Why We Fight
- Publisher William J. Bennett is codirector of Empower America and founder and chairman of K12, an Internet-based elementary and secondary school.
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About "Why We Fight"
Chapter 1 The Morality of Anger The ruins of the World Trade Center were still smoking, ash and soot lingered in the air, the odor of death lay everywhere. It was early October 2001, and one army--an army of police and firefighters and rescue workers and volunteers of every stripe--was hard at work clearing, searching, burying, shifting mortar, ministering to mortals. Another army, under the direction of the president and the secretary of defense, was readying itself to move against our attackers. The land was full of grief and full of anger, full of opinion. What had happened to us? What could we do about it? Whatshouldwe do about it? We were not the only ones asking. In the days after September 11, the whole world caught its breath, waiting to see how we would respond. Ordinary people everywhere shared our shock and astonishment, sympathized with our grief, understood our anger, were moved by our unity and solidarity. But both at home and abroad there was also uncertainty, even apprehension, as to what we were going to do about this assault. Would our response be measured and appropriate, or would we strike out blindly, thereby confirming the lowest expectations of both foreign and domestic elite opinion? Long before we responded, the nature of our response had become, for many, a test of our national character. From where I sat, the quality of both the grief and the anger--fierce, aroused, yet deeply thoughtful--was a sign of everything that is instinctually grand about the American national character. I had agonized for years about what was happening to this American character as our educational standards spiraled ever downward, our elites presided over an unprecedented coarsening of our culture, and our people seemed to be showing clear signs of self-doubt and moral confusion. The truth is that I would rather have gone on agonizing forever than have had my questions answered by a national calamity, but when the calamity occurred on September 11, the overwhelming and immediate reaction of our people--not the grief and anger in themselves but thequalityof the grief and anger--certainly helped to answer them. As for the quality of the post-September 11 opinion, on the whole it, too, bespoke the settled maturity of the American people, tending as it did to coalesce around a consensus view that retaliation had to be swift and uncompromising, adequate to the outrage, and in keeping with the dictates of our moral and political traditions. But there were other opinions as well, motivated, primarily, by the fear that we would overreact, that September 11 would trigger our supposed tendency to blind rage and rash action. Suddenly the name of Curtis LeMay, the American general who was alleged to have recommended that we "bomb Vietnam back to the Stone Age," was in the air again, a code word for what was assumed to be the "default" mode of American military thinking. In fact, those among us who espoused the LeMay position were scarcely to be heard from. By contrast, what might be called the Ghandi position--the position of nonviolence--was treated with exceptional seriousness by the media, and was amplified accordingly. It was also amazingly quick to materialize. Indeed, the operations of our domestic "peace party" gave fresh meaning to the Coast Guard mottoSemper Paratus.Without benefit of a central command, without training manuals, without field exercises, it was able to deploy its forces with lightning speed, to seize the attention of the press, and to read from a single script. Its tactics--and its instincts--were models of rapid mobilization. "I don't think the solution to violence is more violence," opined a Columbia University sophomore to a reporter as she held up a sign--"Amerika! Get a Clue!"--at an antiwar rally in Washington in late September. Said a mother in Kennebunk, Maine, a
William J. Bennett is codirector of Empower America and founder and chairman of K12, an Internet-based elementary and secondary school.
Meet the Author
William J Bennett
William J. Bennett served as Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy under President George H. W. Bush and as Secretary of Education and Chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities under President Reagan. He holds a bachelor of arts degree in philosophy from Williams College, a doctorate in political philosophy from the University of Texas, and a law degree from Harvard.
He is the author of such bestselling books as The Educated Child; The Death of Outrage; The Book of Virtue, and the two-volume series America: The Last Best Hope.