Charlie Pierce today:
What happened in New York 13 years ago deranged a nation that was almost begging to be deranged. The Soviet Union was gone. Grenada, Panama, the First Gulf War, the Balkans, in all these places where we made war, we had what were essentially walkover victories. We had no geopolitical enemies, no country strangling our trade, or impressing our seamen, or bombing our Pacific fleet, or pointing nuclear missiles at our cities any more. Then the planes hit the towers, and the towers came down, and we had an enemy again. We declared war on a tactic. We declared war on "terror." ... Then, we elected a new president, and the new president extricated us from the occupation of Iraq, and from whatever the hell we were doing in Afghanistan.... But the war on the tactic never ended because it cannot end. You cannot defeat "terror," because it has too many allies, some of them in your own government.... War against someone, war against something, somewhere, anywhere, is one of the last unifying elements in a country that was encouraged by both its declared antagonists, and by far too many people within its own government, to become deranged.Well, you can tell how ready we were to be deranged just by looking at that list of "walkover victories" and recalling how seriously we took most of those enemies. Ronald Reagan had us persuaded that it had been necessary to invade Grenada because it might have become a launchpad for Soviet nuclear missiles, via an airport he described as "suspiciously suitable for military aircraft," even though a World Bank study had encouraged runway expansion and Canada, Mexico, and contractors from Britain and the U.S. were involved in the financing and construction. George H.W. Bush called Panama's Manuel Noriega "an outlaw in the world community" and all but suggested that he was singlehandedly responsible for the fact that some Americans used illegal drugs. Poppy Bush also told us before the first Gulf War that Saddam was worse than Hitler.
There wasn't much talk like that with regard to the Balkans -- recent Democratic presidents haven't been very good at that type of tough talk. But the Gipper/Poppy wars made clear Americans are all too willing to be worked up into a state of derangement, on the flimsiest of pretexts -- and if there's no actual foreign foe, we'll fear invasions of violent illegal immigrants or marauding thugs marching en masse from the ghettos to the suburbs or whatever the hell the NRA wants to scare us with in order to loosen gun laws further. So, yeah, when a real attack happened, the level of derangement was, inevitably, quite severe.