9/11 Didn’t Change The World, Wars Did
The attacks of September 11th, 2001 did not result in an immediate substantive alteration to the lives of most people in the world. It is difficult to find something positive to say about the following years of harsh reaction to this event; years which have brought far greater changes to non-US citizens than the day itself, which in my case entails the opprobrium that has fallen on citizens of any country involved with the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The latter years of the decade have, however, given hope to the notion that foreign policy will increasingly tend towards multi-lateral action with growing scrutiny of governments and their military apparatuses.
For those involved it was an horrific day that can never be mentioned without the shades of anger and sadness which attend the death of loved ones and friends. For America too, the symbolism of the moment and fear concerning national security, untrammelled since the Peal Harbour attack of 1941, meant that normal life, air travel, policing, politics and relations with the rest of the world were irrevocably altered. It is easy to empathise with the fear and confusion of this moment in America.
On September 12th, 2001 I went to school as normal and discussed the attacks with friends. The same on the 13th. But I did not feel unsafe or even conscious that I, as a Briton, would be regarded with the same kind of hatred that led 19 men, mostly from Saudi Arabia, to commit mass murder for their cause. Over the course of the following decade, however, a growing awareness of global politics along with the foreign policy decisions of my country, which was itself attacked in 2005, have shown me the truth that I will often be considered according to the reaction of my (elected) government to the security and political challenges posed by 9/11.
The really dramatic changes that I have endured as a Brit abroad, beyond an extra hour or two at the airport, result from the responses to 9/11. The wars in Afghanistan and, most sharply, Iraq have coloured the reception of those whose governments took part in them. Whatever my complex and contradictory views on those wars, they have done more to diminish the way Americans and their close allies are seen by the rest of the world than 9/11 itself. The goodwill enjoyed by a wounded America in the weeks after the attacks was quickly diminished by its fearful and angry responses.
From the other end of the decade, the doctrine of liberal interventionism has been irrevocably associated with failed wars and unmanageable aftermaths. As Libya appears to emerge from decades of terror with the assistance of an international military and political coalition, it is clear that the age of easy wars and dodgy dossiers is over: future leaders will feel the constraints of international institutions and, more significantly, the severe cost of large scale military operations and the limited willingness of domestic opinions to tolerate those costs.
Tags: 9/11, afghanistan, asymmetric war, doctrine of liberal interventionism, Iraq, war on terrorism