Has it really been ten years? September 11, 2001 sticks in the American psyche like a recurring nightmare. It changed everything. It changed our foreign policy, it changed how we travel, and most significantly, it changed how we view our place in the world. No longer are we insulated by the distance of the oceans between us and the rest of the world. We’re just as vulnerable as, say, any European country within a day or two drive from Afghanistan.
Warfare is different. It’s not like armies in different coloured uniforms line up on fields of glory anymore. Today’s enemies are like termites. They do damage incrementally, quietly, and occasionally with an event of horrifying results. It’s been estimated that 9/11 cost al Qaeda a couple of hundred thousand dollars (US) to deliver the attacks. The US has spent trillions on TSA, two wars, and numerous other national safety programs. That’s a fairly significant return on investment.
America has suffered a long bout of PTSD. Although, when President Obama appeared on TV late on Sunday night and told us bin Laden had been killed in a daring raid by the best of our fighting forces, there was almost an audible nationwide sigh of relief. You may be able to hurt the US, but you will consequently get to know our resourcefulness, determination, and resolve. That will always turn out badly for those who attack us.
Even in the midst of the event happening we saw New York City’s finest rush into the fire when every instinct would have told anyone to run in the other diection. You saw ordinary people on Flight 93; knowing their likely fate, rush the cockpit in a last ditch effort to wrest control of the aircraft from the terrorists. As President Clinton put it recently, Flight 93 gave us an gift of indeterminable value at the greatest personal sacrifice.
What does this tenth anniversary mean for 9/11? Hopefully we gained from the event. Hopefully we learned that we cannot insulate ourselves from the rest of the world. We must foster good foreign relations with countries we don’t necessarily share ideologies with. For we are no longer a planet of isolated nation states; technology and communication are ensuring that. And the enemy has little concern for geopolitical boundaries drawn on a map. Without unilateral cooperation with other nations, everyone is vulnerable to subversive influence, particularly in weakened nations like Afghanistan or Somalia.
Mostly, I hope we resolve, as President Obama said, not to live in fear and that we become a stronger, more unified nation as a result of the second most infamous date in our history. Just as we did after Pearl Harbour. For it is certain that there is no shortage of those who don’t like us; whether through ideology, jealousy, or for legitimate reasons not expressed through proper channels. In this we must strive to stand united as a people, a nation among nations, and a world.
- Flight 93 victims remembered (cbsnews.com)
- Grief, reflection mark Flight 93 memorial ceremony (ajc.com)
- Flight 93 National Memorial service set for today – Pittsburgh Post Gazette (news.google.com)