What Did 9/11 Mean to Investors?

I looked at my calendar this day and found out that today is Patriot’s Day. I thought: “There’s a memorial day we could have done without!”

As if the term 9/11 was not descriptive enough to those who were alive and awake that beautiful late summer day in 2001.

Five years ago to the day, we watched horrified as well-organized, well-financed psychopaths committed an act of unprecedented brutality against American civilians going about their daily business. That morning, more Americans were killed than have died in the almost five years of hot war in Afghanistan and Iraq combined.

But this war had been declared a decade ago or more. It was not the first act of brutal aggression against the American and Western way of life. But in our limited vision, we had allowed our politicians to declare terrorism a matter for the justice system, law enforcement, and the courts—not all that much different, in principle, from cow tipping and purse snatching.

This lies at the core of the asymmetrical war we are entangled in. It is not cruise missiles against improvised explosive devices. It is feral disregard for life, law, and rules vs. human life, liberty, and the rule of law.

Unfortunately, we do not seem to learn from our failures. In recent months, our intelligence gathering capabilities have been crippled by the same bureaucratic emphasis on criminalizing terror.

Members of a previous administration have even succeeded on bullying the docudrama of a major broadcasting network into self-censoring passages that depict their legalistic handling of the brewing crisis in a less-than-flattering way.

Watching campaign spots on television these days is like turning over a rock, and have the emerging creepy crawlies smile at you, bragging about how they have “stood up” to President Bush.

I can’t help but think how different the world would be had these incumbents done that standing up six years earlier, to a different president.

What does this mean to us as investors? With every intelligence gathering tool our elected and unelected politicians eliminate, the threat of a new terrorist attack rises incrementally.

But what is worse for us, the perceived risk rises. And in the markets, perceived risk sometimes is more powerful than the actual crisis.

We see economic factors align in favor of a sustained rally of the U.S. stock indexes this year and next year. But knowing the short memories of our politicians and their electorate, I advise to account for the downside … with strategic long-term puts on the major indexes.

Let’s think farther than our politicians. Our welfare and financial health is our responsibility. Let’s be prepared.

And let’s remember 9/11 for what it was.

Have a profitable week.