[Ed. – In other words, would we all join the president in hiding under our beds with our eyes closed?]
Thirteen years ago this month, President George W. Bush was vacationing at his Texas ranch when his daily briefing included a memo titled, “Bin Laden Determined to Strike in the U.S.” Al-Qaida struck a month later, and the nation was at war. No memos are needed today.
ISIS is communicating directly to President Obama via the Internet and social media. “The Islamic Caliphate has been established,” the spokesman, Abu Mosa, said Friday, vowing to “raise the flag of Allah in the White House.”
After dismissing ISIS as al-Qaida’s “JV” team last fall, the president has awakened to the bloodcurdling threat. Last week, he ordered air strikes and air drops in northern Iraq to prevent genocide and to protect U.S. assets. The CIA is reportedly arming Kurds to fight the emerging Islamic state. The world is focused on whether the United States needs to do more, despite the reluctance of Obama and most Americans to recommit troops.
But I can’t shake another, darker, question. What if we get hit again with a 9/11-sized attack? More to the point, hypothetically, would a crisis pull us together or drive us apart? It’s a morbid question worth asking before the worst happens, because there’s reason to worry about the durability of what Lincoln called “the better angels of our nature.”
What can we learn from the Bush era? Well, the nation immediately rallied behind the fledgling president (Bush had been in office only about seven months). Members of Congress famously locked arms on the East Front steps of the Capitol and sang “God Bless America.” Bush’s approval ratings soared to 90 percent, as he ordered U.S. troops into Afghanistan to defeat the Taliban and hunt for Osama bin Laden.