THREAD: Strategically, 9/11 was a one-off sucker-punch. That’s it.

1. 9/11 did not ‘change everything.’ In fact, it changed surprisingly little

This language was deployed to create political space for a vast expansion of US coercion, especially in the Middle East. If all the

rules have suddenly changed, then all sorts of behavior are suddenly permissible – like domestic spying, torture, and Iraq. But strategically, 9/11 did not change that much: US GDP continued to expand; US military power was scarcely affected; US alliances did not fracture; the

stock market re-opened after a few days and did not crash; gas prices did not spike; the global Islamic revolution Osama Bin Laden hoped this would ignite did not materialize:

2. 9/11’s big change was psychological – our shared national trauma fully

broadcast on TV in real time – and the supercharged reaction it elicited from us.

No imagery of violence against Americans had been broadcast unfiltered into our living rooms like this since Tet. Pearl Harbor was not seen by most of the country, for example. Part of terrorism

is inspiring terror, and it certainly worked. But still, this reaction was under our control, and today all but the most unrepentant neocons recognize that we overreacted: . Given our response, I often wonder if we would have used nuclear weapons in the

ensuing war on terror if the towers had collapsed immediately and 75k had died, rather than 3k after the towers were mostly evacuated. It’s a chilling thought.

3. 9/11 was not the start of a prolonged campaign of mega-terror against the US or West, much less a ‘Long War’ or

or ‘WW IV.’

Remember in 2002 when one pundit after another told us that this was just the beginning? That al Qaeda and similar movements would target US or Western cities again with mega-terror? (This was basically the premise of ‘24.’) And we all just believed that (me too),

even though there was no evidence that 9/11 was actually the start of a permanent mega-terror campaign against us. Remember, in ‘Fahrenheit 9/11,’ the company which wanted to sell executive parachutes so CEOs could jump out a building window if the bldg was struck by a

terrorist plane, or Fox talking about al Qaeda putting bombs in pens? Remember the elaborate mega-plots of all these terrorism movies and TV shows like ‘Die Hard 4’ and ‘Homeland’? I remember seeing a brief from the Ohio Department of Homeland Security – I was at OSU at the

time – talking about terrorist attacks on Buckeyes’ games or Cedar Point and students writing term papers about this (and me believing it all too). Apart from much smaller attacks in Western Europe (London, Madrid), this was all threat inflation. Keifer Sutherland even played

a liberal softie worried about rule of law in ‘Designated Survivor’ to apologize.

4. 9/11 was a sucker-punch

The 9/11 plot exploited American openness and trustingness. It was a sucker-punch. Our airports and facilities were not gated and locked up. Our open society did not

block the plotters from living and operating. This cost us dearly on 9/11, but it is to America’s credit that we did not have a surveillance society like China is building right now. And it is a great tragedy that 9/11 took this from us – that we became more paranoid and

fearful, insisting on walls, IDs, secrecy, spying, and even tortured. 9/11 made us less open and less liberal, sadly, but also far less likely to suffer a repeat. 9/11 was a one-off because we weren’t ready. Now we are:….

5. Muslims don’t hate us


thought 9/11 would catalyze an Islamic uprising. It did not. This is good. Muslims did not endorse the attack; no one was cheering in the streets, contrary to MAGA assertions. So this needn't be a clash of civilizations unless we make it one. And it means we can wind down the

'war on terror' while responding measuredly against a manageable terrorist threat which does not require us to stay in the Middle East indefinitely: .

6. 9/11 truthism is wrong, and Iraq had nothing to do with it.

I am amazed how persistent this stuff

is. Our university – all the way out here in Korea! – recently had an adjunct who showed ‘Loose Change’ in class. He left the same semester I heard about it, but I was debating contesting his re-hire over this. And I still regularly get undergraduates – both Koreans and

foreign students from around Asia – who vaguely think that Saddam was somehow involved – mostly bc they assume the US would not have attacked Iraq otherwise.


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More from @Robert_E_Kelly

15 Sep
THREAD: Why there is No Korean Peace Treaty (It wouldn’t Change Anything)

Much of the linked thread is highly contestable:

A. Korea obviously is not a 'forever war'

This is a grossly inaccurate description. 'Forever war' implies sustained kinetic activity in an unwinnable

quagmire with no obvious endpoint. That is not K at all. The war has been over since mid-1953, and it is NK, not the allies, who provokes. The lack of paperwork - a formal peace treaty - has no bearing on the empirical situation on the ground which is far from open conflict.

