Nine days after the events of September 11, when President Bush laid out the grounds and directions of the U.S. response to terrorism in a speech to a joint session of Congress, he declared that this is “not . . . just America’s fight. And what is at stake is not just America’s freedom.
If non-Americans attending the recent World Economic Forum in New York had been polled concerning their attitudes toward the foreign policies of the Bush administration, the president would not have received anywhere near the overwhelming endorsement Americans have given him since September 11.
Prufrockian is a term that entered the vocabulary after the 1917 publication of T. S. Eliot’s “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock.” It refers to the outlook of an aging, inhibited man who is too afraid of life, of himself and of what people would say and too fastidious to dare, to act. His acting had to do with potential erotic encounters.
In the hours after the attacks on New York and Washington, many EuropeanChristians found themselves feeling a solidarity with Americans that some would not have thought possible. Thousands, perhaps millions, of Europeans bore witness to their grief and outrage about the attacks in mass gatherings in cities and villages across the continent.
It’s a cliché to observe that since September 11 we are living in a different world, that everything seems different now. But it is true. I heard Harvard’s Peter Gomes say recently that things sound different now. Phrases read and spoken for thousands of years suddenly sound immediate, as if they were written last week for us.
It was much easier to oppose the gulf war. The situation that evoked the U.S. military response ten years ago was not personal, unless you count the loss of a plentiful oil supply as personal. Certainly Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait didn’t carry anything like the emotional impact of the September 11 attack that killed 5,000 citizens.
We will never forget the terror of September 11, but neither will we forget the heroic efforts of the police and firefighters who rushed into the World Trade Center to help people escape. Some of them paid for their courage with their lives. The catastrophes of that day led to extraordinary testimonies of sympathy, generosity and dedication.
The mainstream of Christian ethics has contended that there can be a legitimate or “just” use of military force—legitimacy being determined by a variety of factors, such as the presence of a “just cause,” “right authority,” “last resort,” and the use of “means proportional to the end,” to cite some of the traditional language