On Saturday, the twentieth anniversary of the attacks that felled the World Trade Center and hit the Pentagon, we should ask ourselves, with the benefit of time, what have we learned and of what have we been reminded?


We’ve learned and have been reminded that evil is eternal. The same men who planned and executed 9-11 were not finally beaten, there was no “mission accomplished.” They run Kabul today, perhaps Baghdad tomorrow. There will always be hateful men, both inside and outside our borders, who seek to do us harm. Thus politicians who claim victory over “terror” are fools or liars. The price for our safety will be constant vigilance into the long twilight struggle with those who hate us.

We’ve again learned we are resilient. But we should have known that already. In the days just following the attack America was justifiably in shock. So it was after Antietam, Pearl Harbor, and several presidential assassinations. However, we recovered and went on to do what we needed to do. We, pray God, always will.

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We’ve come to remember that the right man in the right job at the right time can be crucial for a nation. Say what you will about George W. Bush and his subsequent actions in Afghanistan and Iraq, but in the days immediately after the attacks he did his job well. Imagine the alternative? Imagine if Al Gore had been president twenty years ago? He would have asked for an FBI investigation. That’s about it. This analyst holds no brief for Bush the Younger. But credit belongs where credit is due.

Perhaps most of all we’ve learned, not been reminded of, but learned, how fleeting is any modern concept of national unity. After other traumatic national events the nation came together in a unified sense of grief and purpose and stayed that way for awhile. And that also happened on 9-11. For about a week.


It wasn’t long before the usual suspects were proclaiming it was our fault and we deserved it. It wasn’t long before the left mobilized to campaign against any strong American response. And it wasn’t long before the same old partisan sclerosis returned to Capitol Hill. Yes, we’ve learned and recalled a lot about ourselves and about America over the last twenty years. Not all of it good, but all of it necessary to ensure we do not remake the mistakes of the past.