We all remember where we were ten years ago. I was sleeping in after a late-night transcontinental flight, awakening to cries of "Turn on your TV! We're being attacked!"
Once I'd cleared the fog from my sleepy brain and managed to come to grips with the horror unfolding on the screen in front of me, I recall being startled by the fact that I wasn't surprised. My reaction to the Muslim murderers was more along the lines of "What took you so long?" It's not as if the evil commands of the Koran are new, or Islam's hatred of infidels, the West, and Great Satan America arose yesterday.
What I in no way foresaw was where we are today. On that day of horror ten years ago, I would never for one moment have dreamed that, ten years later, there would not have been another mega-casualty attack in the United States. I thought it more likely that at least one American city, and possibly more, would have been nuked by Islamic terrorists.
Have there been additional terrorist attacks in the West? Sure there have - Madrid not long after 9-11, London a few years later, the occasional so-called "lone wolf" like Major Nidal Malik Hasan at Ft. Hood. In America, though, the casualties have been a minute fraction of what the most optimistic person would have expected on 9-12.
Is this a testimony to the effectiveness of our security forces? Certainly not our domestic ones - the Department of Homeland Security and its TSA are laughingstocks, leaving the Underwear Bomber to be defeated by, of all Ramboesque characters, a Dutch filmmaker. Ordinary white grannies, of course, are stripped of their own underwear in response.
Our men in uniform have done much better, killing hordes of would-be suicide bombers in Iraq and Afghanistan. They do, however, have help:
In Afghanistan, as in many cultures, a manly embrace is a time-honored tradition for warriors before they go off to face death. Thus, many suicide bombers never even make it out of their training camp or safe house, as the pressure from these group hugs triggers the explosives in suicide vests. According to several sources at the United Nations, as many as six would-be suicide bombers died last July after one such embrace in Paktika.
Poll after poll has shown that tens of millions of Muslims worldwide support the goals and methods of terrorism. Many thousands of Muslim terrorists have, in fact, attempted terrorist attacks. Yet aside from 9-11 and a handful of other horrors, the overwhelming majority of suicide bombers are lucky to kill anyone other than themselves. Why?
Ten years on, there are couple of lessons that are clearly apparent, which might give us a slightly more realistic perspective on the problem we face.
It might seem inappropriate to compare murderers with Dumb and Dumber, but entire Internet pages have been written detailing just how common are the grossest form of terrorist incompetence, even when using techniques that anyone ought to be able to use.
One genius stashed a bomb up his butt, using a false claim to get close to the prince who runs Saudi Arabia's intelligence service. The plot worked flawlessly: he did in fact get into the same room as the prince, and could easily have walked right next to him. But he didn't - he detonated the bomb while still a few feet away, thus blowing himself to bits and nobody else. How dumb can you get?
We've already mentioned suicide-bomber farewell parties that end badly. One terrorist accidentally became a suicide bomber when she didn't intend to, by forgetting to block spam messages on the cellphone intended as the detonator:
The would-be suicide bomber was planning to detonate a suicide belt bomb near Red Square, a plan that was foiled when her wireless carrier sent her an SMS while she was still at a safe house, setting off the bomb and killing her. The message reportedly wished her a Happy New Years.
Is it just that al-Qaeda picks morons to do their dirty work? Well, actually they do. It turns out that suicide bombers who are retarded do a better job than those that aren't:
Baghdad’s fragile peace was shattered yesterday when explosives strapped to two women with Down’s syndrome were detonated by remote control in crowded pet markets, killing at least 91 people in the worst attacks that the capital had experienced for almost a year.
How embarrassing this must be to the medical doctors who tried to blow up Glasgow airport and instead merely managed to hang up their car on a traffic bollard and set fire to themselves! Forget being smarter than a fifth-grader - these guys were outdone by people usually housed in an institution. You don't want to think about what the fact that they had passed medical school and were practicing in the National Health Service says about the British licensing process.
