September 11, 2011 will be remembered and commemorated for many reasons. Most in the nation will focus on those killed and those who risked all during those first few hours and days.
America was blessed that it had the exact right president for this same period in time.
As anyone who studies this period knows, President Bush was offered the easy way out, following “on-the-shelf” plans to retaliate with cruise missiles, limited airpower and some possible special forces operations.
He chose to reshape American national security, and the current administration has squandered all that was achieved.
Presidents are judged great by their ability to handle national security crises. They are equally judged disastrous by the same yardstick. We do not assess any president great on any other topic.
Historically, a majority of presidents have faced national security crises, and all modern ones have. Presidents McKinley and T. Roosevelt successfully met the massive stress of America entering the stage as a great power.
Taft, Wilson, Coolidge, and Hoover all botched their turn at bat successively with the Philippines, World War I, Mexico and Japan. The next, Roosevelt (FDR) struggled with a domestic national security crisis at home and a growing threat abroad.
Johnson and Carter could never come to grips with using American power because they had little understanding of the ultimate goal.
Presidents Truman, Reagan and G.W. Bush illustrated how a great man could come into his own as a great president facing existential threats to the United States that went far beyond other national security crises, akin to a degree to what presidents Washington and Lincoln had done before.
We have seen our share of contemporary disasters with Clinton, Obama, and now President Biden. The common thread goes well beyond political party and plumbs the depths of the roots of American ideology.
If a president rejects his nation’s underlying anchor and rudder, how can he be expected to steer the ship of state? Politics runs downstream from culture, and culture runs downstream from faith.
Presidents who reject the absolute world of Judeo-Christian good and evil can hardly be expected to have a moral compass regarding national security decision-making.
This explains why many of our contemporary presidents have been unable to make the right decisions regarding any particular crisis. However, it also helps to explain why there is no consistent and credible direction.
All of the presidents who fail at national security had little interest in American grand strategy. They did not embrace an over-the-horizon picture of where America needs to be in five, 10, 25 or 50 years.
They had lost faith in America because it is doubtful they ever believed in America to begin with.
Let us dismiss the notion that America is defined by its diversity, cited by so many in academia and the media. This is the most self-destructive lie out there.
It is precisely the opposite; very specific values define America that anyone can ascribe to regardless of race or ethnicity. It is here that many American presidents lost faith.
They lost faith in America’s destiny, its exceptional nature that emanated from God, and therefore its mission. They ran scared from such talk for fear that they would be accused of suggesting that American civilization was superior, losing sight of the fact that American values are as universal as they are divinely inspired.
Some of these values would have avoided the worst of what we are witnessing in Afghanistan. Namely, America should never abandon the innocent, its own, or its allies. It never shrinks from a conflict; it imposes its will, not because it can, but because it is in the right.
9/11 reminds us of the role of the president. First and foremost, he is armed with faith in the greatness of America, enabling him to handle national security crises and ensure American success in the future.
This is the fundamental job of the president. There is nothing else that should interfere with that primary task.
If a president fails here, he fails always and forever.
This article first appeared on NewsMax on Friday, 10 September.