Certain momentous events “shock” the American public. They were generally unexpected, sudden, and had a significant impact on the country. Two earlier posts explored some of those shocks that have happened during my 60+ years of life.
1990s – Terrorism and Saddam
The early 1990s saw another shock: the bold and unprovoked attack by Iraq on Kuwait. A positive shock was the quick defeat of Iraq’s large army, including the elite Republican Guard, by our forces. The war was carried out professionally and expeditiously with few American casualties. This may have been the first of the “high-tech” wars using different tactics: bombing to soften up the enemy prior to engaging him in battle, the use of high tech smart bombs and other ordinance, and the execution of a carefully pre-planned strategy developed in anticipation of such a situation. Generals Colin Powell and Norman Schwartzkopf, plus Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney and President Bush handled the war much better than President Johnson, Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara and the generals (such as General Westmoreland) did in Vietnam. Some level of confidence in government and our armed forces was restored.
In 1995 the U.S. received another shock, this one not involving Islamic terrorists. Timothy McVeigh filled a truck with and explosive compound, parked it in front of a government office building in downtown Oklahoma City, and detonated it. The explosion blew off the front of the building and killed innocent men, women, and children. This was a shock to the nation that an American could hate the government so much that he’d do such a thing.
Other shocks in the 1990s happened in the Middle East and Africa against Americans. A building housing American troops was destroyed by a truck bomb, with a loss of life. The USS Cole was bombed by a small boat loaded with explosives that pulled up alongside it in a port in Yemen. Two US embassies in Africa were destroyed by powerful truck bombs. However, all of these happened outside of the United States and did not involve large loss of American lives. The Clinton administration did little to combat terrorism or support Israel in its battle against terrorism. I suspect this was perceived as weakness on the part of terrorists and made them bolder.
1993 – First WTC Attack
Even the first attack on the World Trade Center in February 1993 resulted in little response against the terrorists by the U.S. In this first attack on the World Trade Center in New York, the terrorists drove a truck full of explosives into an underground parking area. I’m familiar with that spot because I once parked my car there when I was attending several days of meetings in the WTC and stayed at the hotel there. As a result of the explosion of that truck, the hotel was weakened structurally and had to be torn down. Having such a bold terrorist attack in the U.S. by foreigners still didn’t wake us up to the dangers we now faced. It was about to become a whole new world for us and eventually Western Europe.