Even when they were on fire in front of an airport terminal, it wasn't cops who ran them to ground - it was an ordinary cab driver, who kicked one in the balls so hard he tore his own tendon. The terrorist died in the hospital from his injuries; we aren't told which ones.
The fact is, a certain degree of sophistication is required in order to successfully execute a terrorist attack in the West. Clearly, not too many murderously-inclined Muslims have what it takes.
Blowing up an Iraqi market is orders of magnitude easier so that's what they do, saving American lives. The theory of Iraq as a "terrorist magnet," for all the ignorant derision by the left, is provably true.
So was al-Qaeda comprised exclusively of escapees from a mental ward? No:
When American Special Forces gunned down a sick Osama bin Laden hiding in a small, squalid room, some took this as proof that his threat had never been real. What kind of criminal mastermind dies that way?
Don't forget, Adolf Hitler died, sick and almost alone, in a small squalid room. At that moment he was no threat to the world any more, but he sure had been for the previous decade. Same with Osama.
Bin Laden went into 9-11 with the resources of a billionaire, with a significant following throughout the Arab world, and with many highly skilled lieutenants. Thanks to ten years of hard work by our military and intelligence services, most of his experienced leaders have gone to meet their Maker, as now has their master.
What's striking, though, is that not one of them was willing to personally blow their own selves up. Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was dragged from a hidey-hole to an American secret prison for waterboarding. Osama was gunned down in his bedroom.
Both were well aware that they were the World's Most Wanted; both had every ability to hook up booby traps. If they'd wanted, they could have gone out with a bang and taken out at least one Delta Force unit. But they didn't.
It almost seems like people who are intelligent enough to successfully pull off a mass terrorist attack and those who are willing to personally and intentionally kill themselves are mutually exclusive groups. If you're smart enough to do it, you're smart enough to not want to - though you might be willing to con someone dumber into having a go. There may be a handful of people who are both, and al-Qaeda seems to have used them all on 9-11.
This leads us to a vitally important conclusion:
Bin Laden thought he could start a global jihad. He succeeded, sort of - the whole world has been consumed by fear. He was not, however, the least bit effective at killing any significant number of Americans other than on 9-11, and in the grand scheme of things even 3,000 victims is not very many in a nation of 300 million which suffers 40,000 dead per year in highway accidents. More people die annually from the flu.
Terrorism has directly killed more Muslims than anyone else, not to mention Muslims killed by Western responses to terrorist attacks. As strategies go, this was a loser.
Al Qaeda thought they would draw eager footsoldiers from throughout the Muslim world, and they have - even, indeed, from America. To what end?
They collected the world's rootless, uneducated fools. True, they were dangerous to themselves and to their immediate surroundings, but hardly an effective Army of the New Caliphate.
9-11 changed the world, however, and we're all suffering for it! The world has changed, but mostly because of our own stupidity, not Osama bin Laden's omnicompetence.
It was not Osama bin Laden who created the TSA or who tolerates its daily depravities and comically evil ineptitude.
It was not al-Qaeda who wasted trillions of American dollars on a misbegotten adventure of "nation building" when a Death-from-Above campaign of nation wrecking was all the situation required.
No, it's the American people who've tolerated grotesque overreactions and total incompetence at the same time, allowing our wives and children to be molested while political correctness forbids us from targeting devotees of the only religion that spawns suicide bombers, much less the nations from which 99% of them originate.
The bottom line: We are threatened only because WE are stupid. We can end terrorism in the West quickly and easily by dumping the politically correct shibboleth that everyone in the world has a perfect right to be here and that all religions and cultures are equal, equivalent, and about the same. This is a decision we can make whenever we feel like it.
Unfortunately, as heavy as the price paid on 9-11 appeared at the time to be, it doesn't seem to have done the job of waking us up and forcing us to put away our childish delusions of multiculturalism and ecumenism. What will it take?