To follow up on what Thoreau says here, it’s remarkable that people like Ignatius fail to even consider the possibility that Americans won’t just “pull together and take appropriate steps to prepare for future terrorist attacks on America” because people have serious substantive disagreements about what steps are appropriate. Some people, like Ignatius, believed that the appropriate response to 9/11 included replacing a secular dictatorship which had no connection to 9/11 and posed no significant security threat to the United States with an Islamist quasi-state, which would improve American security because…[insert transparently idiotic non-sequitur, preferably expressed in a gambling metaphor, here.] Then you had rational people who thought that terrorism, once Al Qaeda’s sponsors in Afghanistan had been removed, was not a problem that could be solved primarily through military action but would require collaboration, intelligence, policy work — all that much-derided stuff that, you know, actually prevented the terror attacks in Britain. And to borrow a point from Stephen Holmes’s new book, some people simply assume that increases in arbitrary executive power and reductions in transparency automatically increase security; there are others, call them “liberal democrats,” who are skeptical that unconstrained and unchecked power leads to more effective decision-making.
And so on. At any rate, there’s nothing about another terrorist attack that would make these disagreements go away, and it’s not just about partisan politics. Politics is about people with fundamentally differing views. And if “getting serious” means doing all the egregiously counterproductive things that Ignatius wanted to do after 9/11, I’m happy to remain unserious and not join into his sense of “shared purpose.”