That's the question Johns Hopkins history professor David A. Bell asked in yesterday's Los Angeles Times. Because so few were killed that day, at least relative to the number of Russians killed in the Second World War, Bell thinks we might have overreacted.
Certainly, if we look at nothing but our enemies' objectives, it is hard to see any indication of an overreaction. The people who attacked us in 2001 are indeed hate-filled fanatics who would like nothing better than to destroy this country. But desire is not the same thing as capacity, and although Islamist extremists can certainly do huge amounts of harm around the world, it is quite different to suggest that they can threaten the existence of the United States.
Occasional WEEKLY STANDARD contributor Michael Tanji had this to say in response to Bell's question:
When I ran a warning shop I used to love hearing this from all the blind-wearing nay-sayers. Someone doesn't have ICBMs so they're not a threat. Someone can't project force via an aircraft carrier, so they're not a threat. I watched two kids in western Europe trump the best technical defenses of the government--better than rival nation-states--but for some reason they weren't a threat. It is as if the entire body of unconventional warfare doesn't exist for these people. Save for the suitcase nuke, the first four hours of '24' this season could be playing out today. Capacity is not the issue. Fact is they don't need to cause excessive death/destruction because they are threatening our existence without it. Every "loyal dissenter" says they would not have voted 'yes' then if they knew what they knew now; yet with the threat of Iran dancing in their faces they refuse act accordingly because THIS TIME they're not going to be DUPED.
Over at the Corner, John Podhoretz linked to another interesting response, this one from Tim Sumner of 9/11 Families for a Safe and Strong America. In case you don't have the time to read it, his answer is yes...9/11 was really that bad.