B. A 'War-Ending Declaration' (종전선언) is a legally bizarre neologism which no one really understands

The only reason this strange language is used is bc the Moon government's first effort to get a 'peace treaty' failed, as did its second, vaguer 'peace regime' effort. So

Read 18 tweets
10 Sep
THREAD: Post-'War on Terror' Restraint

If the Afghan withdrawal & 20th anniversary of 9/11 can wind-down our big foot-print 'war on terror' (for a more measured counter-terrorism), here is a quick case for greater restraint:

1. Strategic: Over-Extension

A well-known problem

of empires/hegemonies is too many commitments and too few resources. We should, obviously, avoid such overstretch, & given rising China, US commitments in the Middle East particularly (Afghanistan, e.g.) should be re-considered

2. Domestic/Democratic: Blowback Militarization

The post-9/11 militarization of US foreign policy has come home: in the torture debate (yes, we actually 'debated' torture), domestic surveillance, endemic governmental secrecy, near reverence on military and police issues (just watch Fox for 5 minutes),and the militarization/

Read 6 tweets
25 Aug
The biggest surprise, revelation even, of Afghanistan’s fall is not that the Taliban are bad or that the departure is messy. We knew that already

It’s how belligerent, even militaristic, the American and British media are, how totally captured by blob talking points about the

‘necessity’ that America fight all over the place and that it’s always ‘defeat’ rather than retrenchment or cutting your losses.

Two weeks ago, there was almost no reporting on Afghanistan. Suddenly a few days of inevitability chaotic imagery, and America is abandoning its

responsibilities in a fiasco.

And it was all hawks all the time on-air to comment. No retrenchers or restrainers to place the withdrawal in greater context.

Even in academia, a lot of international relations scholars have deeply soured on the war for more than a decade. But

Read 4 tweets
19 Aug
THREAD: 5 Bad Afghanistan Takes you should Ignore

1. Tragic: ‘What about all we lost there?’

If Afghanistan collapses this fast, there wasn’t actually that much there to lose. If anything, the rapid collapse indicates just how accurate were all those leaks over the last

decade, including the A Papers, about how little progress we were making, how corrupt the government was, how soft its military’s independent capabilities were, and so on.

2. Demagogic: ‘Did our soldiers die for nothing?’

That is an emotionally manipulative version of the

sunk cost fallacy. We cannot bring back our war dead. If we must stay in an unwinnable conflict to ‘honor their sacrifice,’ then we condemn more to die later. That’s immoral. The logic of this argument means also we can never leave a commitment, no matter misconceived, which

Read 12 tweets
14 Aug
THREAD on South Korea as a regional geopolitical pivot or broker arbitrating between the US and NK, or the US and China.

This is not true.

I’ve reviewed repeated journal articles during the Moon years making this argument, and my comments are always the same. So to the left-

wing SK scholars who continue to push this (bc SK hawks never say this), please consider how obviously falsifiable this idea is:

1. SK is a formal, MNNA US treaty ally. That right there makes neutralism more a normative desire than an empirical claim.

2. There are emplaced

US bases, equipment, warfighters, and consultants all over the peninsula. Not that many US allies or partners actually have as much stuff as the US parks here.

3. USFK is pretty integrated with the ROK military. The relationships with Japan and NATO are more siloed.

Read 13 tweets
1 Jul
Rumsfeld pushed a war of choice on evidence he knew was thin, catastrophically mismanaged the war’s follow-up, then embraced torture.

That puts him at the bottom among SecDefs along with McNamara, who at least had the humility to eventually publicly apologize.

Rumsfeld had a few good ideas domestically:

Like McNamara he strongly asserted civilian control over DoD. You may not have liked the choices he made, and he should have listened to the generals more on troops numbers to stabilize Iraq, but reinforcing civilian control

was valuable after President Clinton let DoD operate too freely (bc he was worried about being criticized as Vietnam draft dodger).

Rumsfeld also - again like McNamara - sought to bring some discipline to DoD procurement, trying to end the Cold War inertia buying of the 1990s

Read 7 tweets

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