Still awaiting phoenix from ashesAmericans on Sunday remembered the 10th anniversary of one of the most tragic days in world history. As we look back at the terrifying photos of smoking ruins and remember the heartbreaking stories of the lives lost to 9/11, we ponder the inevitable question: Is the world safer now? The answer should be yes, as a small comfort to the lives that were brutally cut short. But sadly, few Americans can say this with confidence.
The United States acted with both decisiveness and speed in responding to the threat posed to its people by international terrorism. Then-President George W. Bush declared a war on terror and marshaled the world to stand behind the United States in its campaign.
The U.S. bombarded Afghanistan - which was a safe haven for Al Qaeda - and brought down the Taliban regime. Its military campaign was the first of its kind against a nonstate organization. Finally, Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden was hunted down and killed in May, throwing his followers into a state of disarray.
But Americans cannot be proud of their actions and legacy over the last decade. They have been adhering to a simple “them and us” mentality that has provoked resentment from the Islamic world while, at the same time, managed to alienate parts of Europe. Their xenophobia has led homeland security officials to crack down on perceived threats to such a degree that they impinge on civil liberties and human rights.
Meanwhile, excessive energy and military spending has taken its toll on the U.S. and global economic order. A total of 7,500 allied soldiers lost their lives in the military engagements in Iraq and Afghanistan, while the U.S. war on terror has so far cost in excess of $3 trillion.
Furthermore, lax economic management has sparked a global financial crisis, further eroding America’s global authority and benefiting emerging rivals like China. The U.S.’ sovereign credit rating was even downgraded under the weight of issues like the $15 trillion budget deficit.
One day, the Sept. 11 attacks may be remembered as the event that precipitated America’s decline.
Ten years later, the threat of Islamic extremism has waned but not died. The recent car bomb and shooting in Norway in July reminds us that we live in constant peril and that the world is more unstable now. We hope the memorial service at ground zero serves as a turning point for stronger, or better advised, U.S. leadership.