Nine/Twelve Mentality

We know precisely what a nine/ten mentality is. Precisely. Let anyone forget, Senator Kerry in the week just past was kind enough to remind us. As James Taranto observed in his Best of the Web online column, the headline said it all:

Kerry Marks Eve of 9/11 Anniversary With Push for Climate Legislation

The nine/eleven mentality would be one of the family-comedy cold-war-era movies; you know the type. Earth is threatened by an environmental catastrophe or by murderous little green men with laser cannons, and overnight the United States and the Soviet Union forget their differences. Republicans and democrats joining hands, singing “God Bless America” on the steps of the capitol building. Put aside our differences! Come together! Hope and change!

The nine/twelve mentality opposes both of those. It pays attention and a decent inimical respect to both the malevolent entity that labors to do us harm, and the lazy doves among us who wish to ignore the viper in hopes it’ll slither away. And it is named not for any date in 2001, but rather for President George W. Bush’s speech in front of the United Nations on September 12, 2002:

Events can turn in one of two ways.

If we fail to act in the face of danger, the people of Iraq will continue to live in brutal submission. The regime will have new power to bully, dominate and conquer its neighbors, condemning the Middle East to more years of bloodshed and fear. The region will remain unstable, with little hope of freedom and isolated from the progress of our times. With every step the Iraqi regime takes toward gaining and deploying the most terrible weapons, our own options to confront that regime will narrow. And if an emboldened regime were to supply these weapons to terrorist allies, then the attacks of September 11th would be a prelude to far greater horrors.

If we meet our responsibilities, if we overcome this danger, we can arrive at a very different future. The people of Iraq can shake off their captivity. They can one day join a democratic Afghanistan and a democratic Palestine, inspiring reforms throughout the Muslim world. These nations can show by their example that honest government, and respect for women, and the great Islamic tradition of learning can triumph in the Middle East and beyond. And we will show that the promise of the United Nations can be fulfilled in our time.

Neither of these outcomes is certain. Both have been set before us. We must choose between a world of fear and a world of progress. We cannot stand by and do nothing while dangers gather. We must stand up for our security, and for the permanent rights and hopes of mankind. By heritage and by choice, the United States of America will make that stand. Delegates to the United Nations, you have the power to make that stand as well. [emphasis mine]

Deep down, we’re really all nine/twelve people. The real difference is about political efforts: Is it permissible to acknowledge the simple reality that motivated enemies exist, only when one is running a campaign for a political office? Must one take the “ostrich approach” toward all who would do him harm, in all other walks of life? That’s the real divide.

Cross-posted at House of Eratosthenes.

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