Politics & Policy

Did It Change Us?

9/11, five years later.

In the wake of September 11, it was often said that the attacks collectively changed us. Did it? In marking the fifth anniversary of the September 11 attacks on the United States, we asked a group of experts that question. Five years later, are we changed and how? Or, how should we have and didn’t?

#ad#Peter Brookes

Without question, the horrific attacks of 9/11 unsettled our view of the world, unleashing arguably the greatest foreign-policy and national-security debate since the rise of post-WWII Communism — a debate that continues to this day.

Having won the Cold War, widely discrediting the Soviet Union’s godless communist ideology, the United States on 9/11 found itself confronted with a new national-security challenge — defeating the stateless al Qaeda and undermining its religion-based terrorist ideology.

As a result, we had to fundamentally change the way we looked at threats to our national security, building a new paradigm for tackling the challenge of defending the homeland and vanquishing the structure and ideology of the first terrorist group with global ambitions.

And the changes in our national-security strategy we’ve made are making progress in fighting this virulent strain of Islamist terrorism — killing/capturing extremists and foiling deadly plots against innocents across the globe.

But even more adjustments to our already — changed thinking on national security will likely be necessary as we struggle to win the equally critical battle of ideas against the Islamic forces of darkness.

 – Peter Brookes is senior fellow at the Heritage Foundation. He is author of A Devil’s Triangle: Terrorism, WMD and Rogue States.

Jonathan Foreman

9/11 and its aftermath have revealed hidden aspects of institutions, individuals, and nations.

Formerly, new technologies, globalization, and mass travel seemed to be pure positives: They made us richer and stronger. Now we see how they make our delicate, complex civilization terrifyingly vulnerable.

We have also seen bizarre and revealing political realignments, the war and terror bringing together strange bedfellows: On one side traditional leftists lie down with neo-cons and true liberals; on the other are anti-American new leftists, anti-Semitic isolationists, Chomskyites, and Islamists.

The attacks themselves brought out the best in us, and the worst, sometimes in unexpected ways. There were no pogroms against Muslims, despite all the heavy breathing about “backlash.” Indeed 9/11 showed Americans to be people of astonishing calmness and compassion.

On the other hand, its aftermath revealed our depressing willingness to defer to the dumbest suggestions by ill-qualified and ignorant security “experts” who are bereft of common sense and who refuse to learn from genuine experts in Britain or Israel. We submit to one silly restriction after another. See e.g. the idiotic, knee-jerk banning of nail-clippers and metal forks on airplanes (effectively disarming passengers not terrorists), the foolish cult of photo-ID (as if no terrorist could ever get a driving license), and the tiresome checkpoints in office buildings manned by officious rentacops. All the while, our mainstream media wails about sensible measures like profiling, but complacently ignores measures that truly damage our freedom.

– Jonathan Foreman, who has reported on the war from Iraq, is author of The Pocket Book of Patriotism.

Frank J. Gaffney Jr.

Since 9/11, we have been at war, yet not at war. We have been fighting an enemy we largely could not bring ourselves to name. We have been allowing a relatively small number of Americans to fight for the rest of us, abroad and at home — and to do so within ever-tightening constraints and with woefully inadequate resources. Many of us have no clue that this war is global in character and for the highest imaginable stakes.

Such a situation is as indefensible as it is untenable. If we are to prevail in this worldwide struggle, we have to get a couple of things straight:

 – Andrew Stuttaford writes from New York.

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