Ten Years Later: A better America?
The immediate consequences of the September 11th attacks were devastating: over 3,000 American lives were lost and thousands more were exposed to the harmful fumes caused by the wreckage. The terror of 9/11 launched a new American agenda of bringing democracy and security to Arab nations in order to prevent the spread of Al Qaeda and any future attacks on American soil. A decade later, this ambitious agenda still plagues the United States, and has been more deadly than the 9/11 attacks themselves.
American troops have killed Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, but we have failed to establish a legitimate government to replace the Taliban. In the past decade, Afghanistan has become a nation with a corrupt government, and the radical Islamist Taliban threatens to seize power. Although President Obama has pledged to remove all American troops from Afghanistan by 2014, it seems unlikely that the state of Afghanistan will have improved to a point where American troops are no longer needed. Regardless, until 2014, American lives will continue to be lost.
In 2003, with Americans desperate to extinguish any other threats in the Middle East, President George Bush invaded Iraq to overthrow Saddam Hussein and find “weapons of mass destruction.” By the end of this year, President Obama will have withdrawn the majority of American soldiers, but the dubious state of the Iraqi government leaves us to wonder what the state of that nation will be in another decade.
The United States has failed to establish an Iraqi government free of corruption. Furthermore, as in Afghanistan, can Iraqi security forces suppress insurgents without the intervention of American soldiers? It would come as no surprise if the United States military remained in Iraq longer than Obama has promised.
According to the Washington Post, the mission in Iraq has cost the United States over $3 trillion and nearly 5,000 American lives. The United States’ “crusades” for democracy since 9/11 have only established weak governments and hindered recovery of the global economy, while fueling retaliation and new waves of insurgency.
While the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq remain the United States’ most glaring foreign policy problems, other issues have arisen as well on the home front since September 11, 2001. In a time when military operations occur in predominantly Muslim countries with mainly Islamist terror groups targeted, a sense of animosity and hostility towards Muslims has grown in the United States and across the world, similar to the aversion toward Germans during World Wars I and II.
The United States is not fighting a war against Islam; it is fighting a war against terror and extremist organizations that hope to destroy America and its allies. However, because of an inability to identify a clear “enemy,” many Americans have associated the entire Muslim community with the actions of a few radical organizations. Whether it be a phobia of Muslims on airplanes and in airports or a debate over building a mosque two blocks from Ground Zero, the sense of enmity is evident.
With the tenth anniversary of the attacks and an upcoming presidential election, politicians are wondering, “Are we safer today than a decade ago?” At this instant, the American people are safer than before. There is no question that Al Qaeda is weaker since the death of Osama bin Laden, and they are no longer the threat they were ten years ago. However, Al Qaeda is still capable of terrorizing the US, as is evident from the recent bomb threats in Washington, DC and New York.
Rising Islamist organizations like the Muslim Brotherhood and Boko Haram - an African terror network – may pose a new danger to the United States and its allies in the near future. With its depleted economy and two unpopular wars, the United States does not have the resources to combat these organizations as it has battled Al Qaeda.
So how has America changed since the September 11th attacks? The United States has adopted a new policy of foreign interventionism, a strategy that has bordered on disastrous. We’ve been drawn into two unsuccessful wars with no easy exit strategy, while thousands of American lives have been lost in combat. The Muslim community, too, has suffered from American prejudices.
Uncertainty and tension that have plagued the Middle East since the United States entered Afghanistan in 2001 may jeopardize the safety of the American people today. The United States cannot remain so heavily involved in the Arab world forever, especially with only marginal results. In the ten years after the 9/11 attacks America has, as impossible as it may seem, only worsened its situation.
This story is part of a series, Ten Years Later, about the tenth anniversary of 9/11..