Some of my friends on the right are shaking their heads at Johns Hopkins history professor and New Republic contributing editor David Bell’s column Sunday in the L.A. Times. In the essay, Bell spells out why he believes that the United States is reacting too harshly to a 9/11 that was, to Bell’s way of reasoning, not that big a deal — in a historical sense.

Here’s the opening paragraph:

Imagine that on 9/11, six hours after the assault on the twin towers and the Pentagon, terrorists had carried out a second wave of attacks on the United States, taking an additional 3,000 lives. Imagine that six hours after that, there had been yet another wave. Now imagine that the attacks had continued, every six hours, for another four years, until nearly 20 million Americans were dead. This is roughly what the Soviet Union suffered during World War II, and contemplating these numbers may help put in perspective what the United States has so far experienced during the war against terrorism.

Let me propose a slight variation of this opener: Imagine that on 9/11, thousands of people were killed in an attack on Johns Hopkins University.

If the above sentence were fact, do you think the rest of that “we’re over-reacting, historically speaking” column would have ever been written?

Bell closes the column with something that really confused me:

…the war against terrorism has not yet been much of a war at all, let alone a war to end all wars. It is a messy, difficult, long-term struggle against exceptionally dangerous criminals who actually like nothing better than being put on the same level of historical importance as Hitler — can you imagine a better recruiting tool? To fight them effectively, we need coolness, resolve and stamina. But we also need to overcome long habit and remind ourselves that not every enemy is in fact a threat to our existence.

Wow. You see sitting ducks sometimes, but not many will walk up and stick their bill in the barrel of your shot-gun.

Though half of that final paragraph could have been written by George W. Bush, the other half is baffling.

“Has not been much of a war after all”? Isn’t this guy from the same philosophical bunch that has military “death-counts” on their websites and announced from the hilltops the death of our 3,000th soldier in Iraq as if it were Iwo Jima II? I guess it’s “not much of a war” from a desk in the Johns Hopkins nerdery, but for our people who are there, they describe it differently.

But Bell also is admitting that this “war” (or “scrum” or whatever he thinks it is) is necessary, it’s just that we’re being a tad too aggressive – in essence running with scissors and not waiting the full 30 minutes after a meal before jumping in the water.

The problem with liberals is that they think there’s a Nerf version of everything.

Update: The author explains on his website what he really meant.

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