"Things fell apart so quickly. At the beginning of this millennium, the Cold War was over, the prosperous United States was the sole remaining superpower and global opinion was largely sympathetic to U.S. aims. In the wake of brutal ethnic wars in Central Europe and Africa, the international community had forged a new determination to prevent conflict and atrocities. The volatile Middle East was quiet, and the world seemed headed toward stability rather than chaos."
"After 9/11, the world was on our side, and we had a unique opportunity to turn tragedy into triumph."
Notice something? We managed to go directly from the mythically marvelous near-past of the Clinton years - when lions were poised to sit down with lambs to the music of swords being beaten into plowshares - to the period "after 9-11," in which all the world loved us. But, somehow, we managed to skip over the small detail of 9-11 itself.
There's the rub. If indeed Bill Clinton had bequeathed us such a wonderful world, poised for global Kumbaya had only the Bush administration not squandered the moment, then why did 9-11 happen just months after W took office? What of Khobar towers, the African embassy bombings, the USS Cole, not to mention the first bombing of the WTC itself? Did those not occur during the Camelot - Part Deux that was the Clinton administration? Were the seeds of 9-11 not merely sown on Clinton's watch but coming manifestly close to deadly fruition?
Brooks, a quintessential member of the liberal legal establishment, was during the Clinton years a senior advisor at the deliciously-named 'Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor' at the State Department.
Her column would have to be sunnier by several degrees to qualify as a jeremiad. Consider these excerpts:
- 'The total implosion of the Middle East highlights the continuing decline of U.S. prestige and influence.'
- 'The conflict will breed a new generation of martyrs, a new generation of hungry children growing up amid the rubble and a new generation of mistrustful, bitter fighters — some of whom will be willing to blow themselves up for the chance of taking Israelis or Americans down with them.'
- 'The cataclysm in the Middle East represents the final and total failure of the Bush administration's foreign policy.'
- 'As the conflagration worsens, Washington is indecisive and impotent.'
- 'We've burned up every ounce of goodwill we ever had, we've burned every diplomatic bridge we ever had, and now we can do nothing but sit on our hands as the ashes rain down all around us.'
Ah, if only we could return to the days of wine, roses and incipient world peace that was the Clinton administration. But, wait - we might yet have another chance to do so!
Finkelstein lives in the liberal haven of Ithaca, NY, where he hosts the award-winning public-access TV show 'Right Angle.' Contact him at email@example.com