What Have We Learned?
The life of a nation ten years later.


As part of our extensive coverage of the tenth anniversary of the September 11 attacks on the United States, National Review Online asked cultural, political, and security experts about the lessons we’ve learned in the last decade.


September 11 impressed on us that there are organized networks in the world who aim to kill us for ideological reasons — and sometimes they succeed. That’s certainly important. Beyond that, I’m not sure how much we’ve learned from 9/11.

I recall so proudly our immediate collective responses to that day. Less cynicism. More sincerity. More seriousness in our public discussion. Greater awareness of what is truly important — and how fragile it all can be. A determination to defeat those who committed the murders and those who supported them. And a widespread belief that, in responding to the crisis, we might become a stronger, more united country.

Not much of this seems to have lasted. We have not suffered another major attack, and al-Qaeda seems to be seriously weakened — both great accomplishments. It also seems that the Libyans are grateful to us for helping them get rid of Gadaffi. But overall, given the stakes, it strikes me that we still have not learned very much about just war, or how to engage the Muslim world, or how to confront the global jihadist threat. Domestically, we seem to be pretty much as we were on Sept. 10, 2001, only more so. Enough cynicism in the land to choke a horse. Partisanship so ugly that it makes normal people sick. An almost complete absence of seriousness in our public debate.

What does this mean? Maybe it means that the experience of national unity, like glory, is fleeting, and that it takes more than we realized to keep us focused on a shared goal. Or maybe it suggests that muddling through is often as good as it gets.

— David Blankenhorn is founder and president of the Institute for American Values in New York.

When the 9/11 attacks hit, America’s military interrogators already knew that rapport-based interrogation works. Those of us, including myself, who became interrogators after 9/11 learned this lesson too. We were trained in rapport-based interrogation skills and we used them with success.

Today, the U.S. Army Field Manual 2-22-3 and its predecessor 34-52, which contain the guidelines we used for post-9/11 military interrogation, are readily available online. They are no secret.

But have Americans learned since 9/11 the importance of interrogation to our national security? I fear they have not.

I believe the main reason there has been such decline  in support for interrogation and such confusion over its definition since 9/11 is the deeply disturbing trend of public figures’ voicing support for torture.

Torture is wrong. Torture is unnecessary. Torture is counter to effective interrogation.

America still needs to learn that torture is not part of interrogation, rightly understood. And America still needs to learn how much it needs interrogation as a means of human-intelligence collection in times of war.

Jennifer S. Bryson has a Ph.D. in Near Eastern languages and civilizations from Yale University. She works at the Witherspoon Institute in Princeton, N.J. and spent two years as an interrogator at Guantanamo.