[My Catalyst column]
The world pauses on September 11, 2011. It remembers the fateful events of September 11, 2001 when a group of Al-Queda terrorists hijacked four American planes and dive-bombed the two World Trade Center’s towers and the Pentagon. A fourth plane would have hit either the White House or Congress had not the plane’s courageous passengers forced its hijackers to crash the plane prematurely.
Ten years after, we take stock of the reverberations, sans the rhetoric of both the fanatic bombers and the wounded American nation. Ten years after, the world sees 9/11 as a turning point for America and its global mission.
Ten years ago, America enjoyed an unchallenged superpower status—a status verging on a global Pax Americana. However, its preoccupation with the global anti-terrorist campaign against Al Queda and its network of disparate and local insurgent rebels, the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, and the security of the Homeland against terrorist threats from abroad cost it—according to some economists—at least $3 trillion dollars. It also resulted in its declining capability to resist present-day recessionary threats to the US-led world capitalist economy.
Today, the United States still maintains its number one status in terms of its economic strength, military prowess, scientific and technological edge, and social cosmopolitanism. However, the borders are already frayed and torn. In the global arena, new players rise to challenge US dominance or influence in every region of the world. Brazil in Latin America, India in South Asia, France and Germany in Europe, China, Japan and South Korea in Asia, Iran in the Middle East—these have made great gains in the past decade even as Russia makes its own comeback to the world stage.
9/11 united America. Yet it also ushered in the bitter debate on Iraq, human rights, and American foreign policy. Ultimately, it led to a nation politically divided, its economy gasping, and its international standing lessened. America treated international terrorism as a global war; and it paid the price.
It is no coincidence that the intensifying competition for resources, such as oil and gas and rare earth minerals, affects the agenda against global terrorism and vice-versa. It is no coincidence that wars, conflicts, and terrorism is correlated with areas of concentrated deposits of these resources. The Bush administration has been suspected, from the start, to be interested in Iraqi oil more than in Saddam Hussein’s mythic “weapons of mass destruction.” Ironically, the Al-Queda Iraqi presence grew only after the Iraqi invasion by the Coalition of the Willing, led by the US.
In a sense, America—10 years after 9/11—needs to take a deep breath and assess the premise of its post-9/11 policy. 9/11 was not a Pearl Harbor nor the sinking of the RMS Lusitania nor a Tonkin Gulf incident. 9/11, however great its casualties, was an attack by a terrorist group. As such, police action as well as intelligence/special operation would have been an adequate response.
As it is, America declared war on the wrong enemy and the rest was history.