There’s been a lot of news lately about our relations with countries in the Middle East.
One item, of course, is the 12th anniversary of the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.
The other is the potential for military strikes against Syria, because of their caches -- and apparent use -- of weapons of mass destruction.
This story is shifting so fast that by the time you read this, we may have declared war on the Syrians. But right now, the two sides seem in favor of some kind of diplomatic solution to this situation.
I would favor that. (Yes, I know: a huge sigh of relief from the Obama administration when that gets out!)
But I would favor that because I haven’t forgotten about 9/11.
That was a date, to paraphrase a president from another era, that will live in infamy. But it came about in large part because we didn’t pay a lot of attention to the issues emerging in the Middle East.
We didn’t think these heathens would ever attack America on its home turf. How could they? They didn’t have jets or missiles that could reach us. The ocean was an immutable barrier.
I remember all the skepticism even after the attack. Wait, a bunch of guys with box cutters hijacked four airliners? Impossible. But it was true. As Americans who watch a lot of movies where the white guy outfoxes the dirty, brown-skinned terrorist, we don’t believe anyone could be that daring. Or, in this case, suicidal.
But there are people on the other side of the world, like it or not, with the capability to cause harm. Some of them may be holed up in caves, but they are smart and tough.
Hence the question: Does working with Russia to explore a plan to disarm and monitor Syria make us "weak?" Are we caving in? Are we showing a "soft side?"
Does it even matter?
I don’t believe so. You see, I wasn’t in New York City that day, 12 years ago. But people I loved and cared about were. And because there was a giant cell tower atop one of the World Trade Center buildings, and it came down in the attack, I could not contact anyone down there.
There were several anxious hours until I discovered that everyone I was connected to was all right. And of course, I was one of the extremely lucky ones.
There were the friends and relatives of the thousands of people who died who were not so fortunate.
So it’s OK to not want war. It’s OK to explore every possible avenue that may open up in the name of peace. It’s not a sign of weakness.
I remember interviews I’ve had with World War II veterans who fought on the beaches of Normandy on D-Day. I remember asking them if they felt like heroes. I was told that the guys who never came back were the heroes.
"I felt like a survivor," said one veteran, "not a hero." War, as those men knew, was not about saving face, or appearing weak or not tough. It was about trying to survive.
I don’t know why backing off another conflict seems to make some people believe we are weak. I certainly don’t think anyone in other countries, especially other countries we’ve bombed, thinks we are weak.
Look, I don’t know if any of this diplomacy will work. I don’t know if the Syrian leaders are the sneaky, slimy, evil people we’ve been led to believe. Maybe they are. Maybe they can’t wait to start a war with the top military power on the planet.
But let’s try to remember all the pain that 9/11 brought us. And try to remember that avoiding war is preferable (at least in my book) to starting one.