Matt Welch, writing at Reason, observes that on the two-year anniversary of The Day Everything Changed, precious little actually has:

What’s striking to me about the two years since that atrocious morning, in comparison to the lesser crises from 1968-2000, is how little we’ve been asked—or forced—to do or change.

Yes, President George W. Bush just asked us for another $87 billion to fund Iraq reconstruction (on top of the $79 billion already spent, and the estimated $55 billion extra that will have to come soon), and yes, we will be paying off the effects of a half-trillion-dollar budget deficit for unknown years to come. Certainly, it is hard to currently assess the effects of increased government secrecy, eroded privacy, and the PATRIOT Act.

But my guess is that, aside from inconvenience at airports, more than 99 percent of the people reading this column have not been concretely affected by any of the new enforcement or prevention measures introduced since the Sept. 11 massacre. The United States military is under pretty serious strain, but nobody’s talking about drafting random 18-year-olds. There have been no ration cards, no war bonds, no great National Program of Sacrifice.

Those lines outside military recruitment centers didn’t last long at all. The much-ballyhooed meeting of the minds between Hollywood and the Pentagon amounted to little more than a few pina colatas with Karl Rove at the Beverly Peninsula Hotel, and the odd Jennifer Garner commercial for the CIA.

In other words, while the all-professional military was sent overseas to win two wars, we were mostly free to do whatever the hell we wanted. And what we’ve wanted to do, increasingly, is revert to our lives of 731 days ago.


National unity, the bipartisan lovefest, and everyone showing their love for firefighters, cops, and soldiers: All gone. And, as Matt notes, that’s actually a very good thing.

(Hat tip: Virginia Postrel)

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Steven says:

    Of course, it strikes me that really, the current circumstances are no different than the Cold War period–rather, the whole “national sacrifice” and war bond example is rather WWII specific.

  2. James Joyner says:

    Largely true, although there was a military draft through 1973. But I thought the idea that 9/11 was going to make us one big, happy, bipartisan family was a fantasy at the time.

  3. Steven says:


    Whenever I think of 9/11 as a day that changed everything, I think of it in terms of policy making and foreign policy priorities, in much the same way the Cold War worked.

    Heck, even WWII didn’t expunge division and partisanship from US politics.

  4. JohnC says:

    Well, the effects of the insanity due to the conflation of a war and a police action are very prominent.