The Business Times

What 9/11 taught us

Published Tue, Sep 9, 2014 · 10:00 PM
Share this article.

AMERICANS will be marking tomorrow the 13th anniversary of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City and the Pentagon in Washington, DC. The horrifying images from that day had a devastating impact on the American people and were engraved on the nation's psyche. And not unlike the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec 7, 1941, the strike by the Al-Qaeda terrorists on the American homeland amounted to a historical game-changer, transforming the direction of American national security and foreign policy. Thirteen years after the attacks and the launching of the war on terrorism by then-US president George W Bush, it's clear that much of the American response to Al-Qaeda's challenge proved to be on target and effective.

Mobilising the American people in support for the campaign against the radical Islamist killers and forming a multilateral coalition of nations to fight them, the Americans invaded Afghanistan and delivered a blow to Osama bin Laden and his terrorist gang and Taliban supporters. A US-led global effort helped degrade the power of Al-Qaeda worldwide and Osama, the architect of the 9/11 attacks, was captured and killed. And all of that was achieved while averting a clash of civilisations between the West and Islam, which was one of Osama's goals. But at the same time, the national anxiety ignited by the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington also explains why the Americans and their government may have over-reacted and then over-reached in what was initially supposed to be a campaign against those responsible for 9/11, including by their decision to oust Saddam Hussein and occupy Iraq.

The costly Iraq war and the ensuing efforts to "democratise" that country and the rest of the Middle East harmed US strategic interests and eroded its international credibility. It also created the conditions for a bloody civil war in Iraq and neighbouring Syria, that in turn made it possible for the fighters of the murderous gang of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) to take over part of the territories of these two countries.

BT is now on Telegram!

For daily updates on weekdays and specially selected content for the weekend. Subscribe to



Get the latest coverage and full access to all BT premium content.


Browse corporate subscription here