Incoming Oxford vice-chancellor Louise Richardson is under fire for saying that the US "overreacted" to 9/11.
Vice-chancellor Louise Richardson, pictured without foot in mouth. (Getty)
Despite our reputation, most Americans can take criticism about our country. But if there's one touchy subject, it tends to be 9/11. We're still understandably upset about that.
That's why Americans are up in arms about comments made by Oxford University's incoming vice-chancellor Louise Richardson. At a British Council panel debate in London, she said that the United States' response to the 9/11 attacks was an "overreaction," and that the British people would have reacted more appropriately because of their "resiliency." Here's the clip:
Complicating this story is the fact that Professor Richardson is one of the leading terrorism experts in the world. A native of Ireland, she grew up during the infamous "Troubles" that claimed 3,600 lives there over the course of 30 years. She taught at Harvard for 20 years before become the vice-chancellor of St. Andrews University in Scotland in 2009. She is the author of What Terrorists Want: Understanding the Enemy Containing the Threat, and regularly advises world governments on issues related to terrorism. She has also testified as an expert before the US Senate.
She made headlines just last week when she was named the next vice-chancellor of Oxford University, the first woman to hold the post since the school was founded in 1230. She'll take over that position next year. Obviously, her credentials are above reproach, but from my lay perspective, what she said in this clip seems like a load of crap.
Any academic who talks about countries like they're people immediately damages his or her own credibility. What's more, comparing the UK's reaction to the Troubles to the US's reaction to 9/11 is like comparing horribles apples to horrible oranges. They were both awful, but completely different: one happened over 30 years, and the other happened in a day. One was an internal conflict between different factions, and the other was an external attack by a terrorist group halfway across the world. It accomplishes nothing to put these tragedies on a spreadsheet and see which comes out on top.
She also makes no distinction between the American people's reaction to 9/11 and the American government's, which is quite unfair. Regardless of how you feel about the US government's actions in the years after 9/11, blaming that on the American peoples' lack of "resiliency" is pure ivory tower speculation. I know Professor Richardson is an expert, but she seems pretty out of touch to me.