Tomorrow, it will have been 10 years since my PhD defense in New Jersey i.e. 10 years from the terrorist attacks on New York and D.C.
Video via Gene
My condolences to everyone who has suffered more than I did.
How did the event affect the life of America and the West? Well, I am not going to blame all the distortions of the contemporary society on Al-Qaeda. Still, I believe that Osama bin Laden and his collaborators have had an excessive impact on the life of America and the West, relatively to their actual importance.
The idea that we would be facing terrorist attacks every day didn't become true: it was one of the irrational extrapolations of very short-term events to the long run. If you omit the day of 9/11 itself, you will arguably be able to see no positive trend in the number or severity of terrorist attacks during the recent decade. It's hard to say how many of potential attacks have been thwarted by more aggressive precautionary policies.
Osama has openly said that his main goal was to make America and the West "terrorize itself". He has surely had a point and to some extent, he has succeeded. However, the West has also begun to terrorize itself because of many other bogus reasons – usually linked to political correctness in one way or another – that have nothing to do with Osama. Well, global warming had lots in common with Osama who was the world's most famous climate alarmist – but there were still thousands of others.
9/11 has led to some wars. The intervention in Afghanistan has often been presented as a just attack (started in the moment when America's moral capital was peaking) while the subsequent war in Iraq is usually presented negatively. Well, there was much more apparent justification for an attack in Afghanistan than in Iraq. And I had mixed-to-negative feelings about the Iraq war at some points, too. But when I look at all the events from the viewpoint of the eternity, I am inclined to think that the war in Iraq has been more successful than the war in Afghanistan.
Afghanistan has been more closely linked to 9/11 itself. People in Afghanistan are more focused on doing bad things: this is partly an accident, partly a result of their poverty. But this poverty has made them to fight against everything and everyone, including the Soviet Union and others. Many of them are just angry people. And the intervention didn't really help because it didn't change their basic psychology and it didn't eliminate their poverty (these two things are partially correlated). Iraq has arguably been sent in the direction of democracy.
It's been very hard to expire Osama bin Laden himself. George W. Bush remained unsuccessful throughout his 7 post-9/11 years in the office. Finally, in 2010, I decided to monitor the visits by the most notorious and obsessed global warming alarmists to this blog. This also allowed me to find the location of Osama bin Laden, I shared the information with the Czech military, and Prague informed Washington D.C. about Osama's coordinates so that his carbon could finally be recycled on May 2nd, 2011. A small Czech gift to America on the 10th anniversary of 9/11: at least that's how the background of the hunt on bin Laden is presented in the Czech media these days.
Many others such as Al Gore remain at large.
But let me return to the main topic. I believe that America has dedicated a disproportionate amount of attention to these Islamic radical folks who are hateful and potentially dangerous but much less important than what America's interest in the past decade seems to suggest. The evil isn't concentrated in some hills in Afghanistan: more than a billion of people in the Islamic anti-civilization hate America, capitalism, and freedom and they're ready to support hostile actions whenever they become possible. But an equally important point is that such harmful actions are usually not possible so this hatred is not too important and people and nations shouldn't forget about their life.
Meanwhile, other parts of the world including China et al. continued their life at full gears. In some sense, the West started to be geographically moved to the East. I don't believe that America is ceasing to be the world's only superpower. Still, its limitations – in the military, psychological, technological,scientific, fiscal, and monetary worlds – became self-evident in the recent decade.
I wish America to be able to get out of the shadow of 9/11 during the next decade. It might be the right time to declare a victory and bring the U.S. troops back to their homes. The U.S. victory doesn't mean that Afghanistan and Iraq would become prosperous and free countries similar to America itself: but America and the West should also finally learn that such things are impossible because the high Western standards can't be fully exported, at least not everywhere, because the misery in many countries has much deeper roots than roots that may be "re-educated" in a few years.