Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


After 9/11, country, generation lacks focus

Sept. 11, 2001. We woke to watch the news. But those already at
class when the planes struck the towers were oblivious. That,
strangely, is what I remember most about that morning — walking to
class with the knowledge that thousands of people were dying in New
York City while fellow students walked back to the dorms with
absolutely no idea what had happened; they called friends on cell
phones, listened to CD Walkmans and discussed new classes.

It was as if life stopped for a moment, and everything lay in a
surreal nexus between the truth and the past.

Our parents’ generation was defined, in many ways, by the
Vietnam War and the Watergate scandal. Our grandparents’ generation
by World War II. But has our generation been defined by Sept. 11
and the resulting “War on Terrorism?”


Doubtful. Sept. 11 was a wakeup call to many of us: People are
out there who hate America, and in spite of our seemingly
invincible power, we are vulnerable to that hatred. At the same
time, however, the kind of grassroots movements that resulted from
the Vietnam War era or the widespread enlistment springing from
Pearl Harbor have not taken shape in our generation’s life.

How, exactly, has our generation been transformed by Sept.

It would seem the answer that many will reach for is President
Bush’s “War on Terrorism.” In his speech to the nation Sunday
night, the president said, among other things, “Terrorists thrive
on the support of tyrants and the resentments of oppressed peoples.
When tyrants fall…resentment gives way to hope.”

In spite of this, it would seem that our country has not, in
fact, created the type of new foreign-policy initiatives that this
rhetoric would imply. True, we have spent, and will continue to
spend, billions of dollars reconstructing Iraq with the objective
of preventing a future tyrant from coming to power. But Bush does
all this in spite of the fact that no hard evidence has shown that
Hussein had been working, or would somehow help, terrorist
organizations like Al Qaeda. If the War on Terrorism can be
defined, in part, by the War in Iraq, the Bush administration has a
long way to go.

Yet the War on Terrorism cannot also be defined on a theory of
preventative tactics. There remain nations around the world that
both have tyrannical, dangerously ineffective leadership and
possess the capabilities to severely threaten our national
security. In North Korea, the communist, authoritarian leadership
is working hard to both squash human rights and construct a nuclear

President Bush is not marching into that peninsula with guns
blazing, preaching about the importance of various U.N. violations.
According to ABC news reports, many nuclear weapons caches far
greater in size and capability than anything alleged to exist in
Iraq or North Korea are under ridiculously poor protection. One
reporter even showed tape of a few unpaid guards with AK-47s and
padlocks in Russia and the Ukraine protecting such nuclear-weapons
caches. Some congressional leaders wonder what would happen if a
terrorist group took these weapons. We must also wonder why our
president makes no mention of it.

The rhetoric of the Bush administration’s daily life does not
match the reality of the world; the War on Terrorism is undefined.
If, indeed, we are to take action against those who support
anti-American terrorist activities, why did we go into Iraq? And,
if we are to take pre-emptive actions against those who threaten
human rights and national security, wield tyrannical power or
disregard the United Nations, why have we not taken decisive action
in North Korea, Russia or the Ukraine?

These are questions our generation must ask, for we are the ones
called upon to answer them. Like so many of us who walked back to
their dorms not yet knowing the tragedy taking place in New York,
our president wanders aimlessly into a foreign policy he cannot
define coherently. And unlike our parents and grandparents before
us, we have no sense of ourselves.

Paul Temple ([email protected]) is a senior majoring
in political science and philosophy.



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