September 11 will always remain etched in the global psyche. Ten yeas ago today, Al-Qaeda pilots launched a series of four orchestrated suicide attacks, in New York City and Washington, D.C. areas.
Two passenger planes crashed into the Twin Towers of the World Trade Centre in New York City. A third plane crashed into the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia. A fourth plane, mission aborted, crashed into a field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania.
3,000 people were killed. George W. Bush, then US president, declared war on terror. Bush defined the axis of evil. Two wars were promulgated. The US invaded Iraq and Afghanistan. The world rallied behind the US.
Osama Bin Laden and radical Islam became the face of the enemy. And the world was polarized forever.
After 9/11, it was not possible to imagine just how much the four plane assaults on US soil and the subsequent war terror would change the world and how we live.
The two wars, especially Iraq become the most polarizing policy decision in US domestic politics, drawing sharp ideological lines differentiating how Republicans and the Democrats view homeland security as well as US foreign policy.
The most far-reaching consequence of the 9/11 attacks is the cost to the US in treasure and blood.
Nearly 7,500 American troops have been killed in combat in the mountains of Afghanistan and in the deserts of Iraq, and on the streets of Baghdad and Kabul and Kandahar.
The US Congress has approved nearly 4 trillion dollars in military spending in the last 7 years on the war against terror.
The spending on the war is in large part responsible for the US fiscal disaster and the mounting budget deficit. The spending on the war has put the US in China’s deep pockets.
In many ways, a focus on homeland security and the execution of two wars has undermined public investment in US infrastructure. The antiquated nature of fundamental infrastructure such schools, roads, high-speed rail and broad Internet has eroded the capacity of the US to develop a sophisticated modern service infrastructure necessary to compete in a global economy.
But one good thing did come out 9/11. The rise of Barack Obama in many ways was made possible by the discontent among many Americans with the leadership of George W. Bush as well as the continuity and status quo that Hillary Clinton embodied. America needed to change and a recalibrate of its attitude to the rest of the world. At the 2004 Democratic National Convention, Obama offered the hope and promise of change.
Obama, then Illinois State Senator, had argued that Iraq was a war that should never have been waged and that the hunt for Osama Bin Laden in the mountains of Afghanistan was the essential war.
Full-scale engagement in a costly combat operation, in my opinion, contributed to the neglect of education and vital dimensions of social welfare investments. The result is staggering and worrying social inequality in the US.
The war on terror and the catastrophic collapse of the global economy and the stubbornly persistent economic down turn in the US have been something like the perfect storm.
9/11 has in my sense contributed to the undermining of US power and confidence both at home and abroad. The polarization the US public and the rise of partisanship and dysfunction in Washington has been the worst in many decades.
The aftermath of 9/11 continues to sap the creative juices of the US polity. When George W. Bush swore to go after Al Qaeda, both he and his military advisors had no clue how to engage a non-state enemy.
It is hard to judge or evaluate weather the war on terror can ever be won or what the implications of a draw down of US troops would mean for the Afghan internal stability and the capacity of the Al Qaeda-Taliban axis to inflict terror attacks on the US.
What is clear is that the US cannot afford a sustained combat mission in Iraq or Afghanistan or Pakistan or Somalia or Yemen. The US military is overstretched, ill equipped and yes, broke. Painful budget cuts must be made to reign in the US fiscal deficit. The Pentagon will not be spared.
9/11 has left the US fractious internally and isolated globally. The global economic leadership the US once enjoyed was shattered. First, by the collapse of the mortgage market, second by the ugly display among Congressional leaders during the debt ceiling debates and third by the decision by S & P to downgrade the US credit rating from AAA.
The fiscal deficit and high unemployment will dominate the US presidential politics in 2012. The trouble is that while this intense focus on the domestic agenda is important, it will only serve to further isolate the US globally and the global geo-politics will re-align along new axis defined by BRIC, Turkey and Mexico.
The US role in the Arab Spring reflects the beginnings of what will be US trepidation and hesitation to project its influence as the bastion of liberty, opportunity and unyielding hope.
10 years after 9/11 today, Americans will gather in ceremony both somber and filled with gratitude to the men and women who have served and paid with their lives to keep the homeland safe and secure.
But 9/11 will be a constant reminder as trigger of the precipitous decline of US domination of the global political and economic stage.
9/11 may have heralded the Asian Age, the emergence of a new world order.