The Sept. 11 Canon: Week 1

Right Makes Might 
New books dissected over email.
Nov. 6 2001 4:42 PM

The Sept. 11 Canon: Week 1

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But wait a minute, Judith: Nobody said stop working on the defensive side. Nobody said stop developing vaccines or (back to kicking the CIA around) become totally negligent in the spycraft that should have alerted us much sooner to the Russian and Iraqi threat. The defensive work was not sunk by 1960s idealism. It was sunk by the sharper, faster wheeler-dealers at the Pentagon bazaar who saw more bucks in shiny weapons systems than in vials of vaccine.

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Don't underestimate the effect of the heroic, idealistic, moral gesture. Sometimes, right is might. I think it is entirely arguable that the reason the Russians and the Iraqis never unleashed their dreadful arsenals is that they were in some way "infected" by the rightness of the U.S. stance: The U.S. Renunciation created an atmosphere of dreadful consequence and condemnation in which it became internationally unacceptable to do it. And remember, as Germs points out, the Iraqis kicked their germ program into high gear after they witnessed the huge international shrug of indifference to their use of poison gas on Iranian troops and Kurdish civilians.

States, even rogue ones, mostly act according to logic and self-interest. Free-lance fanatics are a different story, and that's why it's cults like Aum and the Rajneeshees who have actually done the unthinkable. 

 

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