. Of course, we continue to honor the first responders who gave their all - and many their lives - on that day. We honor the heroes on United 93 who took the most effective action that day. We honor the air traffic control staff who may well have prevented additional attacks that day. And we honor those in the military who fight overseas so we don't have to fight at home. But even those risk becoming pro-forma announcements, as the immediacy of the moment fades. At the time, like many others, I compared the attacks to Pearl Harbor. I don't think we experience the same difficulty surrounding Pearl Harbor, Nicholson Baker and Pat Buchanan notwithstanding. Pearl Harbor resulted in a war which, in retrospect, had clearly-defined beginnings and endings, conducted by governments. It resulted in the destruction of those governments, the reduction of their countries to rubble, and their occupation and reconstruction along lines less likely to produce genocidal imperialism.
By any rational accounting, we've done extremely well in the past years in our fight. The Islamists have refrained from further attacks on the US homeland, but have also found themselves stripped of much of their capability to plan and carry out such attacks. Our worldwide presence has allowed us to police against Islamist cells in remote areas, and helped train local governments to defend themselves. The size and effectiveness of their attacks on civilians have steadily shrunk, and they have found themselves routed out and crushed in their self-declared "central front" in Iraq.
Still, there is an unease, and a sense that this isn't over yet by a long shot. September 11 has instead resulted in a new Cold War, in many ways. We engage and decisively defeat the Islamists on many fronts, but sadly have allowed their control of certain countries to last long enough for them to form effective counter-strategies. The Iranian threat is real, and has acquired a major ally in Russia, and this thing could go very badly, very quickly unless we continue to act.
Let's remember that the purpose of this war isn't to buy time, but to win. And anything less than winning will be a betrayal of those that we're honoring today.