Reflections on 9/11

Twenty years. A defining moment. You probably remember exactly where you were when you heard the news.

So many lives lost. Not just that day but in the wars that followed in Afghanistan and Iraq. Thousands on September 11 in the US, more than a million, according to some estimates, in the violence that followed.

Twenty years is too close for proper perspective. I wonder how the attack on the World Trade Center will be viewed a century from now. Will it be seen as one of the pivotal moments of the century, or will other events have caused it to sink into obscurity?

In March 2001 I visited New York and went to the top of the World Trade Center. Somewhere on an old hard drive in the basement I have pictures. I’ll save those for another time. It was a unique view of the city skyline.

Our world changed on September 11, 2001. Since then, I feel the USA has slowly receded from its world preeminence. Which is strange when you think about it. The country responded quickly to the attack and lashed back at those who had hurt it. Militarily it was successful, accomplishing what it set out to do.

American leadership though has suffered in the past two decades. Maybve the people of the US turned more inward afer 9/11 and its presidents have reflected that. Barack Obama seemed to have no desire to retain America’s position and influence in the world. He seemed impotent when it came to foreign affairs, his “line in the sand” a joke.

Obama may have misunderstood foreign policy and its importance. Donald Trump didn’t understand how the rest of the world (and much of the US) thought he was a buffoon. He seemed to sabotage every meaningful relationship the USA had with other countries.

In only four years, Trump managed to make the US irrelevant to other nations. Since he couldn’t be trusted to keep secrets or abide by treaties, America’s allies decided to go it alone. Smaller countries, uncertain as to who they should look to for support, found Russia or China to be more stable. Better to makes deals with a dictator that delivers on his promises seemed to be the unspoken consensus.

The terrorists who attacked the World Trade Center and the Pentagon probably didn’t expect that the long-term effects of their actions would be so spectacular.

Can the USA return to the preeminence it once had? I think it is possible. But first Americans must ask themselves if they want to.

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