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September/October 2011

With the tenth anniversary of September 11, 2001, we asked a number of leading foreign policy thinkers to address the short- and long-term consequences of the unprecedented attacks of that day. We invited each author to determine his or her own focus, leaving the assignment purposefully non-prescriptive.


To paraphrase Kierkegaard, our country has been forced, to some extent, to live its life forward and understand it backward as a result of 9/11. That understanding backward is still very much taking place. Hence we mark this ten-year milestone by offering a collection of differing and thoughtful views to help us put this event and our world in perspective. — The Editors

Symposium - Ten Years Later

“The mass murder of September 11, 2001, was an act of idealism. It was idealism in the worst sense, but is there another sense that can be given to what we commonly call idealism?”
“There is now strong bipartisan support for the idea that aiding people fighting for democracy abroad serves the US national interest. The fact that this support exists at a time of sharp partisan division here at home is worthy of note.”
“September 11th was not so much a driver of historical change as a symptom of the deep and increasing imbalances between the conservative and authoritarian character of large parts of the Middle East and the modernizing and democratizing rest of the world, brought into a sharp relief by globalization.”
“Most Americans seem reluctant to rule out the possibility that, throughout the decade now closing, people faced with difficult choices and unprecedented problems largely did what was appropriate and necessary at the time they had to decide and act.”
“The shock of 9/11 was not, in the end, enough to heal the US body politic. Ten years ago, Americans wondered, in unison: ‘Why do they hate us?’ Today, we need to ask: ‘Why do we hate each other?’”
“We don't know whether we are still in the beginning stages of this conflict against al-Qaeda and radical terrorists, somewhere in the middle, or approaching, at long last, its end.”
“But the truth is that it is these preposterous and demeaning security arrangements that define most Americans’ actual experience of the effect of terrorism on their lives.”
“It is in the nature of men and women to look ahead, past the darkest of times, to the brighter days that always follow. All of human history is a play of light and darkness. And through all of human history, we travel together through the longest night into the dawn.”

“Obama, like an increasing number of Republican candidates for the presidency, recognizes that retrenchment from the numerous commitments America incurred abroad is imperative.”

“The attacks of September 11, 2001, impelled America to declare war against terrorism. Its unforeseen consequence may be a historic leap in the global spread of democracy and human rights.”

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